Labrador Tea: so many uses

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Gary Shaw BY GARY SHAW WALK ON THE WILDSIDE

Most of us folks from Labrador are fa­mil­iar with Labrador Tea. Any­one among us who have spent any time in the coun­try at all, knows what it looks like and agree that it is found in abun­dance through­out many of the ar­eas that we find our­selves in.

Labrador Tea is named af­ter the swamps of Green­land and Labrador where it grows in pro­fu­sion. It is as­sumed that the name is prob­a­bly de­rived from the early years of the Hud­son Bay traders who sold the har­vested leaves for tea.

Prior to that, it is be­lieved that In­dige­nous peo­ple used it reg­u­larly for medic­i­nal pur­poses. Many In­dige­nous peo­ple picked the leaves early in the sea­son be­fore the plants flow­ered or waited un­til late in the sum­mer, and then dried them and boiled the leaves for tea.

Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion, the tea was one of sev­eral herbs used as a com­bi­na­tion mix to cre­ate a pleas­ant tast­ing sub­sti­tute for com­mer­cial tea. In Ger­many it was of­ten added to beer recipes. It was thought it would give the beer a more po­tent kick.

Labrador Tea has been used for gen­er­a­tions by the In­dige­nous peo­ples of North Amer­ica as well as in the north­ern parts of Europe where it also grows.

The leaves have his­tor­i­cally been used as heart medicine and for indi­ges­tion, and di­ar­rhea. Other ail­ments such as in­sect bites and stings, acne, asthma, gout, and rheuma­tism have all been in­cluded on the list of ail­ments that Labrador tea has been claimed to have helped, in eas­ing the symp­toms.

An­other use of Labrador Tea has been to ap­ply it to skin sores and eczema to help re­lieve itch­ing symp­toms. Old sto­ries also sug­gest that if a strong enough batch was made, it could be used in ap­pli­ca­tion to the hair to kill lice. This tea is also sup­posed to have high con­tent of Vi­ta­min C and was used for se­vere cases of scurvy. Whether this is fact or folk­lore, it has cer­tainly been used for many medic­i­nal ap­pli­ca­tions in days gone by.

There is no clin­i­cal ev­i­dence to sup­port spe­cific dose rec­om­men­da­tions for Labrador Tea but it is in­di­cated that con­cen­trated con­sump­tion should not be too high. If Labrador Tea is con­sumed, it is clearly in­di­cated that it is done in small doses with weak con­cen­tra­tions on an in­ter­mit­tent ba­sis.

There is very lit­tle doubt that we are sur­rounded by this plant through­out a lot of Labrador. It can be found in­side the green woods, out on the bogs and across the burned over ar­eas. We are head­ing right into the time of the sea­son when these plants are com­ing into full blos­som. Whether or not there are many among us who ac­tu­ally use this plant in a con­sump­tive way, it doesn’t mat­ter at all.

It is sug­gested how­ever that they are a rather sen­si­tive plant. For this rea­son, if in fact you are go­ing to har­vest some leaves, do so with care. Only har­vest a few leaves from each plant, The tea will grow back with time, but at a very slow rate.

Whether you are some of the few who do har­vest a bit of Labrador Tea or are like most folks who don’t, there is lit­tle doubt of the beauty of the sea of snow white blos­soms we see across the land dur­ing this time of year.

This is an­other one of the spec­ta­cles of Labrador’s raw and un­tamed beauty that we ought not to miss.

PHOTO BY GARY SHAW

Labrador Tea

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