Herbal teas, like Greek Mountain Tea, have been used for millennia in herbal medicine to cure and even prevent illnesses. Ancient physicians prescribed herbal teas regularly to aid in digestion and help relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. Before the advent of cold medicines and antibiotics, herbal teas were often the only way to treat illnesses. Naturally caffeine-free, herbal teas offer health benefits as well when consumed in moderation. Those taking prescription medications should check with their physician since some herbal teas can affect the absorption of certain medications.
Greek Mountain Tea is an extremely popular beverage in Greece. The scientific name of the tea is Sideritis which translates from the Greek to he who is made of iron or he who has iron. In English, it is known as ironwort and shepherd’s tea. The flowering plant is common in the mountains of Greece and the herbal tea made from the plant has been known since ancient times as a remedy for a variety of ailments, including the relief of upset stomachs, allergies, cold and flu symptoms, sinus congestion, pain, respiratory problems, and mild anxiety. The tea is also thought to strengthen the immune system. The health benefits are well-known and studies conducted in universities in Greece and other Balkan nations have documented the anti-oxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effects of Greek Mountain Tea.
Chamomile is another popular herbal tea with a calming, sleep-inducing effect. It is also known for treating colds, upset stomachs, and as an eye compress for conjunctivitis (pink eye). Those with allergies to ragweed should beware, since chamomile is in the same plant family it may cause symptoms. In Greece, it is also known as St. George’s flower because it blossoms around April 23rd, the feast day of the saint.
Fennel is another popular plant used extensively in cooking for its sweet licorice flavor and one of the oldest known herbs. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians among the many people of the Mediterranean region to use fennel in cooking and as an herbal remedy. The seeds are often used to make tea which helps relieve upset stomachs. In ancient times it was thought to relieve many gynecological problems. From easing childbirth to helping new mothers produce more milk, fennel was recommended by ancient physicians, including Hippocrates and Dioscurides, who also used fennel to combat nausea and vomiting. In Crete, popular folk remedies for eye problems use fennel. It is also popular in cooking several seafood, meat, and cheese dishes. Snails, cheese pies, vegetables, and sauces are often flavored with fennel.
To make Greek Mountain Tea, chamomile, or fennel, bring a kettle of water to a boil. Use the leaves and flowers of the plant, and place them in a tea pot, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs per cup and pour the boiling water over the herbs, as much as needed. Cover the tea pot and allow the herbal tea too steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer and serve hot with Greek honey, if preferred.
Another method for making herbal tea is to use the woody stems as well as the leaves and flowers. Place the stems in a pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of the leaves and flowers of the dried herbs for every one and a half cups of water. Allow to steep for 3 minutes. Strain and serve hot with honey if preferred.