Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects


Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview


Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) other names : Bitter Winter, Bitter Wintergreen, Chimaphila, Chimaphila corymbosa, Chimaphila umbellata, Chimaphile à Ombelles, Ground Holly, Herbe d’Hiver, Herbe à Peigne, Holly, King's Cure, King's Cureall, Love in Winter, Prince's Pine, Pyrole en Ombelle, Rheumatism Weed, Spotted Wintergreen, Umbellate Wintergreen.

Pipsissewa is a petite evergreen herb that grows perennially and up to a height of 3 inches to 10 inches. Plants of this species produce glossy, vividly green, jagged leaves that emerge in order of whorls the length of the stem. Pipsissewa bears tiny flowers whose color range from white to pink and they blossom during July and August. The flowers of pipsissewa are clustered at the apex of a straight stalk. When the leaves of this herb are crushed, they exude a strange flavor which is sweetish and astringent and also has a pleasingly bitter taste.

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) plant


The herb derives its name from the Cree (a native tribe of Canada) term ‘pipsisikweu' which translated into English literally means ‘it breaks into small pieces'. This name of the plant is primarily owing to the belief that the rubbery leaves of pipsissewa enclose a substance that helps to dissolve kidney stones. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim and actually the leaves have no such property. The Native American Indians used this plant for other therapeutic purposes as well. People belonging to the Penobscot and Mohegan tribes boiled the leaves of the plant in water and applied the solution topically to cure blisters. On the other hand, the Thompson Indians inhabiting British Columbia pounded the pipsissewa plant and used it in soaked dressings to lessen swellings of the feet and legs. On the other hand, the Catawbas called the herb fire flower and extracted a solution from it and used it to ease backache. Chippewas prepared a decoction with the pipsissewa's roots and used it as eye drops to cure aching eyes.

Pipsissewa was not only popular among the Native Americans, but also the early European settlers who also learned the use of this species from them. They took the herb internally particularly as a remedy for kidney problems and rheumatism.

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 fibrous 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.



Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Health Benefits


Pipsissewa is an herb. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.

Pipsissewa is used for urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, fluid retention, spasms, epilepsy, anxiety, and cancer.

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. You may also apply the fresh pipsissewa leaves topically to treat rheumatic joints, muscles, in addition to sores, blisters and swellings.

Several tribes belonging to the Native American Indians used pipsissewa extensively with a view to promote perspiration and also to cure fevers, counting typhus. It may be noted here that 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 they are used internally, the leaves are very helpful in treating different medical condition, 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 (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) flower


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.

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.

In food and beverages, pipsissewa extracts are used as flavoring.

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 flavour 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 (Chimaphila Umbellata) Side effects


Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) image


Pipsissewa seems safe for most people when used in food amounts. Long-term use can cause side effects such as ringing in the ears, vomiting, confusion, and seizures.

There isn’t enough information to know whether it is safe to apply pipsissewa directly to the skin.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of pipsissewa during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.