Greek Mountain Tea, or Sideritis… This native herb of the mountainous areas of Greece is one of the most recognizable and favourite herbs of our country, worldwide it is also known as "Greek Mountain Tea."
Its beneficial properties made it famous even in the scientific community, while its taste and aroma take us on a small trip down our memory lane, a trip to the years of our childhood. Despite it being traditionally considered a tonic, mainly consumed during the winter, you can enjoy it cold as well, without the addition of any sweetener.
"A superior tea comes from the higher mountains" an ancient Chinese proverb says… "The Greek mountains" the German scientists add today. And that's because they believe that the wondrous properties of the mountain tea are an important "weapon" in the fight against Alzheimer, a disease which causes deterioration to the brain’s cells. More than 800,000 people suffer from that disease in Germany, and about 30 million worldwide. This amazing Greek mountain tea was, at least for a few years back, never missing from any house, and was always the first medicine for a cold, now days slowly finds its place again, moreover scientifically among the various herbal tonics.
The mountain tea is a perennial native plant that belongs in the Lamiaceae family, in the Sideritis genus, and is found almost exclusively in mountainous places. About 17 native species are found on the Greek mountains, with the most famous of them being: "vlachiko" tea (Sideritis perfoliata subsp. athoa), tea of Taygetus (Sideritis clandestine—"Sideris the smuggled"), "malotiras" or "kalokoimithia" is the tea found in Crete (Sideritis syriaca), tea of Euboea or Delfi (Sideritis Euboea), tea of Olympus (Sideritis scardica), tea of Parnassos or Velouchio (Sideritis raeseri). We must mention that the mountain tea is threatened with extinction because of its overconsumption. That's why it's forbidden to over harvest it.
The mountain tea is known in Greece for thousands of years. The name "Sideritis" comes from the ancient Greek word "Sidero" ("Iron") and this is the name with which Theophrastus mentions it (372–287 BC). P. Gennadios wrote that Sideritis was called thus by Dioskouridis, because of its ability to cure wounds caused by iron items (swords). Another version tells that it's called thus by the "teeth" its flowers have, resembling the point of a lance.
A third theory, which seems to be the most accurate, states that Dioskouridis gave that name to the plant because of the high iron content in its infusion. It's also mentioned in ancient texts by Hippocrates, Theophrastos, Pliny, Galen, and more. Sideritis is found on rocky Alpine and sub-Alpine areas of mainland Greece.
Traditionally, mountain tea in Greece is mainly used for its beneficial effect against the cold and upper respiratory tract infections, as well as dealing with indigestion and other gastrointestinal disorders, while it's also considered an anticonvulsant, an analgesic, and a healing herb. It doesn’t contain caffeine, but there're traces of theobromine which is a diuretic and has a positive action on the respiratory system.
Its fresh leaves are rich in vitamin C. The infusion made with this herb is used as a digestive aid, a diuretic in digestive disorders, and a stimulant of the brain and the muscles—it's accelerating the breathing. Long term use of the tea, though, can cause disorders related to insomnia, weight loss, loss of appetite, and problems of the nervous system.
The traditional uses of the mountain tea are also scientifically confirmed. It's not by chance that it went under the microscope of the researches and was studied for the effects that it has on our health. Its beneficial properties are due to the elements of its essential oil, like the flavonoids. Besides those, it has many elements like diterpenes, phenylpropanoids, iridoids, and monoterpenes. It's known for its anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and antioxidant action, it's considered easy to digest, a sudorific, stimulant, anti-irritant, and it's anti-anemic since it contains iron Fe (Floca et al 1981).
Laboratory researches on its beneficial effects has been carried out by the Universities of Patras and Ioannina and the University of Athens proved through studies that the extracts of Sideritis euboea and Sideritis clandestine can have a preventive action against osteoporosis, since they prevent bone density loss and improve the mechanical strength of the bones. Studies in Germany support that the mountain tea can protect against Alzheimer's. It's noteworthy that Greece, the United Kingdom and Spain are the countries with the highest consumption of mountain tea.
To take maximum advantage of its beneficial properties, care should be taken on the preparation of the tea. The right way is to boil water just before it bubbles, withdraw it from the fire, place inside the mountain tea herb, leave it for 3–4 minutes, strain it, and then drink it.
We can drink as many cups as you like during the day without fear, especially when suffering from a cold since mountain tea doesn't contain caffeine. With a bit of honey and a few lemon drops, this amazing Greek tea will relieve your symptoms immediately. Trust the herbs that have been essential to our tradition for years, and you won't regret it.