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MoonDragon's Health & Wellness
Nutrition Basics

Prince's Pine
Umbellate Wintergreen

(Chimaphila umbellata)

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  • Pipsissewa Herbal Description
  • Pipsissewa Uses, Health Benefits & Scientific Evidence
  • Pipsissewa Dosage Information
  • Pipsissewa Safety, Cautions & Interactions
  • Pipsissewa Herbal Supplements & Products

  • Pipsissewa Plants


    Pipsissewa is also known as Chimaphila umbellate, Bitter Wintergreen, Butter Winter, Dragon's Tongue, Ground Holly, Ground Ivy, King's Cure, Love in Winter, Prince's Pine, Pyrola Umbellata, Rheumatism Weed, Striped Prince's Pine, and Spotted Wintergreen.

    Chimaphila umbellata (Umbellate Wintergreen, Pipsissewa, or Prince's pine) is a small (petite) perennial evergreen flowering plant found in dry woodlands, or sandy soils. It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere. This includes southern Canada and the northern United States.

    Pipsissewa grows 3 to 10 inches (10 to 35 cm) tall, and has evergreen shiny, glossy, vividly bright green, jagged-toothed leaves arranged in opposite pairs or whorls of 3 to 4 along the length of the stem. Leaves have a shallowly toothed margin, where the teeth have fine hairs at their ends. The leaves have very little scent until they are rubbed or crushed to release a strangely pleasant but mildly "puckery", sweetish and astringent odor. They have a pleasingly bitter taste.

    The flowers are white or pink, produced in a small clustered umbel of 4 to 8 together at the apex of a straight stalk.

    Although it has green leaves year-round, it receives a significant portion of its nutrition from fungi in the soil (that is, it is a partial myco-heterotroph, which is not surprising as related plants, such as Pyrola, are partial or full myco-heterotrophs).

    There are four subspecies:
    • Chimaphila umbellata subspecies umbellata (Europe, Asia).
    • Chimaphila umbellata subspecies acuta (Southwestern North America).
    • Chimaphila umbellata subspecies cisatlantica (Northeastern North America).
    • Chimaphila umbellata subspecies occidentalis (Northwestern North America).

    Pipsissewa is indigenous to North America, Asia and Europe and generally grows in the wild in woodlands and shady locales. The leaves of this plant are collected in summer.

    Pipsissewa plants need slight damp, but properly drained and lime-free soil. The plants also need shade from the rays of the sun. It is quite difficult to propagate as well as cultivate the plants of this species, primarily owing to the fact that it has a specific relation with a fungi in the wild and these are essential if the plant has to succeed. Therefore, the best way to propagate this plant is to collect some soil from the region of an established Pipsissewa plant while sowing the seeds or planting the seedlings outdoors in their permanent position. Plants of this species possess widely spreading roots that feed the plant and the plants generally die or are unsuccessful in increasing in size if these fibrous roots are bothered. The flowers of Pipsissewa possess a sweet and invigorating aroma.

    Although it is extremely difficult to propagate this plant for cultivation, Pipsissewa may be grown by its seeds and, very rarely, by root division. Very seldom, Pipsissewa is also propagated by softwood cutting.

    Although Pipsissewa is propagated by the plant's seeds, it is extremely problematic to germinate the seeds for cultivation. It is ideal that you sow the seeds in a shaded area of the greenhouse on a damp sphagnum peat immediately when they mature. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently large to deal with, they should be pricked individually and planted in separate pots and let them grow for a minimum of their first winter in any shady spot in the greenhouse. The young plants may be re-planted in their permanent positions outdoors during the late spring or the early part of summer after the last anticipate frost has passed.

    It is somewhat difficult to propagate pipsissewa by means of root division because the plants are extremely susceptible to any kind of botheration to their long roots. However, it is best to attempt propagation of Pipsissewa by root division during spring, since the plant is in full growth during this part of the year. Cutting of softwood of the herb for propagation may be done in June and the cuttings should be sowed in a frame. It is advisable that you use some soil from the region of an established plant while propagating this herb.

    Pipsissewa Plant


    Pipsissewa possesses tonic, astringent and diuretic properties and is primarily used in the form of an infusion to treat problems of the urinary tract, for instance, urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) and cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), because this plant encloses a chemical compound called hydroquinones, which is known to have a remarkable disinfecting effect inside the urinary tract. In addition, earlier herbalists also used to prescribe Pipsissewa to treat more grave conditions, for instance kidney stones and gonorrhea (a contagious inflammation of the vagina and urethra). Pipsissewa helps to enhance the flow of urine and, thereby, encourages the elimination of waste products from the body. In this way, the herb is also useful for treating conditions like gout and rheumatism. The fresh Pipsissewa leaves may be applied topically to treat rheumatic joints, muscles, in addition to sores, blisters and swellings.

    A decoction is extremely effective in treating skin complaints. When used topically, the fresh leaves of Pipsissewa are rubefacient (turn the skin complexion red) and when used internally, the leaves are very helpful in treating different medical conditions, including chronic rheumatism, cardiac problems, kidney ailments, and scrofula.

