Avery’s Root Beer

Summer Root Beer Project, Post 26

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INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup Corn Sweetener and Sugar, Caramel Color, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Gum Acacia, Preserved with Sodium Benzoate.

Avery’s bottles and sells premium old-fashioned Soda in over 35 flavors. All are made with real cane sugar, the finest quality ingredients and naturally pure well water. This is the best soda available anywhere!”

Again, burned by not reading the ingredients list fully before purchasing. Yes, they are made with real cane sugar IN ADDITION to High Fructose Corn Sweetener, DAMMIT!

That said, this isn’t bad.

Definitely, in the A&W mellow, sweet school of Root Beer, it is fairly well balanced and enjoyable.

3 Out of 5 Barrels.

Optional Root Beer Ingredients

I’ve already covered the properties of the most critical elements of Root Beer: Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, Wintergreen, and Birch Bark.

What about the other ingredients in Charles Hires’ Root Beer Recipe?

Chirreta – India

Chiretta (Swertia chirata) appears to be a Gentian-like plant which is, “used a great deal in India as it has two valuable bitter tonic principles,” for Ayurvedic medicine.

“The true Chiretta has a yellowish pith, is extremely bitter and has no smell, an overdose causes sickness and a sense of oppression in the stomach. It acts well on the liver, promoting secretion of bile, cures constipation and is useful for dyspepsia. It restores tone after illness.”

Dog Grass – Germany

Dog-Grass may be Couch-Grass, (Agropyrum repens), whose, “roots have a sweet taste, somewhat resembling liquorice,” and were used medicinally.

“Diuretic demulcent. Much used in cystitis and thetreatment of catarrhal diseases of the bladder. It palliates irritation of the urinary passages and gives relief in cases of gravel.

“It is also recommended in gout and rheumatism. It is supposed to owe its diuretic effect to its sugar, and is best given in the form of an infusion, made from 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water, which may be freely used taken in wineglassful doses. A decoction is also made by putting 2 to 4 oz. in a quart of water and reducing down to a pint by boiling. Of the liquid extract 1/2 to 2 teaspoonsful are given in water.

“Couch-grass is official in the Indian and Colonial Addendum of the British Pharmacopoeia for use in the Australasian, Eastern and North American Colonies, where it is much employed.”

Ginger – Africa

There are a few species of ginger which grow in Africa, but the most likely one is “African Pepper” (Aframomum melegueta) aka “Grains of Paradise”.

“Humans aren’t the only ones who rely on Aframomum. Both Eastern and Western Lowland gorillas love this plant in the wild. In fact, it is the most common plant they eat. Aframommum appears to have important health benefits for gorillas, particularly for their cardiovascular health. It contains powerful anti-inflammatory substances called gingerols, and it has antibiotic properties. Native African healers have used this plant for centuries to treat infections. Aframomum is important to daily life in West Africa, where the seeds are consumed socially for good health.”

Ginger – China

“Ginger is one of the oldest medicinal foods.

“Since the herb originated in Southeast Asia, it’s not surprising that ancient Chinese and Indian healers have made ginger a part of their toolkit for thousands of years.

“Ayurvedic texts credit ginger as a ‘universal great medicine’. An old Indian proverb says that ‘everything good is found in ginger.’ Traditional Chinese medicine holds that ginger ‘restores devastated yang’ and ‘expels cold’.”

Ginger – Jamaica

The Jamaican ginger is known to be of premium quality on the world market today. Although this popular plant is native to Asia, the Jamaican Ginger is by far more pungent and aromatic than the others cultivated in other countries. The ginger is as old as history and is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and middle writings including the Quran.

Hops – United States, Northwest

“Hops have tonic, nervine, diuretic and anodyne properties. Their volatile oil produces sedative and soporific effects, and the Lupamaric acid or bitter principle is stomachic and tonic. For this reason Hops improve the appetite and promote sleep.

“The official preparations are an infusion and a tincture. The infusion is employed as a vehicle, especially for bitters and tonics: the tincture is stomachic and is used to improve the appetite and digestion. Both preparations have been considered to be sedative, were formerly much given in nervousness and hysteria and at bedtime to induce sleep; in cases of nervousness, delirium and inflammation being considered to produce a most soothing effect, frequently procuring for the patient sleep after long periods of sleeplessness in overwrought conditions of the brain.”

Juniper Berries – Italy

“The chief use of Juniper is as an adjuvant to diuretics in dropsy depending on heart, liver or kidney disease. It imparts a violet odour to the urine, and large doses may cause irritation to the passages. An infusion of 1 oz. to 1 pint of boiling water may be taken in the course of twenty-four hours.

