By Agnieszka Stalkoper
French-speaking Canada is an exceptional destination on the global map, often referred to as a fusion of European elegance and the comfort of high-standard North American living. Amidst the allure of this region lies an awe-inspiring natural landscape, a privilege we are fortunate to immerse ourselves in. Exploring the picturesque trails of this beautiful wilderness unveils a rich tapestry of flora, revealing the bountiful and medicinal properties of the plants that adorn our surroundings.
In recent years, the significance of our well-being and security has garnered greater attention. This period of heightened awareness motivated me to delve into the realm of wild, edible, and medicinal plants that thrive abundantly in our natural habitat. Acquiring knowledge of these plants not only fosters a sense of self-reliance but also serves as a gateway to bolstering our overall security. While 'big box stores' and pharmacies may be within reach, the reliance on wild plants for sustenance and health preservation becomes paramount in the face of any unforeseen circumstances.
We, as beings intricately woven into the fabric of nature, thrive when we embrace its offerings. Restricting ourselves to artificial and comfortable environments can be detrimental to our well-being. Leveraging the gifts of nature not only resonates with our true essence but also reinvigorates our vitality, infusing us with an amplified life force. Every step taken in the crisp, fresh air contributes to holistic well-being, fortifying our immunity and restoring equilibrium to our overstimulated nervous system, thereby optimizing the functionality of our body's intricate systems and organs. Each plant, thriving in its untamed, natural habitat, nourishes us with the highest quality provisions, facilitating optimal health and well-being.
However, it's crucial to acknowledge that not every herb is created equal. The efficacy and impact of each herb are contingent upon its quality. An aged powder from a commercialized herbal tea bag pales in comparison to the potency of a plant that we forage and consume ourselves. Furthermore, when these plants are gathered from the enchanting landscapes of our renowned Canadian wilderness, their life-affirming potential is significantly amplified. Personally, I prefer to harvest my herbs from such ethereal locations, be it the lofty summits, the cascading waterfalls, the meandering rivers, the serene lakes, or the numerous regions of Quebec adorned with breathtaking national parks.
The simplest method to harness the essence of these gathered plants is through the preparation of a herbal infusion.
For generations, tea has held a significant place in many cultures around the world However, the conventional Chinese black teas, while cherished, lack the beneficial properties we seek and can even pose risks to our well-being. The solution lies in replacing these traditional teas with herbs, sourced either from our own collection or from reputable herbalists. Alternatively, one can explore the indigenous Canadian hybrid traditions and indulge in the flavors of Labrador Tea, flourishing abundantly in the northern reaches of America, particularly within the Taiga region.
Rooted in the history of New France, Labrador Tea was adopted during the Great Depression, and borrowed from the practices of the local Indigenous peoples. With the scarcity of Chinese black tea, this local alternative proved to be invaluable, celebrated for its exceptional health benefits.
This lesser-known herb harbors remarkable potency, offering a diverse array of applications in alleviating numerous ailments. Familiarizing oneself with its attributes is crucial, especially considering its accessibility both in local stores and in the bountiful lap of nature.
Foremost among its many virtues is Labrador Tea's profound impact on the liver. Demonstrated to be effective in addressing a spectrum of liver ailments, including viral inflammation, poisoning, and liver failure, it is renowned for its detoxifying and regenerative effects on the liver cells.
Additionally, Labrador Tea boasts robust antioxidant properties, historically harnessed by the Indigenous communities for treating tick-borne meningitis. Rich in essential oils, this plant is considered antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and calming. It has shown promising effects in mitigating prostate issues, thyroid disorders, skin allergies, and enlarged lymph nodes, as well as aiding in the management of depression and insomnia. Ongoing research is also exploring its potential anti-cancer properties.
To derive the most benefit from Labrador Tea, it is recommended to consume it in the form of a potent tea, exercising caution due to its tannin content. Ideally, one should limit consumption to one glass per day, brewed from a mere 3–5 leaves. Adjusting the leaf quantity can enhance the flavor profile if consumed less frequently. Experimenting with complementary ingredients such as dried apples, oranges, berries, rose hips, elderberries, cinnamon, and hibiscus can further elevate the tea-drinking experience.
Beyond its role as a beverage, Labrador Tea finds utility in culinary domains, enhancing the flavors of marinated game and fish, complementing mushrooms, and infusing unique notes into beer recipes by chefs in Quebec.
I implore you to delve deeper into the virtues of Labrador Tea, harnessing its remarkable potential, and exploring the vast, unspoiled terrains of northern Quebec, where it thrives abundantly, gracing the highlands of the Laurentides, Charlevoix, and Gaspes regions.
Easily recognizable by its small shrub structure adorned with star-shaped leaves, Labrador Tea stands distinguished by its narrow, robust leaves enveloped in a distinctive fuzz, either white or orange. Notably, the younger leaves feature a white fuzz, while the older ones exhibit an orange hue, each offering a unique flavor profile. Exercise caution during harvesting to ensure minimal damage to the shrub, distinguishing it from its counterpart, Kalmia, which is not suitable for consumption due to its differing characteristics—thin, smooth leaves on both sides.
Let us reconnect with nature, unearthing solutions to our myriad challenges, fostering holistic well-being, and reaping the mental and physical health benefits that nature graciously provides. Embark on this journey, restoring balance, replenishing life force, and fortifying the immune system. Embrace the hidden treasures of our beautiful Canadian landscape, like the Labrador Tea, waiting to be discovered and savored.
Text and photos Agnieszka Stalkoper
The author is a professional photographer, between sessions, fashion, reportage and professional travels, she develops her second passion - alternative medicine (nutritherapy, naturopathy, aromatherapy, herbalism, sophrology), she is also a yoga teacher and promotes and teaches a healthy lifestyle, among others, on her YouTube channel PranaManaChi.