Labrador Tea Identification: Low, spreading evergreen shrub, spicy fragrance; many branches, with dense rusty hairs. Grows 4 to 5 feet.
Leaves – 1 to 2 inches long; alternate; oblong to narrowly oblong, often drooping; Labrador Tea Flowers
leathery, deep green above; rusty below, with dense woolly hairs (hairs on young leaves may not be rusty); edges rolled under.
Flowers – in loose, umbrella-like clusters at branch tips; white, with protruding stamens; stalks white, slender, with 5 separate, white petals; appearing in late May and July.
Fruit – drooping, 5-parted, dry, finely hairy capsules; in clusters at branch tips; appearing in late July and August.
Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
Other Names: Bog Labrador Tea, James Tea, Marsh Tea, Swamp Tea.
Flowers: May – July.
Habitat: Bogs, swamps and moist woods; indicator of acidic, nutrient-poor soils. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota; across Canada to Alaska.
Parts Used: Leaves.
Constituents: Tannin, gallic acid, a bitter substance, wax, resin, and salts.
Medicinal Properties: Tonic, diaphoretic, and pectoral.
Uses: American Indians used leaf tea for asthma, colds, stomachaches, kidney ailments, scurvy, fevers, rheumatism; blood purifier; externally, as a wash for burns, ulcers, stings, chafing, poison ivy rash. Folk remedy for coughs, lung ailments, dysentery, indigestion; used externally for leprosy.
It is useful in coughs, dyspepsia, and irritation of the membranes of the chest. An infusion has been used to soothe irritation in infectious, feverish eruptions, in dysentery, leprosy, itch, etc. The strong decoction, as a wash, will kill lice. The leaves are also used in malignant and inflamed sore throat.
Labrador Tea is said to be a powerful detoxifier, and a support to both the liver and the immune system. Also said to stimulate lymphatic circulation. May have anti-inflamatory effects. Recommended for use during recuperation from major illness.
Labrador Tea contains small amounts of the toxin andromedotoxin which can cause headaches, cramps, paralysis and intestinal problems if too much is consumed. This tea should be consumed in moderation.
Preparation and Dosages: Standard infusion: 2 to 4 fluid ounces, three to four times a day. Fresh Leaf Tincture [1:2] is diluted for topical use.