Herb: Labrador Tea

Latin name: Ledum groenlandicum

Synonyms: Ledum latifolium, Ledum pacificum, Ledum palustre groenlandicum

Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Medicinal use of Labrador Tea:

Labrador tea was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. In modern herbalism it is occasionally used externally to treat a range of skin problems. The leaves are analgesic, blood purifier, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and tonic. A tea is taken internally in the treatment of headaches, asthma, colds, stomach aches, kidney ailments etc. Externally, it is used as a wash for burns, ulcers, itches, chapped skin, stings, dandruff etc. An ointment made from the powdered leaves or roots has been used to treat ulcers, cracked nipples, burns and scalds. The plant is apparently a mild narcotic, it was taken by Indian women three times daily shortly before giving birth

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

to June


Habitat of the herb:

Cold bogs and montane coniferous woods.

Edible parts of Labrador Tea:

A fragrant and soothing tea is made from the leaves. The spicy leaves make a very palatable and refreshing tea. The North American Indians would often flavour this tea with the roots of liquorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza. When lemon is added they can be used as iced tea. The leaves were once added to beer in order to make it heady. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. It would be better to brew the tea in cold water by leaving it in a sunny place, or to make sure that it is brewed for a short time only in an open container. The leaves are used as a flavouring, they are a bayleaf substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are hung up in the clothes cupboard in order to repel insects. The branches are also placed among grain in order to keep mice away. A strong decoction of the leaves, or a tincture, is used to kill lice, mosquitoes, fleas and other insects. The leaves contain tannin. A brown dye is obtained from the plant.

Propagation of Labrador Tea:

Seed - surface sow in a shady part of the greenhouse in February or March. Another report says that the seed is best sown in the autumn as soon as it is ripe. Germination is variable and can be quite slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the pots on in a shady frame for 18 months before planting them out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Plant out in spring. Fair percentage. Cuttings of mature wood, November/December in a frame. Layering in the autumn. Takes 12 months. Division.

Cultivation of the herb:

Cold bogs and montane coniferous woods.

Known hazards of Ledum groenlandicum:

Plants contain a narcotic toxin called Ledel. This toxin only causes problems if the leaves are cooked for a long period in a closed container.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.