Harris Centre Annual Report - Snapshots from around the province

NunatsiavutWhere: NUNATSIAVUT

Who: Dr. Luise Hermanutz, Faculty of Science (Biology)

What: Harris Centre-funded research

Feeling run down and stressed out? A wild Labrador plant may be just what you need. With a little help from the Harris Centre’s Applied Research Fund, as well as ArcticNet, a Memorial Biology Professor, Dr. Luise Hermanutz, is working with Inuit Elders from communities in Northern Labrador to develop a small-scale business enterprise based on a wild Labrador plant. Roseroot is considered by some alternative medicine supporters to be a treatment for fatigue, memory and mild depression/anxiety.

Dr. Hermanutz, along with Dr. Alain Cuerrier, an ethnobotanist at the Montreal Botanical Garden, and their PhD graduate student, Vanessa Mardones, have been studying the ethnobotany and biology of Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea L), which can be found growing wild in both Labrador and Newfoundland.

“When we met with the Elders and discussed a partnership with the Nunatsiavut government, they had no idea this was a huge global industry,” said Dr. Hermanutz. “Most of the Roseroot grown in Canada is grown in Alberta and originates from Russian populations, which differs from the Labrador populations. So we need to do some comparisons to see how these plants differ.”

The team has collected plants to compare growth, robustness and chemical profiles to figure out which plants would be best to grow in community gardens, to be viable and sustainable for small business owners to market this valuable medicinal plant.

At the moment, the plants aren’t rare but Dr. Hermanutz and her team are hoping their work with the communities will encourage a sustainable industry. Based on discussions, round tables, and interviews, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut strongly support the project’s goals, and have given it two thumbs up.

“We hope together to provide a business opportunity that combines the best of sustainable fair trade production practices, and ensures the plant remains healthy in the wild” she said.

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