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code: 11057


Latin Binomial: Ledum groenlandicum
Plant Part: Flowering Plant
Extraction: Steam Distilled
Growing Practice: Wild
Country of Origin: Canada

Odor Characteristic: Ledum has a very complex odor profile, herbaceous with cuminic notes and a dry, leathery backnote, as well as faint Citrus notes. It is a very pleasant, strong aromatic, somewhat similar to the Rhododendrons. Dryout is cuminic, seedy and soapy with woody aspects.

BioChemical Class: Terpenes
BioChemicals: alpha- & beta-Pinene, alpha-Selinene, Myrtenal, alpha-Terpineol

The monoterpene family is represented by sabinene as a major product. The limonene concentration depends sharply on the vegetative period, being more important during the flowering period. Terpinen-4-ol and myrtenal are the main compounds of a variety of oxygenated monoterpenes

About the Plant

From the Ericaceae family, often referred to as "The Health Family" by traditional herbalists, Ledum groenlandicum is also commonly called Greenland Moss or Labrador tea. Rhododendron groenlandicum is listed as a synonym and according to some sources is the primary name. The plant is an evergreen, well branched, spreading shrub up to about 1 m in height. The twigs are densely hairy and the buds scaly. The leaves are simple, alternate, entire (not toothed), lanceolate, somewhat narrowly elliptic to oblong, 1.5 to 5 cm long, about 0.7 to 2 cm wide, thick, leathery and evergreen with rolled margins, dark green above,

densely off-white to rusty hairy beneath, and fragrant when crushed (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Britton and Brown 1913). This shrub occurs from Greenland, across Canada from Labrador to British Columbia, north to Alaska, south to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington, with isolated sites or occurrences in Ohio and South Dakota. This species grows in acidic soils of bogs, especially sphagnum (Sphagnum spp.) bogs, and other swampy and wet shoreline habitats in association with Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP (black spruce), Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench (leatherleaf), and Kalmia spp. (laurels). Labrador tea will also grow on some drier upland soils with a reasonable moisture regime in association with Pinus spp. (pines) and Vaccinium spp. (blueberries). Stands of Labrador tea appear to retard black spruce growth and regeneration.

Caution: This plant is often confused with poisonous bog laurel, making positive plant identification essential.


Ledum groenlandicum has a long history of use by Native Americans. It is called s'ikshaldé:en by the Tlingit tribe of the northwest Pacific coast, who mixed the herb with stewed seedless rosehips, brewing on the stove year around, adding fresh leaves and water regularly. This brew was used to combat sore throats. As a tea this plant has been used for treating asthma, colds, stomach aches, kidney problems, scurvy, and fevers (Foster and Duke 1990). Externally it has been applied as a wash for burns, ulcers, and stings. It has been used as a folk remedy for lung ailments, dysentery, indigestion, and to kill lice and treat leprosy. Successful traditional use for gout treatment may be due to the presence of phenolics and tannins. The root has been used for medicinal purposes to treat ulcers and the leaves for making tea (Densmore 1928).
Aromatherapy: Essential oils with a high concentration of terpene alcohols, sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols are thujanol type thymes, carrot seed and Greenland Moss. Kurt Schnaubelt and others categorize these as oils as those that are principally suitable to support liver function, especiallly in convalesence. The French physician D. Penoel treats his patients with a formula of these three, taken by mouth, in capsules, with meals, a protocol included in the Aromtherapy Course of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy as general treatment for infectious illness, including respiratory conditions. Aromatic inhalation is a primary way to address respiratory illness or problems. A massage oil made with L. groenlandicum, Inula graveolens, Rosemary verbenon and Peppermint, (approximately 1 drop each per 3 ml of carrier or 6% dilution) is useful massaged around the ears, lymph nodes, neck and shoulders. Marcia's personal preference is 5-7% dilution with equal parts of L.groenlandicum, Helichrysum italicum and Ravensara aromatica.

Perfumery: The essential oil has not found extensive use in perfumery.

The information provided on these pages is not a substitute for necessary medical care, nor intended as medical advice. Always keep aromatic extracts tightly closed and in a cool, dark place, out of reach of children. Never ingest aromatic extracts. Always dilute aromatic extracts when applying topically and avoid areas around eyes or mucous membranes. If redness or irritation occurs, stop using immediately and contact your health provider if necessary.