Gaultheria shallon has been used for its medicinal properties by local natives for generations. The medicinal uses of this plant are not widely known or used. However, the leaves have an astringent effect, making it an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-cramping herb. By preparing the leaves in a tea or tincture one can take the herb safely to decrease internal inflammation such as bladder inflammation, stomach or duodenal ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, sinus inflammation, diarrhea, moderate fever, inflamed / irritated throat, and menstrual cramps. A poultice of the leaf can be used externally to ease discomfort from insect bites and stings.
Its dark blue "berries" (actually swollen sepals) and young leaves are both edible and are efficient appetite suppressants, both with a unique flavor. Gaultheria shallon berries were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavor fish soup.
More recently, Gaultheria shallon berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies. They are often combined with Oregon-grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of Gaultheria shallon.
In the Pacific Northwest, the harvesting of Gaultheria shallon is the heart of a large industry which supplies cut evergreens worldwide for use in floral arrangements. It is used in native plant gardens.
Gaultheria shallon is a leathery-leaved shrub in the heather family (Ericaceae), native to western North America. In English it is known as salal, shallon, or in Britain simply Gaultheria.