Some well-meaning chemists, upon finding certain substances in essential oils, too quickly brand them as toxic without taking into consideration a) that compounds in essential oils are natural, not synthetic, b) that these natural compounds are combined with dozens, sometimes hundreds of additional compounds that influence their action, and b) that essential oils used in therapy are used in very small amounts. 

nutmeg on branch

This is the case with nutmeg and wintergreen.  The old arguments on these oils are:  ( 1) nutmeg is a potential neurotoxin that can result in hallucinations and damage the central nervous system, and  (2) that wintergreen typically contains more than 90% natural methyl salicylate, a compound very similar to aspirin.

Real benefit can be obtained from both these oils, when used in safe dosages (1-3 drops) and applied topically, rather than orally.  The article at the link below, written by Dr. Joe Mercola and posted on his website is an excellent summary of the benefits of nutmeg oil and also explains clearly how to use it safely:   


wintergreen branches

Wintergreen essential oil has been shown in many animal studies to significantly reduce inflammation, especially in cases of joint inflammation from arthritis or injury.  The same is true of aspirin.  However, there is such a thing as aspirin overdose resulting in toxicity that can cause death. 

The estimates for the number of annual Americans deaths caused by aspirin toxicity ranges from a few dozen to a few thousand.  But most of these deaths are related to gastrointestinal toxicity.  Unlike aspirin, wintergreen essential oil is applied topically, not orally.  It does not go through the stomach but rather penetrates to the bloodstream through the skin. 

There is some evidence to suggest that the natural active ingredient in pure wintergreen oil is safer than the one found in conventional aspirin.  Approximately 10 drops of wintergreen essential oil will deliver the same amount of methyl salicylate as two 325mg aspirin tablets.  However many people get relief using  4 drops or less of wintergreen on inflamed joints and muscles.