Labrador tea--the aromatic beverage and spice: a review of origin, processing and safety

J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Jun;95(8):1577-83. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6889. Epub 2014 Sep 29.


Labrador tea is a name for the dried leaves of Rhododendron groenlandicum, R. tomentosum or R. neoglandulosum (family Ericaceae, previously genus Ledum) as well as for the beverage native to North America, which is made from them. The above species are rich in the essential oil, which gives a conifer aroma to the tisane. Labrador tea is a valuable source of ascorbic acid, with tonic, improving digestion and relaxing activity. However, this beverage should not be drunk more than once daily because of the ledol and grayanotoxin toxicity. The common recipe for making Labrador tea is to add one teaspoonful of dried leaves to one cup of boiling water and to brew for 5 min. It is often sweetened or enriched with other flavors. Additionally, Labrador tea dried leaves are used to spice meat, soups, sauces, salads, beer, cakes and other dishes. In agriculture, its insecticidal properties can be useful for controlling pests.

Keywords: Labrador tea; Ledum; Rhododendron groenlandicum; Rhododendron neoglandulosum; Rhododendron tomentosum; thé du Labrador.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages*
  • Diterpenes / analysis
  • Diterpenes / toxicity
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Food Handling* / methods
  • Food Safety*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides
  • Ledum* / chemistry
  • Ledum* / toxicity
  • North America
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Sesquiterpenes / analysis
  • Sesquiterpenes / toxicity
  • Spices
  • Toxins, Biological / analysis


  • Diterpenes
  • Flavonoids
  • Insecticides
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Toxins, Biological
  • ledol
  • grayanotoxin I