Pipsissewa: Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Dosing, and Interactions

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Pipsissewa: A Native American Herb with Potential Health Benefits

Pipsissewa, also known as wintergreen or prince’s pine, is a small evergreen shrub native to North America. Its leaves have been used by Native Americans for centuries for medicinal purposes, particularly to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). In recent years, pipsissewa has gained popularity as a natural supplement for a variety of health conditions.

What is Pipsissewa?

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) is a perennial plant in the heather family (Ericaceae). It typically grows to a height of 6-12 inches and has thick, leathery leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are white or pink and bloom in clusters at the top of the stem.

The leaves of pipsissewa contain several active compounds, including:

  • Arbutin: A glycoside that is converted to hydroquinone in the body. Hydroquinone is a phenolic compound with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Methyl salicylate: A volatile oil that gives pipsissewa its characteristic wintergreen scent. Methyl salicylate has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
  • Tannins: A class of polyphenolic compounds that have astringent and antioxidant properties.

Uses of Pipsissewa

Traditionally, pipsissewa has been used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Pipsissewa is one of the most well-known natural remedies for UTIs. It is thought to work by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and promoting urine flow.
  • Cystitis: Pipsissewa may help reduce inflammation and pain associated with cystitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the bladder.
  • Kidney stones: Pipsissewa may help prevent kidney stones by inhibiting the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.
  • Rheumatism and arthritis: The anti-inflammatory properties of pipsissewa may help relieve pain and stiffness associated with rheumatism and arthritis.
  • Skin conditions: Pipsissewa has been used topically to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

Side Effects of Pipsissewa

Pipsissewa is generally considered safe when used in moderation. However, some side effects may occur, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset: These side effects are most common with high doses of pipsissewa.
  • Headache: Pipsissewa may cause headaches in some people.
  • Skin irritation: Topical use of pipsissewa may cause skin irritation in some people.
  • Drug interactions: Pipsissewa may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners and anticoagulants.


It is important to note the following precautions before using pipsissewa:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pipsissewa should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Liver disease: People with liver disease should avoid using pipsissewa, as it may increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Kidney disease: Pipsissewa may worsen kidney disease in some people.
  • Children: Pipsissewa should not be given to children under the age of 6.


The recommended dosage of pipsissewa varies depending on the form of the supplement used.

  • Tincture: 2-4 mL, 3 times per day
  • Capsule: 250-500 mg, 3 times per day
  • Tea: 1 cup, 3 times per day

It is important to follow the dosing instructions on the product label and to consult with a healthcare professional before using pipsissewa.


Pipsissewa is a Native American herb with a long history of medicinal use. It contains several active compounds that may have beneficial effects on health, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. While pipsissewa is generally considered safe when used in moderation, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and precautions before using it.

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