“In France the berries have been used in chest complaints and in leucorrhoea, blenorrhoea, scrofula, etc.”

Licorice – Spain
Licorice – Russia

“Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used in food and as medicine for thousands of years. Also known as “sweet root,” licorice root contains a compound that is about 50 times sweeter than sugar. Licorice root has been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to treat a variety of illnesses, ranging from the common cold to liver disease. It acts as a demulcent, a soothing, coating agent, and as an expectorant, meaning it helps get rid of phlegm. It is still used today for several conditions, although not all its uses are supported by scientific evidence.”

Vanilla – Mexico

“Europeans, and later, Americans, considered vanilla a stimulant but, paradoxically, also a treatment for hysteria and nervousness. Dr. John King wrote in the American Dispensatory in 1859 that vanilla was an aromatic stimulant useful in infusion for treating hysteria, rheumatism, and low forms of fever. ‘It is said to exhilarate the brain, prevent sleep, increase muscular energy and stimulate the sexual propensities.'”

“Vanilla was also used extensively to flavor tinctures and syrups and to perfume medicinal ointments, a practice that continues today. (Vanilla is one of three flavors most used in medications and syrups, and it is also used as a neutralizer in noxious smelling medicines.) A sweet tincture was made to treat stomach disorders, and this medicinal value was listed in the American Pharmacopoeia until 1916.”

Yerba Mate – Brazil

“The indigenous people have used it for centuries as a social and medicinal beverage. Yerba Mate has been shown to be hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, central nervous system stimulant, diuretic, and to benefit the cardiovascular system. It has also been suggested for obesity management. Yerba Mate protects DNA from oxidation and in vitro low-density lipoprotein lipoperoxidation and has a high antioxidant capacity. It has also been reported that Yerba Mate tea is associated to both the prevention and the cause of some types of cancers.”

American Spikenard (Aralia Racemosa)

“Used for pulmonary diseases, digestive weakness, gynecological problems, blood purification, hay fever, diarrhea, colds, bronchitis, sore throat, fever, venereal disease, rheumatic aches and pains, asthma, coughs. Externally, used for skin diseases and hemorrhoids. Taking the tea for some time before labor is said to make childbirth easier and shortens the labor. Native Americans used the root for wounds, boils, acne, pimples, blackheads, rashes, swellings, bruises, inflammations, and chest pains. For the external use, the root was pounded and made into a poultice or dressing. Flavoring for liqueurs and cordials.”

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum Officianale)

“The roasted roots are largely used to form Dandelion Coffee, being first thoroughly cleaned, then dried by artificial heat, and slightly roasted till they are the tint of coffee, when they are ground ready for use. The roots are taken up in the autumn, being then most fitted for this purpose. The prepared powder is said to be almost indistinguishable from real coffee, and is claimed to be an improvement to inferior coffee, which is often an adulterated product. Of late years, Dandelion Coffee has come more into use in this country, being obtainable at most vegetarian restaurants and stores. Formerly it used occasionally to be given for medicinal purposes, generally mixed with true coffee to give it a better flavour. The ground root was sometimes mixed with chocolate for a similar purpose. Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness.”

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Well, actually, I’m the only one who puts Horehound in Root Beer, just because I like its flavor.

“White Horehound has long been noted for its efficacy in lung troubles and coughs. Gerard says of this plant: ‘Syrup made of the greene fresh leaves and sugar is a most singular remedie against the cough and wheezing of the lungs . . . and doth wonderfully and above credit ease such as have been long sicke of any consumption of the lungs, as hath beene often proved by the learned physitions of our London College.’

“And Culpepper says: ‘It helpeth to expectorate tough phlegm from the chest, being taken with the roots of Irris or Orris…. There is a syrup made of this plant which I would recommend as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded.’

“Preparations of Horehound are still largely used as expectorants and tonics. It may, indeed, be considered one of the most popular pectoral remedies, being given with benefit for chronic cough, asthma, and some cases of consumption.

“Horehound is sometimes combined with Hyssop, Rue, Liquorice root and Marshmallow root, 1/2 oz. of each boiled in 2 pints of water, to 1 1/2 pint, strained and given in 1/2 teacupful doses, every two to three hours.

“For children’s coughs and croup, it is given to advantage in the form of syrup, and is a most useful medicine for children, not only for the complaints mentioned, but as a tonic and a corrective of the stomach. It has quite a pleasant taste.”

Sugar – Cuba

Well, as they say, a spoonful of sugar helps all that medicine go down.

Bitter Root Beer

The previous Bitter Root Beer was my favorite “Root Beer” so far.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

I thought I would add back in the Dandelion Root and switch the Star Anise out for Anise Seed.