    While only the leaves of pipsissewa are recognized by the pharmacopeia, the entire plant is used for therapeutic purposes. It has been found that the plants of this species are overloaded with biologically active compounds like ursolic acids, sitosterol and arbutin. Arbutin is subject to hydrolysis to the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone. Pipsissewa encloses glycosides as well as an essential oil which are used in the form of an astringent plus a tonic. Pipsissewa is harvested when the herb is in bloom and the leaves can be harvested separately during the growing season. Following harvesting, the leaves are dried and store for use when necessary. The leaves of Pipsissewa are also used to prepare a homeopathic remedy, which is used to treat inflammations of the urinary tract.

    Pipsissewa is known to have diuretic action with no irritating side effects. It is believed that using an herbal tea prepared with the leaves of Pipsissewa for a prolonged period helps to dissolves kidney stones as well as to treat dropsy (edema). This herb may be used to treat conditions like hematuria (presence of blood in urine), albuminuria (presence of albumin in urine) and chronic kidney problems. However, while treating these conditions, you should ensure that it is being done under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. The tea prepared with Pipsissewa leaves may also be applied topically to treat sores, ulcers, tumours, swellings, blisters as well as muscle cramps.


    Pipsissewa was used extensively by several tribes of native peoples to treat urinary tract infections, as well as to promote perspiration and treat and cure fever, counting typhus. Its scientific name literally means "winter loving," but its leaves are collected in late summer for medicinal use. Some Plateau Indian tribes used a boil of Pipsissewa (Prince's Pine) to treat tuberculosis. "Pipsissewa" is a Cree name meaning "It-breaks-into-small-pieces".

    Several tribes belonging to the Native Americans employed the tea prepared with pipsissewa leaves to treat stomach pains, coughs and backaches. It was also used internally in the form of a diuretic and a blood purifier. Drops of this herbal tea were also used to heal eye sores. In addition, some people also smoked the dried pipsissewa leaves as an alternative to tobacco.

    Pipsissewa was not only popular among the Native Americans, but also the early European settlers who also learned to use the herb. The herb was taken internally as a remedy for kidney problems and rheumatism. In traditional medicine, Pipsissewa served as an astringent as well as diuretic from the period ranging between the days of Daniel Boone, an American explorer, pioneer and frontiersman, throughout the Civil War and even later. It was also taken on as an official medication quite early. During the period between 1820 and 1916, Pipsissema was cataloged in the United States Pharmacopeia. Until the early part of the 20th Century, Pipsissewa tonic was an essential home remedy in several households in rural North America to this day.


    Pipsissewa is currently used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, particularly as a conventional flavoring ingredient in root beer production.

    Apart from its therapeutic uses, Pipsissewa is also used for edible purposes. The leaves of this plant are chewed, brewed to prepare a tea or used as an ingredient to flavor root beet. The leaves of Pipsissewa possess an appetizing aroma and taste. An extract of Pipsissewa leaves is also used to add essence to soft drinks and candy. People in Mexico use the herb to prepare 'navaitai', an alcoholic drink that is produced from sprouted maize. The stems and roots of pipsissewa may be infused to prepare a tea, which is appetizing as well as beneficial for health.

    Pipsissewa Flowers


    Constituents: Arbutin, chimaphilin, resins, oil. Chemical analysis of the pipsissewa herb has revealed that it encloses flavonoids, hydroquinones (counting arbutin), tannins and methyl salicylate. The hydroquinones enclosed by the herb have a marked disinfecting action inside the urinary system. Pipsissewa has several therapeutic uses. This herb may facilitate in lessening swelling, have a dehydrating (astringent) influence on the tissues and also eliminate germs that infect the urinary system.

    Parts Used: Dried leaf usually, although all parts of the plant including stems and roots are medicinally active.

    Typical Preparations: Pipsissewa is used in different forms for therapeutic proposes. Teas (made in boiling water), syrups, and tinctures usually and very rarely found as a capsule. Cosmetically it can be found in lotions or creams from a fresh extract.

  • Syrup: To prepare syrup with Pipsissewa, marinate about four ounces of finely crushed Pipsissewa leaves in 8 fluid ounces of water and allow it to stay for 36 hours and filter the mixture till one pint of fluid is obtained. Next, evaporate half pint of the fluid and add 3/4 pound of sugar to the remaining fluid. The normal dosage of this syrup is taking one to two tablespoonfuls daily.

  • Tea: To prepare an herbal tea with Pipsissewa, boil one teaspoon of the plants leaves (you may also use the whole plant) in half a cup of water. Take a mouthful of the tea at a time throughout the day. Do not add any sweetener to this herbal tea.

  • Tincture: The standard dosage of pipsissewa tincture is taking 2 to 15 drops of it as required.

  • Pipsissewa Fruit


    No precautions are known. While there is no record regarding any toxic action of Pipsissewa, in general this herb is considered to be safe when taken in medicinal doses. However, when taken in large doses, the astringent attribute of the plant might cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. In some case, topical application of formulations prepared with the herb has resulted in dermatitis in susceptible individuals. Some people seem to react to the oil produced by crushing the leaves and may break out as a result.


  • Pipsissewa Herbal Products

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