On a recent trip to my boyfriend’s Ojibwa Indian reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota, I learned about the Ojibwa Indians and a special kind of tea they drink, called swamp tea. As a tea lover, I was enthralled with it. My boyfriend’s great-grandmother was a medicine woman and swore by the benefits and healing properties of swamp tea. All I could imagine was submerging a bucket into a swamp and gathering dirty, infected water. After doing my own research, I’ve realized that what I had imagined was completely wrong.
Commonly known as Labrador tea, swamp tea is made from a small shrub called the Labrador plant located in shallow swamp areas – and is not made from swamp water. It has a long, oval, and leathery leaf. Because of swamp tea’s numerous health benefits, it is still used by many Ojibwa Indians and other Native American tribes.
As part of tribal medicine, many Ojibwa Indians believe that swamp tea can balance an imbalanced body. Some Native Americans believe swamp tea’s healing benefits make it unnecessary to go to a drugstore or pharmacy to be healed. They believe it lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, and may even heal diabetes. They also believe it can treat headaches, asthma, colds, stomach problems, burns, lice, dandruff, and childbirth pains. Swamp tea’s healing power is strongest if it is consumed once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
When swamp tea is cooked, it looks like green tea. All the Ojibwa do is pick a handful of leaves from the shrub and cook them in water. When they take the plant from its original place, they thank the earth and the creator and all of the plants around them for allowing them to use the plant to heal their bodies.
I am very thankful for the privilege of learning about swamp tea. When my boyfriend’s great-grandmother passed away, she did not officially pass her remedies to anyone. All his family knows is what they remember she said when she was alive. I think it’s great that the natural traditions of the Ojibwa Indians are still being practiced today.