Flannestad Bitter Root Beer v1.3a

Roots:

2 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
2 tsp Sassafras Root Bark*
2 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, Dry
1 tsp Ginger Root, sliced fresh
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Gentian Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1/2 tsp Roasted Dandelion Root
1/2 tsp Anise Seed

Herbs:

1/2 tsp Horehound
1 Generous Pinch Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
1 TBSP Blackstrap Molasses

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Cool, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water (I usually go 1 part syrup to 4 parts soda water).

Bitter Root Beer.

Bitter Root Beer.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. I’m amazed the rats lived that long, with that high a dose of anything, but use at your own risk. Thus, while no one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, I’d try to avoid shooting up with it. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like this bitter concoction in any case.

Boylan’s Original Birch Beer

Summer Root Beer Project Post 25

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MADE FROM: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Pure Birch Oils, Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, Natural Yucca Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness).

“Boylan’s Original Birch Beer is the one that started it all! The unique taste is distinctively minty and sharp, with strong notes of sweet birch and wintergreen oil. Because of its “bite” this product has an almost cult-like appeal among the true birch/root beer enthusiasts, those who aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd. Which is great, because neither are we.

“Tastes great with:

“Philly Cheesesteaks, of course!”

Whoa, they aren’t kidding, boy is the Boylan’s Original Birch Beer Birch-ey!

About the only criticism I have is that it is a tad sweet for me and lacks a bit of the complexity of the Boylan’s Root Beer. Otherwise, it is very tasty.

4 out of 5 Barrels.

Dr Brown’s Root Beer

Summer Root Beer Project Post 24

Dr Brown's Root Beer.

Dr Brown’s Root Beer.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar and/or High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Gum Acacia, Citric Acid.

Definitely a classic Root Beer, and definitely a Wintergreen heavy entry. Not as sweet as many big commercial Root Beers, which makes it more drinkable. Definitely went well with the Sandwich below…

Carzle.

Carzle.

“Deli Board has midwest roots, the classic flavors of an East coast deli, and a left coast twist. If that doesn’t make your mouth water you can stop reading now.

“Starting in August 2009 as a catering business in a small kitchen, Deli Board now specializes in handcrafted sandwiches, soups, salads and sauces made with fresh ingredients and lots of love. Whether you are ordering one sando or hundreds, you will be assured top notch quality and phenomenal service so that your mouth will be asking for more Deli Board.”

A Carzle Sandwich at Deliboard, involving Brisket, Pastrami, Cheese, Hot Peppers, Slaw, Pickle Slices. Also, those delicious pickles.

3 1/2 out of 5 Barrels.

Smoky Root Beer

I really liked the Bitter Root Beer, but I have been interested in trying a Root Beer with some smoky elements, so am swapping out some of the herbal flavors for darker and smoked flavors. No rest for the wicked.

As Jim Meehan calls it, the “Mr Potato Head” school of Mixology, swapping out certain elements for other elements.

Lapsang Souchong is a tea smoked over Cedar fires.

Black Cardamom is a ginger relative whose pods are too large to sun dry, so are smoked over fires.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.4 (Slightly Smoky)

Roots:

2 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
2 tsp Sassafras Root Bark*
2 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, Dry
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, sliced fresh
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Burdock Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1/2 tsp Wild Cherry Bark
1/2 tsp White Birch Bark
1 small Black Cardamom Pod, Crushed
1 Star Anise
1/4 piece Ceylon Cinnamon, Crushed

Herbs:

1/2 tsp Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate
1/2 tsp Lapsang Souchong Tea

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
1 TBSP Blackstrap Molasses

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Cool, bottle in clean containers, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water.

Smoky Root Beer.

(Not Very) Smoky Root Beer.

I didn’t exactly accomplish my “Smoked Root Beer” with this, but I have gotten closest to what might be considered the flavor profile for a modern commercial Root Beer.

Might have to get the smoker out, after all.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. I’m amazed the rats lived that long, with that high a dose of anything, but use at your own risk. Thus, while no one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, I’d try to avoid shooting up with it. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like this complex concoction in any case.

Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock

Summer Root Beer Project Post 23

Fentiman's Dandelion & Burdock.

Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock.

 

“Full-strength infusions of Dandelion leaves and Burdock root, sweetened with pear juice and spiced with a touch of ginger and anise, all intermingle to create the unmistakable aroma and distinctive palate of this traditional English soda.”

Ingredients: water, carbonated water, cane sugar, pear juice concentrate, glucose syrup, fermented ginger root extracts (ginger root, water, yeast), dandelion infusion (water, dandelion root, ethanol), burdock infusion (water, burdock root, ethanol), aniseed flavor.

