Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), also known as bitter wintergreen, Prince’s Pine, rheumatism weed, and fragrant wintergreen, is a perennial plant belonging to the Ericaceae family. The plant, which grows in sandy soil or dry forests, is native to the northern parts of Europe, North America, and Asia.
Pipsissewa has light purple flowers and leaves that are similar to that of a Christmas cactus. In the Cree language, the name “pipsisikweu” means “broken into small pieces.” The name of the herb was derived from its ability to dissolve kidney stones and gallstones.
The herb contains a range of medicinal compounds, including tannins, flavonoids, hydroquinones, and triterpenes. It possesses medicinal properties that are antimicrobial, diuretic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic. For hundreds of years, pipsissewa has been used for its several medicinal benefits, including its ability to induce perspiration, alleviate fevers as well as treat bladder infections and kidney problems.
It is also effective in the treatment of constipation, respiratory issues, and heart problems. Its other benefits include treating skin conditions, alleviating tuberculosis of the lymph glands of the neck, relieving painful menstruation, and regulating the menstrual cycle.
Pipsissewa is also used to give flavor to candies and beers. The herb can be consumed in tea, poultice, capsules, and tinctures forms.
Health Benefits of Pipsissewa
Let’s take a closer look at the amazing health benefits of pipsissewa.
Treats Kidney Problems and Urinary Tract Infections
While there may be no research to determine its effectiveness for kidney problems, pipsissewa has been used for this purpose for many years. It has been consumed as a herbal tea to help treat kidney problems and urinary tract infections.
Pipsissewa can help the body eliminate excess fluids and wastes by facilitating the flow of urine and improving liver function.
Due to the herb’s antiseptic and antibacterial abilities, it is also used to treat conditions like gonorrhea and cystitis.
Helps to Treat Gout and Rheumatism
Traditionally, pipsissewa can deal with arthritis, gout, rheumatism, and painful joints or bones. You only need to apply the herb directly to the affected area of the body. The herb also contains mild pain-relieving effects when applied directly to the skin.
To treat joint inflammation and pain, simply apply the extract of the leaves directly to your skin. Alternatively, you can make a poultice with the leaves. However, the leaves should not be consumed internally.
Possess Antioxidant Properties
Oxidation can be bad for a person’s overall health. It damages cell membranes and essential compounds that maintain optimum physical health. This may eventually result in the production of potentially dangerous molecules. These molecules cause long-term illnesses and promote premature aging.
According to some studies on pipsissewa, the herb possesses powerful antioxidant properties with a number of medicinal benefits. Antioxidants are vital for protecting the body against illness caused by free radical damage. Therefore, getting plenty of antioxidants into your system can prevent oxidation and neutralize free radicals This is essential for maintaining overall health.
Good for the Skin
When the extract of pipsissewa leaves is applied on the skin or used in the form of a poultice, it can treat minor wounds, boils, and blisters. The herb can also be applied topically to ease back pain and treat inflammation in the feet and legs.
Owing to its diuretic abilities, pipsissewa may be effective for inducing perspiration and breaking a fever. In fact, for so many years, the herb was consumed as a tea to help reduce fevers.
The consumption of pipsissewa tea may help relax the mind during periods of mild stress. While there is no scientific study on its effects on stress, many teas, including pipsissewa tea, possess a calming effect on people. According to anecdotal evidence, a cup of pipsissewa tea may help calm the body after a stressful day.
Beneficial for the Respiratory System
One other powerful benefit of pipsissewa is its ability to treat certain unwanted health conditions of the respiratory tract. Drinking a cup of pipsissewa tea may help treat a cough, sinusitis, bronchitis, and chest congestion really fast. While drinking pipsissewa tea, inhale the steam from the cup as this may help clear the nasal passages. It also eliminates sinuses and helps you to breathe with ease.
How to Make Pipsissewa Tea
To make pipsissewa tea, simply add a teaspoon of dried and ground pipsissewa leaves to a cup of boiled water. Leave the leaves to steep for about 15 minutes. Allow the liquid to sufficiently cool and then strain the leaves. Due to its slightly bitter taste, you can add a little honey or stevia to the tea to sweeten and make it more pleasant. It is safe to drink two cups of this tea daily.
How to Use Pipsissewa
Traditionally, pipsissewa has been used to make herbal tea or infusion but in the form of poultice, it can be applied externally. Drinking pipsissewa tea can help provide relief for kidney and urinary tract infections. It may also help make breathing easier or break a fever.
A poultice made from the herb is particularly useful to treat insect bites, burns, minor wounds, and, grazes as well as help prevent infections. However, you should only use the leaves if you are preparing a poultice for external use.
Side Effects of Pipsissewa
- There isn’t sufficient evidence about the safety of pipsissewa for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The herb should be avoided by this category of people unless approved by a qualified medical doctor or herb expert.
- Pipsissewa may cause the urine to turn green. This may cause some worry but it is not considered to be dangerous.
- People who are on medications for intestinal conditions or are deficient in iron should not consume pipsissewa in any form.
- Pipsissewa is made of a compound known as hydroquinone which is poisonous when taken in a high dose. Taking the herb in large doses can result in a range of symptoms, including diarrhea, dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. And so, it is not recommended to use pipsissewa for a long period of time.
- In some rare cases, pipsissewa can cause a rash.
- The tannin in the herb can prevent the absorption of some medications so it should only be used many hours before or after using any other medication.
Pipsissewa is not a very popular herb but has been used for its benefits for a very long time. It has a wide range of potential medicinal uses. Studies have shown that the plant contains anti-fungal and antioxidant qualities. Its hydroquinone content also makes it beneficial in the treatment of kidney and urinary tract infections.
The herb is useful for treating wounds, rheumatism, and swelling in the joints as well as in improving respiration. Due to its diuretic abilities, pipsissewa is also used to calm down a fever. It is commonly drunk in the form of a tea to help treat internal conditions and applied topically as part of a poultice to treat insect bites, wounds, burns, and sores.
Pipsissewa is available in various supplementary forms including, poultice, tea, tinctures, and capsules. Dried pipsissewa or extracts are also available in many health and foods stores.
As with all herbal treatments, it is important to consult with a health practitioner before using.