Labrador-tea - an evergreen plant with a surface root system. Lots of above-ground shoots, almost upright, up to 130 cm tall. The young shoots are not woody, covered with red hair. The leaves are subordinate, wintering, leathery, elongated, entire-edged, with downward-sloping edges, 1.5-4.5 cm long. On top, the leaves are dark green, shiny, covered with small glands, the lower part is red, the flowers are white, with five petals, about 1 cm in diameter, on long flower legs, collected in shield-like inflorescences of 15-25 flowers.

Fruit a five-nested multi-seeded box, dark, elongated oval, 3-10mm long. The plant blooms from May to July, the seeds ripen from July to August.

The plant winters under snow. Shoots that are not covered with snow in winter die.

The plant is poisonous!  Labrador-tea has  a distinct, specific aroma that causes nausea, dizziness and headaches.

For medicinal purposes, the young shoots of the Labrador-tea are used. Collect shoots covered with leaves that have not yet had time to become woody. Harvest them in autumn, August and September, when the seeds ripen. Collect the tops of shoots about 10 cm long.

The plants are dried in a shady place or in well-ventilated rooms, spreading them in a thin layer (~5cm) on sieves, stirring them from time to time. Can also be dried in forced dryers, not exceeding 30-40C.

Special care must be taken when collecting, drying and packing this plant, as the plant is poisonous and has a strong aroma, causes nausea, dizziness and headaches. It is recommended to work with this plant in a respirator, no longer than 2-3 hours a day.

Store this plant in cool and dry rooms, away from other plants.

Found in the plant: poisonous essential oils (up to 7%), which include icedol, palustrol, cimol, geranyl acetate, bicyclic alcohol, hydrocarbons. Essential oil is present in all parts of the plant, except for the roots: up to 7.5% in the leaves of the first year, up to 1.4% in the leaves of the second year; in stems of the first year up to 1.5%, in the second year up to 0.2%; in flowers up to 2.3%, in fruits up to 0.17%. The essential oil has a bitter burning taste and a balsamic aroma.

The plant also contains glycosides (ericoline, arbutin); andromedotoxin; coumarins (esculin, esculetin, scopoletin, umbelliferone and others); flavonoids (quercetin, hyperoside); tanning agents; phytoncides; vitamin C; dyes; micro and macro elements.

Medicinal significance

Labrador-tea preparations are used as expectorant, anti-inflammatory, against whooping cough and as an antiseptic. Similarly, sedge has a hypotensive effect, but it has an excitatory effect on the higher parts of the central nervous system.

Preparations of the Labrador-tea contribute to the liquefaction and elimination of sputum, accelerate its evacuation, soften cough, have an antibacterial effect.

The medicinal properties of the plant are provided by the essential oils contained in it, which are partially released through the walls of the respiratory organs when taken orally. When distributed through the bronchi, the volatile and biologically active compounds of Labrador-tea easily irritate the mucous membrane, increasing the secretion of the bronchial glands and the activity of the epithelium of the respiratory cilia. An antispasmodic effect on bronchial smooth muscle has also been observed. The antimicrobial activity of Labrador-tea is also related to the content of the essential oil in the plant, which even has a bactericidal effect against Staphylococcus aureus.

Labrador-tea has a diuretic and disinfecting effect, which is associated with the excretion of essential oil with urine through the kidneys, in a chemically unchanged form. Also acting on the urinary tract thanks to the glycoside arbutin and essential oil.

Severe side effects may occur when using Labrador-tea : allergic reactions, increased nervous excitability, dizziness. CNS excitement or, on the contrary, depression.

The Latin name 'Ledum' comes from the Greek 'ledoa' - the name of a resinous plant from which incense was obtained in ancient Greece.

In folk medicine, Labrador-tea is used to treat cough, scrofula, rhinitis, dysentery, malaria, itching, wet eczema, as a diaphoretic. Colds, bronchial asthma, angina pectoris, pulmonary tuberculosis, gout and dermatomycosis are treated with Labrador-tea leaves. The plant is diuretic, tonic and anthelmintic. An infusion of flowers on alcohol is used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, suffocation, as a rub for rheumatism.

Not recommended for use

Overdosage of Labrador-tea can cause severe poisoning, accompanied by nausea and vomiting, in particularly severe cases the CNS is affected and possible paralysis and respiratory asphyxia, and paralysis of the heart muscle, which often results in a fatal outcome.

When used in proper doses, it is not recommended for hypotonia.

The plant should not be used by women during pregnancy and lactation. It is not recommended to prescribe the plant to children under 14 years of age, except in individual cases - under the strict supervision of a doctor.

A professional consultation is really recommended for the use of this plant. Do not be careless with this plant and if there is an opportunity, it is better to use one of the alternative plants.