Greece, relative to its size, has many different kinds of plants in its natural environment. Indeed, it is home to 50% of all native plants in Europe! For example, mountain tea in Greece (Sideritis spp.), has 19 different varieties that thrive in various parts of Greece.
Dioscorides, an ancient Greek author, mentions the mountain tea called Sideritis, as it was believed to be effective against the wounds caused by iron weapons during battles.
The varieties range from the famous “malotira”, the mountain tea found on the large rocks and high outcroppings of Crete (up to 2500 meters) to the Tea of Olympus, which is found in altitudes up to 2300 meters.
Their fluffy foliage usually protects them from the mighty sun and high temperatures in the rocky mountains of Greece; at the same time it makes them produce beneficial properties for humans. Species of the genus Sideritis were used in Ancient Greece due to their anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, and antimicrobial benefits, and modern research claims they have antioxidants equal to green tea. Additionally, because of its high iron content, it reportedly boosts the immune system and memory, and helps with certain cases of Alzheimer's. Its decoction is also used for the common cold – usually with Greek honey for extra relief! It helps with nasal congestion, respiratory problems, and coughs.
Ask for cultivated mountain tea because numerous species are threatened with extinction, so the collection of wild versions is prohibited by law.
In a glass of warm to hot water, sprinkle two to three sprigs of the Sideritis plant, a spoonful of honey and a slice of lemon to enjoy and...relax!
The above is not offered as medical advice – they are mere suggestions for improving your diet and your enjoyment. Before each herbal use, consult with a doctor, especially for those who are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
(Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist and an MSc in Botany PhD candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education & Science Communication)