So while revising In the Company of the Dead I discovered I’d described a poison as tasting of mint. Now why did I do that? Did I research a poison that tasted of mint? Do any poisons taste of mint?
Well I don’t know. Better go find out.
Enter wintergreen oil. Which does taste minty – not that I recommend sampling it. At least not in copious quantities. And by ‘copious’ I mean a teaspoon of the stuff.
The proper name for wintergreen oil is ‘methyl salicylate’, and it’s produced by ‘wintergreen’ or ‘evergreen’ plants, possibly as a defence mechanism given its toxicity. In pure form, wintergreen oil is toxic, with one teaspoon containing 7 grams of salicylate, or the equivalent of more than twenty-three 300mg aspirin tablets. This is documented to be enough to kill an adult up to 70kg in body weight.
That said, there’s a good chance you have consumed wintergreen oil – it’s used in very low concentrates to provide the mint flavour in some chewing gums!
Apparently if you crush Lifesavers flavoured using wintergreen oil in a dark room, you can potentially witness triboluminescence – which is light generated by breaking chemical bonds in a material when it is pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed. If you try this out, please send me pictures!