In the last 15 to 20 years, there is a tendency to use more and more natural products, especially in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food. Many drugs and food supplements are composed in their large part of herbs and plants. While studying the chemical composition of each herb and plant out there to better equip us with knowledge of its properties, there is also an effort to discover new plants that have natural antioxidant properties, and can be used as components in pharmaceuticals.

Fortunately, popular medicine since the ancient times is now being used as a reference in understanding them and assisting modern research.

One of the plants that is of particular importance is Mountain Tea or Sideritis, a herb that is used widely as an aromatic and warming beverage, especially during the winter due to its inflammatory properties.

The Sideritis species has more than 140 varieties which are native to the North Hemisphere, especially to the Mediterranean basin such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Canary Islands, France, as well as in Switzerland.

Its name, which in Greek means “Iron” is probably derived from its ability to heal wounds caused by iron swords (no, they don’t use iron swords any more). According to another source, it is called like this because it contains a lot of iron (which is good overall).

In Greece, the plant is widely grown from Macedonia to Crete, and grows in altitude of 1000 meters above sea level. These plants are typically found in very poor soil composites, typical of the Ionian islands, Crete and in the Peloponese. It can stand very low temperatures and doesn’t require almost any care. In fact, growers have found that they have to mimic its habits in order to get the most out of it – that is, grow it in rocky or abandoned fields!

Mountain tea is being harvested during July, while it is flowery – then the plant is dried, and is ready for consumption.

As mentioned on our previous post here, herbs are Nature’s pharmacy; in a series of tests performed on Mountain Tea, scientists have found that it has multiple healing properties. Several varieties present more or less the same properties, such as antiinflammatory properties, especially when it comes with healing gastric ulcer.

Apart of this, scientists found that mountain tea can have antimicrobial properties, and in 1986 they found out that it can help with eye cataract (Tomas – Barberan, 1986).

A study from Magdeburg University in Germany has recently shown that mountain tea can help Alzheimer – Professor Jens Pahnke along with 20 team members analyzed more than 150 tea varieties and herbs from China, Thailand, Indonesia and more with no effect in the treatment. “From researching on the internet, we found that there is a Greek herb that has strong antiinflammatory properties,s so we decided to order it and test it” said the professor. ” When we tried it in mice for 25 days in a row, we have been amazed by the results! Mice showed considerable improvement, eliminating the brain damage by 80%!. The next best result was the Thiethylperazin, which eliminated the problem by only 70%” says the professor.

“By drinking mountain tea for 6 months, patients with Alzheimer disease reduced the disease to the level it was nine months ago and then it stabilised.”

The German doctor is looking to produce a pill based on mountain tea extract to help its patients…

In Greece, mountain tea is used in popular medicine against common cold, by boiling it with water, adding a cinnamon stick and then adding honey (although, when adding cinnamon it becomes sweet) and a splash of fresh lemon to boost its inflammatory properties.

In Spain, and especially in Valencia and Catalonia, it is used as a popular medicine to treat serious animal wounds.

Because this tea does not affect the nervous system, like Ceylon (black tea) it has the advantage of drinking it before sleep can help you have a great relaxation.

So, next time you go to bed, or have a common cold, have yourself a nice aromatic, relaxing mountain tea – you will thank us for it!

Image via Flickr Courtesy of Anoukk papadoo

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