Herbs & Plants

Rhododendron groenlandicum

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Botanical Name :Rhododendron groenlandicum
Family: Ericaceae
Genus:     Rhododendron
Species: R. groenlandicum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Ericales

Synonyms :St. James’s Tea. Ledum Groenlandicum.

Common Names : Labrador tea,  Ledum latifolium

 Habitat: Rhododendron groenlandicum is native to  Greenland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Hudson’s Bay. It is found growing in northern latitudes around the world. In Europe, it occurs south to the Alps. It is reported from Greenland, as well as from every province and territory in Canada and in the northeastern and northwestern United States (New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska). It grows in bogs and on wet shores, and sometimes on rocky alpine slopes.

Rhododendron groenlandicum is an evergreen flowering plant  grows to a height of 4 to 5 feet, with irregular, woolly branches  . The leaves are alternate, entire, elliptical or oblong, 1 to 2 inches long, the upper side smooth and woolly underneath, with the edges rolled back.The leaves are wrinkled on top, densely hairy white to red-brown underneath, and have a leathery texture, curling at the edges. The tiny white flowers grow in hemispherical clusters and are very fragrant and sticky. The large, white, five-petalled flowers grow in flattened terminal clusters, opening in June and July. The plant grows in cold bogs and mountain woods. It is taller, more regularly formed, and has larger leaves than L. palustre. During the American War of Independence the leaves were much used instead of tea-leaves.They should be collected before flowering time, and the tops when the flowers begin to open.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used: Leaves and tops.

Constituents: There has been found in the leaves tannin, gallic acid, a bitter substance, wax, resin, and salts.

The leaves are tonic, diaphoretic, and pectoral, having a pleasant odour and rather spicy taste. They yield their virtues to hot water or to alcohol. 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.

Pacific Northwest natives use a strong leaf tonic as a blood purifier and treatment for rheumatism.  Tribes farther north use the same infusion to combat cold symptoms.  They also marinate strong meats in it.  In Alaska, Labrador tea has been used to treat stomach ailments, hangovers, and dizziness, as well as pulmonary disorders including tuberculosis.  Infusions have also been used as a wash  to soothe itching rashes including poison ivy, sores, burns, lice, and leprosy.  In modern herbalism it is occasionally used externally to treat a range of skin problems. 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 .

Other Uses:
Bees are much attracted by the flowers, but animals do not browse on the plants,

Strewed among clothes, the leaves will keep away moths, and in Lapland the branches are placed among grain to keep away mice.

In Russia the leaves are used for tanning leather.

The Athabaskans brew the leaves as a beverage and some people chew the raw leaves because they enjoy the flavor. Others use Labrador tea to spice meat by boiling the leaves and branches in water and then soaking the meat in the decoction.

The Pomo, Kashaya, Tolowa and Yurok of Northern California boiled the leaves of Western Labrador Tea similarly, to make a medicinal herbal tea.[1] In Greenland, this is still the case. Here it is also used in facial steam bath.

In medieval Northern Europe, R. groenlandicum and R. tomentosum were often brewed in “gruit” ales, prior to the adoption of hops.

Known Hazards: Labrador tea has narcotic properties. Evidence suggests that excessive consumption of the plant may cause delirium or poisoning. Toxic terpenes of the essential oils cause symptoms of intoxication, such as slow pulse, lowering of blood pressure, lack of coordination, convulsions, paralysis, and death. It is apparently safe as a weak herbal tea, but should not be made too strong.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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