Teaberry and Its Uses - Gaultheria procumbens

Nature Walk Findings

Always pay attention to your surroundings when taking a nature walk. You never know what you will discover. I was fortunate to find teaberries growing under the trees during my walk in the Poconos.
Always pay attention to your surroundings when taking a nature walk. You never know what you will discover. I was fortunate to find teaberries growing under the trees during my walk in the Poconos. | Source

Discovering Wild Grown Teaberry

I have had teaberry flavored gum and ice cream in the past, but I never thought of growing the teaberry herb until recently. While taking a nature walk in the Poconos with my family, we found an abundance of teaberry plants and I instantly became interested in learning more about this herb.

Teaberry can be found growing in the Northeastern United States and Newfoundland. It can also be found growing in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. It is listed as an endangered plant in Illinois.

To find it, search the woodlands. It can be found growing under trees, on mountains, and where there are many pine trees - teaberry plants grow in an acidic soil.

Common Names

American winterberry, box berry, Canada tea, checkerberry, chickerberry, deer berry, ground berry, ground holly, hill berry, mountain tea, partridge berry, spice berry, spicy wintergreen, spring wintergreen, wax cluster, wintergreen, and woodsman's tea.

Teaberry Plant Photo

Teaberry growing in the woods of Jim Thorpe.
Teaberry growing in the woods of Jim Thorpe. | Source

Plant Description

Teaberry is a creeping woodland shrublet. The bell shaped flowers are small and can be white or light pink. The plant flowers from June to September. The leaves are dark green and glossy. The evergreen plant, a perennial, has aromatic green leaves all year round. The plants remain fairly low to the ground, sometimes growing up to 6 inches high which is why it is used as a ground cover in gardens. Teaberry produces edible berries that are red.

Edible Wild Plants

Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants
Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants

I've used this book for many years to help identify and learn about edible plants found in the wild. It has been an invaluable starting point to many of my outdoor and kitchen adventures.

 

Ground Cover

Teaberry can be used as a ground cover. It prefers acidic, moist soil and partial shade. Homeowners can grow teaberry around pine trees because the plant enjoys the acidic soil provided by the pine needles. The plant can also be grown among partially shade rocks. You will only need a few small plants to grow into a sizable patch as the plant sends out runners similar to mint plants. Since the plant and berries are edible, it is a safe plant to have for households with children. In fact, some people add a few of the berries to their pies for extra flavoring.

Terrariums and Wreaths

Teaberry was once a popular plant to grow in terrariums. Because the plant is small and is an evergreen, gifts were made of teaberry plants during the winter holidays. Teaberry is also used to make cut or living wreaths during the holiday season.

Wildlife

Many wildlife critters rely on teaberry for food and shelter, especially during the winter months. Deer are particularly fond of eating teaberry. If you have deer in your area, they are likely to snack on your teaberry plants in the winter months. Bears, bobwhites, pheasant, mice, fox, squirrels, grouse, and turkeys also eat teaberry.

Teaberry Tea

Leaves can be gathered and used for tea. Since the leaves lose their aroma quickly after drying, just use fresh leaves for the tea any time of the year.

To make the tea, break up or cut at least one teaspoon of the fresh leaves per one cup of water. Boil the water first, remove from heat, and add teaberry leaves. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes. A stronger tea can be made, if desired. Serve hot or chilled.

Best Herb Book

The Herb Book: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to More Than 500 Herbs
The Herb Book: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to More Than 500 Herbs

Over the years, I have accumulated over 40 books on herbs, but I only ever use one book all the time. For over 20 years, The Herb Book has been at my side when researching herbs and their uses. It provides more medicinal information than any other book I have found and it covers over 500 herbs. Buy a used copy to avoid the high selling price. It is worth it.

 

Medicinal Uses

There are many medicinal uses for teaberry, but the oil of winterberry, as it is commonly called, can be dangerous to use. Teaberry tea has been commonly used to help with headaches. The natural oils in the leaves contain methyl salicylate, similar to aspirin. The tea is also taken to help ease joint pains and inflammations. It is also said to help with flatulence. As with any herb tea taken for medicinal purposes, speak to your doctor first before taking to make sure it does not conflict with any current medications you are taking or medical conditions.

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Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 13 months ago from Southern Clime

When I was a girl growing up in the southern woods, I ate what Mom called teaberries. They were tiny, dry, red, felt-like berries that grew in clusters like grapes. They tasted sour/salty, but good. They grew on bushes similar to the fig and were 6-8 feet high.

I listed wild edibles that my family ate as I could remember them. I came up with 42. I also listed 24 that I would like to taste. I have been researching and identifying more wild edibles and really enjoy doing it!

I enjoyed this hub and plan to order two books that are advertised. Thanks for sharing.

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