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Labrador tea

Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum) is a wetland plant that grows wild in most regions of Canada and the northern United States. Its highly aromatic leaves can be used to brew a tasty herbal tea. A number of Indigenous peoples used Labrador tea as infusions to treat inflammatory conditions, such as burns, rheumatism, arthritis and asthma. An industry partner is now working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists to develop extract of Labrador tea to be used in a variety of products.

While Labrador tea bags are available on the market for the preparation of infusions, the optimal extracting conditions, such as the tea to water ratio and extraction time to maximize the yield, are unknown. Supply is still limited, and to our knowledge, no Labrador tea extracts are available as concentrates or as food ingredients. There was also a need for a rapid, inexpensive method to assess the polyphenol content of Labrador Tea, which contains the possible health benefits.

The company collaborating with AAFC completed a first commercial production of a Labrador tea concentrate in January 2017 at the Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre through the support of its industrial program. An assessment method of the polyphenol quality was developed and tea extracts in various concentrates in liquid and powder form were successfully produced in the laboratory. The next step is pilot scale commercialization. In the longer term, the company plans to have its own facilities and become an autonomous producer.

The launch of new Labrador tea products on the Canadian market will benefit the company, the Canadian economy and Indigenous communities. This plant can be found in large quantities in close proximity to Indigenous communities and is cropped using sustainable techniques to ensure the plant's survival. Ultimately, it will provide consumers with access to a broader range of innovative products than can contribute to their well-being.

For more information:

Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre's Industrial Program

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