A lot of people will say that the impetus for making Root Beer came from traditional English beverages like Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock.

Using Dandelion and Burdock Roots to brew it, it may indeed be the original “Root Beer”.

I had tried it once before and despised it. Thought I should check once again to see if I still felt the same way.

Yep, still can’t stand it. Tastes like an indeterminately fruity, yet medicinal, cough drop.

Guess I’m glad the pilgrims lost their access to whatever they used to make this concoction and started making good old American Root Beer.

Purchases, August, 2013

Been trying to avoid spending money on booze, but sometimes you just gotta go to the liquor store.

Fernet & Genepi.

Fernet & Genepi.

I’ve been waiting for Tempus Fugit‘s Fernet Angelico, for what seems like years. It is finally here and it is just as delicious as I remember.

In addition, the Haus Alpenz imported and Dolin produced Dolin Véritable Génépy Des Alpes arrived.

Dolin Véritable Génépy (Génépi) Des Alpes Liqueur $29.99 – I LOVE THIS STUFF!!! The elusive Génépy (Génépi) from Dolin is a type of liqueur that has long been sought-after, but only recently become available in the US. Its character is derived from the various alpine shrubs of the genus Artemisia. More commonly known as wormwood, Genepi is an iconic alpine botanical associated with the kingdom of Savoy and the regions in France, Switzerland, and Italy that once made up that kingdom. It’s been used for centuries to flavor liqueurs, digestifs and various tonics. The flavor profile falls somewhere in between modern absinthe and chartreuse. While exhibiting significant sweetness, its strong herbal quality keeps it nicely balanced. It makes for an excellent digestif and is a key ingredient in several classic cocktails.”

David Othenin-Girard, K&L Wines

Well, make it a twofer.

 

 

 

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

Moxie

Moxie

Contains: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (A Preservative), Gentian Root Extractives, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine, and Citric Acid.

“1885-1899: Moxie Nerve Food invented and patented in 1885. First bottled carbonated beverage made in America. Many wild curative claims. Attempted distribution in Atlanta, Denver, & Chicago, but never really took off except in northeast. Also introduced in lozenge format, but that did not do well. Fantastic claim that basic secret ingredient (now known to be gentian root) was discovered by Thompson’s former comrade, a Lt. Moxie (he never existed) while traveling in the wilds of South America somewhere. Unique Moxie bottle wagons were used to dispense Moxie at fairs and amusement parks. Some ads incorporated then-popular “brownies” in them, others promoted a “health and vigor” theme (almost like today’s “energy drinks”).”

Not having tried Moxie before, it seemed like that should be on the list. Plus, my friend Louis, (of Miracle Mile Bitters fame,) egged me on a bit.

Moxie is kind of cool, not as bitter as I expected, but also a bit less sugar than most Root Beer. Most Root Beer clock in at 40 plus grams of sugar per 12oz (3.3g per ounce), Moxie is 25g per 8oz. (3.125g per ounce).

Re: flavor impact. Really medicinal smell. Put me off a bit. Tasting it, it’s a bit like a cross between cola and root beer. Some wintergreen elements to the flavor, but then also the bitter/sour of cola with a distinct bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste.

My previous Root Beers were already a bit bitter with the Spikenard and Dandelion, but I’ll pump that up a bit by replacing the Dandelion with Gentian. I’m also going to swap in Honey for the Maple and leave out the Vanilla.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

Roots:

2 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
2 tsp Sassafras Root Bark*
2 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, Dry
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, sliced fresh
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Gentian Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1 Star Anise

Herbs:

1/2 tsp Horehound
1/2 tsp Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
1 TBSP Blackstrap Molasses

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses and Washed Raw Sugar, cool, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

 

Oh my, now that is a tongue twister. The gentian substitution makes this quite a bit more bitter than either of my previous Root Beers or Moxie. We’re heading into non-alcoholic Amaro Territory, exactly where I was hoping to go. Tasty.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. Use at your own risk. No one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, but try to avoid shooting up with it anywa
Might have to get the smoker out, after all.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. I’m amazed the rats lived that long, with that high a dose of anything, but use at your own risk. Thus, while no one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, I’d try to avoid shooting up with it. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like this complex concoction in any case.

Wintergreen

I’ve already taken a look at three of the ingredients most frequently included in Root Beer, Sassafras, Sarsaparilla, and Birch Bark, a fourth essential ingredient is Wintergreen.

