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Greek Mountain Tea – Interesting Health Benefits

greek mountain tea

Greece is home to an incredible number of plant species, many of which have been known since antiquity to have medicinal properties and have been consumed for both the pleasure of consuming and for the restorative, preventative, and health benefits.

One of these species of plants that is not well-known in North America is named “Greek Mountain Tea,” or “sideritis” which means “he who is made of iron.”

The stems, leaves, and flowers of this plant have been used in Greece for eons to make a refreshing tea that can be enjoyed both hot or cold. Sometimes called “Shepherd’s Tea,” it is found wild in the mountain ranges of Greece and shepherds tending to their flocks would boil tea (or more correctly, “tisane”) from the plant.

Today, it is commonly cultivated in Greece as well as neighbouring countries Bulgaria, Albania, and Republic of Macedonia and can be found in grocery stores, small shops, and kiosks.

While it has a very pleasant taste on its own, honey or other sweeteners are often added and sometimes Greek Mountain Tea is mixed with other juices as well.

Greek Mountain Tea Health Benefits

While the tea is consumed for its pleasant taste and for refreshment, since ancient times it has been known to have imparted a variety of health benefits as well. Greek doctors would prescribe a decoction of mountain tea for digestive issues and it was also believed that the tea would heal those that received injuries in battles from weapons made of iron.

Recent studies have shown that Greek mountain tea contains a number of interesting compounds that do indeed have health benefits while also having no observable toxicity when consumed regularly and in large amounts.

Sideritis has been shown to be rich in phenolic compounds and flavenoids that have high anti-oxidant properties. One paper published in 2016 reported that over 100 different compounds were found in the plant and that it also contained high amounts of potassium, (3820 to 4755 mg per kg), calcium, and magnesium. In all, 20 minerals were detected in the plant.

Greek Mountain Tea Relieves Cough & Colds

One of the traditional medicinal uses for Sideritis has been in the treatment or relieving of coughs, especially due to colds. It’s been said that drinking the tea is helpful in relieving these symptoms and is often used in traditional medicine throughout Greece and Balkan nations for treating cold symptoms. Today, there is scientific evidence for the use of Greek mountain tea for treating colds. This is due to the high polyphenol content, including -terpinene which has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.

Greek Mountain Tea Builds Immunity

Traditionally, it’s been believed that regular consumption of Sideritis protected and built up the immune system to protect against viruses and other illnesses. Again, modern science is revealing that traditional and ancient Greek medicine was correct. The many compounds found in the tea, while also being able to treat sickness, can also act as prevention against illness, when regularly consumed. It has been found that these compounds are also more bio-available when extracted via boiling in water than other extraction methods.

Many of the compounds found in the plant have shown antibacterial and antimicrobial activity.

Greek Mountain Tea May Protect Against Mental Decline

Oxidative stress in the body can lead to many medical issues including a decline in mental abilities as we age. In 2016, a paper published in J Sci Food Agric found that Greek mountain tea had high levels of andalusol, conchitriol and lagascatriol, compounds that have demonstrated protection against mental decline. The paper suggests “Sideritis may exert neuroprotective effects.These diterpenoids reduced oxidative damage by inhibiting intra-cellular reactive oxygen species production and increasing thegene expression of antioxidant enzymes through Nrf2 pathway activation.”

Greek Mountain Tea May Protect Skin

The aforementioned compound, -terpinene, may have other benefits including the protection of skin as we age, especially with skin damage caused by UV radiation. Matrix metalloproteinase-1(MMP-1) plays a major role in how tissue is reformed in response to UV radiation. Compound -terpinene inhibits the production of MMP-1 as well as other pro-inflammatory cytokines that can cause skin tissue to be damaged.

Conclusions

Here, we have written only about a small number of the beneficial effects that Greek Mountain has been reported to have, and only on some of the most recent scientific findings. In the future, we’ll discuss more of the reputed benefits of regular consumption of this herb known to the ancients, and now only being discovered by science in more recent times.

In the meantime, you can drink Greek Mountain tea for it’s refreshment as it tastes great, both hot and cold!

References:

Feistel B, Wegener T, Rzymski P, Pischel I. Assessment of the Acute and Subchronic Toxicity and Mutagenicity of Sideritis scardica Griseb. Extracts. Toxins. 2018;10(7):258. doi:10.3390/toxins10070258.

Romanucci, Valeria & Fabio, Giovanni & D’Alonzo, Daniele & Guaragna, Annalisa & Scapagnini, Giovanni & Zarrelli, Armando. (2016). Sideritis raeseri.