One of the major factors limiting the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is gastrointestinal toxicity. Gaultherin, 2-[(6-O-beta-D-Xylopyranosyl-beta-D-glucopyranosyl)oxy] benzoic acid methyl ester, a natural salicylate derivative extracted from Gaultheria yunnanensis, has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and lack gastric ulcerogenic effect compared to aspirin in our primary study. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism of action of gaultherin, which may rely on its active metabolite, and the mechanism responsible for the non-ulcerogenic property. The results showed that gaultherin (200 mg/kg) significantly inhibited the abdominal contractions in the acetic acid-induced writhing test in mice. The anti-inflammatory effect of gaultherin was demonstrated in the croton oil-induced ear edema model in mice. The results showed that gaultherin and equimolar dose of aspirin produced comparable inhibitory effects. The study of the metabolism characters of gaultherin in mice and rats indicated that gaultherin could be metabolically converted to salicylate, which produced the pharmacological effects, and provided effective concentrations for an extended period. In vitro metabolism experiment showed that gaultherin was metabolized by beta-glycosidase produced by human intestinal bacteria and esterases in intestine, blood and liver successively to release salicylate finally. The study suggested gaultherin did not cause gastric ulcer for the reason that it released salicylate in intestine slowly, not in stomach and it left the cyclooxygenase-1 unaffected, which was the source of cytoprotective prostaglandins in gastric epithelium.