Labrador tea is the younger cousin of Sweetgale and Bearberry. She is very different in character as indicated by Her distinct wooly leaves and stunning complex white flower clusters. Traditionally She is harvested after this beautiful flowering through too when the first frosts have come to the northern Boreal areas where She grows. Earlier she is more medicinal and later she is sweeter. While Her older smooth-leaved cousins are spirit twins with Loon and Grouse, Labrador tea is related to the Duck waterfowl family. Not only do they nest near their plant protector, but Duck’s fecundity and rich, friendly character reflects the spirit of Labrador tea.
Labrador Tea builds strength, and is a purifier of the Earth’s water, as She is to our blood and internal water systems including our kidneys and lymphatic system. Her character, like her leaves, has two distinct sides, and accompanying medicinal virtues. The glossy side repels water away and is waxy and tight, to survive ongoing moisture, so she is diuretic, astringent and is excellent for protecting and healing our skin, including punctures and traumas to all our cell walls. Growing in near constant wet areas, She has developed, like her sister Sweetgale, many chemicals that protect her from bugs, bacteria, fungi, yeast and other pathogens. She gives us all these medicines. But the fuzzy underside of Her leaves is not a stimulant, like her smooth-leaved cousins, She has very different sedative-like and narcotic properties. The furry side of the leaf shows us how she cocoons our consciousness and senses. When we drink Her we feel our senses wrapped in a thick warm fur blanket, so our nerves are calmed and our circulation and blood pressure are regulated. Along with these medicines, this buffer She wraps us in takes sharp pains away (analgesic).
The furry underside of the leaves also indicates this plant aids in clearing lungs. And Her aroma instantly tells us of her abilities to expand our breathing passages. Another doctrine signature of Hers is indicated by the special way Her leaf edges curve under, which evokes the medicine of veins and intestines. She gives us both circulation and digestive medicine, curing maladies of both areas. She helps us with lack of circulation, especially as it relates to conditions of inflammatory pain like arthritis.
The under skin of the leaf, protected by the fur is highly aromatic. The protected open pores on the underside release huge amounts of piney camphor-like perfume. This smell not only contains healing chemicals (dilating and clearing our lungs) but also ether gas. One has to be careful when picking and drying this herb. If over exposed, ether makes one feel light and floaty, like the plant itself, which can grow on a floating mat of peat. But when over exposed to Her ether this floating feeling is followed by a brutal headache. Ether, like any toxic gas, if inhaled can cause brain damage. The Ether completely disappears when the plant is dried, but the Labrador Tea still gives us this mild floating feeling when we breathe Her in or drink Her. Her floating energy is like a duck on the water. This floating feeling is at Her spirit core.
The healing energy of floating in nature embodies the ability to effortlessly gain equilibrium, which She helps our body do in so many ways. Her healing and balancing abilities come from Her ability to exist in that place between the air and water. She brings balance to the water-based and nutritional systems within our bodies as She does in the environment.
While having water-like qualities, Labrador tea shows us her two sides again because She also not as easy going as we might imagine. One time, which was before I knew the best time to harvest Her, I arrived at a harvest site with a truck full of apprentices. I knelt in front of Her to pray and do my offerings, as I always do. Part of this process involves getting permission to harvest the plant from the plant. Usually before I set out to harvest I also spiritually get in touch with the plant and am given an initial ok to come that day. I didn’t do this on that day. And as though she was offended by my lack of protocol She very decisively said NO when I knelt in front of Her. So we all loaded back into the truck and drove home to the farm. When we don’t follow a spiritual protocol and just take what we want, we might be able to take a plants physical body but the plants won’t give us their spiritual healing power. While all traditional peoples everywhere understood this truth is has become obscured by the arrogance of scientific analysis, that only addresses life at a chemical level.
Part of the benefit of a balanced system that Labrador tea gives us, is She helps us with our immunity and resilience to trauma. Labrador tea embodies this strength in the ecology as She effortlessly deals with fire, floods and famine. Caribou, Deer, Moose and Rabbit all nibble a little on Labrador tea. They never eat too much so it’s clearly being used as a tonic and medicine by the animals.
The complex blend of other herbs in Algonquin Tea’s “Awakening” all gather around the Labrador tea in supporting Her balancing-purifying tonic effects; for our organs and blood, circulatory system, and immunity. Astragalus, Nettle and Alfalfa are all strengthening herbs that build our bodies and immunity as they do the land where they grow. Angelica and Joe Pie aid our systems in many complex ways acting as a reproductive and base chakra tonic, balancing our hormones. Calamus and Ginseng are both powerful adrenal tonics and magical healers of disease and degeneration.
As well as all the medicinal benefits this tea it is excellent in dealing with addictions. Awakening helps us with our inner balance and moods. And because it is a vaso-dilator many of the side effects one experiences when one stops drinking coffee, such as headaches and lethargy, are countered by this stimulating (caffeine-free) blend.