Wintergreen originally came from a small perennial herb native to the North Eastern portions of the United States. According the the Canadian Forestry Association quoted below, it was the original source of the active ingredient in Aspirin. People’s in North America, prior to the arrival of Europeans, brewed a tea from it and used it to treat a variety of symptoms, from respiratory infections to headaches. When tea became scarce during the North American Colonists’ rebellion against England, they adopted the practices of the Native Americans and brewed an infusion from it. With it’s delicious flavor and variety of therapeutic uses, Wintergreen eventually found its way into the originally medicinal elixirs which we now call Sarsaparilla and Root Beer.

As noted below, Wintergreen Oil and Sweet Birch Oil are essentially identical chemically, so if you’re using one, you probably don’t need to use the other in your Root Beer, especially since it seems to be pretty impossible to find sweet birch bark available commercially. If you’ve got a Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) in your backyard, give making it from scratch a try and let me know how it works out.

Sweet Birch

Wintergreen entry from Your Local Wildwood Pharmacy, Canadian Forestry Association website.

“It is as a medicinal herb that wintergreen is best known. Oil of wintergreen, distilled from the leaves, is composed primarily of methyl salicylate, a poison if used in large quantities. Minute amounts of this oil are used in flavouring toothpaste and other dental products, candy and lozenges. Aspirin, the most widely used drug after tobacco and caffeine, was originality extracted from wintergreen. When the poison (methyl) is removed from the oil, the crystalline material left behind is acetylsalicylic acid, the effective ingredient in aspirin.

“As well as oil, the leaves of wintergreen contain a compound called arbutin. This material is more stable when it is heated than when it is cold, meaning that it retains its medicinal qualities when heated or rubbed into muscles for treating various aches and pains including rheumatism. A few drops of wintergreen oil on a soft cloth and placed on the brow is a common time-proven cure for headaches. As well, the stems of the plant are chewed by people around the world to prevent tooth decay.”

Wintergreen entry from A Modern Herbal, by M. Greive, circa 1900.

“Botanical: Gaultheria procumbens (LINN.)

“—Synonyms—Teaberry. Boxberry. Mountain Tea. Checkerberry. Thé du Canada. Aromatic Wintergreen. Partridge Berry. Deerberry.
“—Part Used—Leaves.
“—Habitat—Northern United States from Georgia to Newfoundland; Canada.

“—Description—A small indigenous shrubby, creeping, evergreen plant, growing about 5 to 6 inches high under trees and shrubs, particularly under evergreens such as Kalmias and Rhododendrons. It is found in large patches on sandy and barren plains, also on mountainous tracts. The stiff branches bear at their summit tufts of leaves which are petiolate, oval, shiny, coriaceous, the upper side bright green, paler underneath. The drooping white flowers are produced singly from the base of the leaves in June and July, followed by fleshy, bright red berries (with a sweetish taste and peculiar flavour), formed by the enlargement of the calyx. The leaves were formerly official in the United States Pharmacopoeia, but now only the oil obtained from them is official, though in some parts the whole plant is used. The odour is peculiar and aromatic, and the taste of the whole plant astringent, the leaves being particularly so.

“—Constituents—The volatile oil obtained by distillation and to which all the medicinal qualities are due, contains 99 per cent Methyl Salicylate: other properties are 0.3 of a hydrocarbon, Gaultherilene, and an aldehyde or ketone, a secondary alcohol and an ester. To the alcohol and ester are due the characteristic odour of the oil. The oil does not occur crudely in the plant, but as a nonodorous glucoside, and before distillation, the leaves have to be steeped for twelve to twenty-four hours for the oil to develop by fermentation – a reaction between water and a neutral principle: Gaultherin.

“—Medicinal Action and Uses—
Tonic, stimulant, astringent, aromatic. Useful as a diuretic and emmenagogue and for chronic mucous discharges. Is said to be a good galactogogue. The oil of Gaultheria is its most important product. It has all the properties of the salicylates and therefore is most beneficial in acute rheumatism, but must be given internally in capsules, owing to its pungency, death from inflammation of the stomach having been known to result from frequent and large doses of it. It is readily absorbed by the skin, but is liable to give rise to an eruption, so it is advisable to use for external application the synthetic oil of Wintergreen, Methyl Salicylate, or oil from the bark of Betula lenta, which is almost identical with oil of Gaultheria. In this form, it is a very valuable external application for rheumatic affections in all chronic forms of joint and muscular troubles, lumbago, sciatica, etc. The leaves have found use as a substitute for tea and as a flavouring for genuine tea. The berries form a winter food for animals, partridges, deer, etc. They have been used, steeped in brandy, to produce a bitter tonic taken in small quantities. The oil is a flavouring agent for tooth powders, liquid dentifrices, pastes, etc., especially if combined with menthol and eucalyptus.”