Greek mountain tea is a herbal tea that claims a plethora of health benefits, from boosting the immune system to fighting off chronic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and more. And unlike many other teas that have similar claims made about them, the benefits of this tea, which also goes by the name “Sideritis” and “Ironwort”, are actually backed by studies on animals and humans.
Greek Mountain Tea Health Benefits
Before we get to the potential health benefits of sideritis tea, it’s important to look at the reasons it is (or is claimed to be) so healthy. Many of the claims (except for some of the most intriguing ones) are anecdotal after all, but there are others based on the composition of the tea as it contains things we know to be very healthy.
It has a very high concentration of phytonutrients in the form of flavonoids and polyphenols. These are plant-based super compounds that can be found everywhere from dark chocolate to black tea. They are the compounds behind many health claims in many superfoods and the thing that makes sideritis tea so special is the fact that it contains them in significant doses. One study compared sideritis tea to camellia sinensis (black and green tea) and concluded that it was as potent of an antioxidant, rejecting the notion that green tea is the king of the antioxidants.
These compounds can help you make you healthier all round, boosting your immune system, improving your gastrointestinal health and helping you to prevent diseases like cancer. That’s not to say that it will cure it or that daily consumption will stop you from getting it, but we know that plant-based foods help to reduce the chances of many forms of cancer developing and these phytonutrients are the main reason behind that.
More Benefits of Ironwort Tea
As far as actual studies go, there is a wealth of information out there and you will see this cited elsewhere. There are studies linking sideritis tea to improved gastrointestinal health, heart health, reduced blood pressure, cognitive function (more on that below) and more. Here is a selection of some of the more noteworthy Greek mountain tea health benefits:
- Anti-Inflammatory: One study looked at the anti-inflammatory properties of sideritis tea, essentially confirming what Greeks have known for hundreds of years by concluding that Greek mountain tea was very effective at reducing gastrointestinal inflammation, even comparable to an anti-inflammatory drug.
- Cancer-Prevention: Another study performed in Turkey concluded that it was an incredibly potent antioxidant possessed of properties that could protect the drinker against cancer and other chronic diseases.
- Reduce Blood Pressure: Another found it to have positive effects on arterial blood pressure, working to decrease the heart’s work load and potentially helping to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest and other heart diseases as a result.
- Bacteria Killer: In laboratory studies sideritis has also proved to be very effective against common and deadly strains of bacteria and fungus, such as E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Candida. The implication is that consuming regular amounts of this tea could help the body to fight bacterial infections and also act in preventative manner, although more research needs to be conducted before the benefits can be truly understood and exploited.
These are all promising and well worth a read, but most of them were conducted on animals. This is true for many herbs, extracts and medicines as some animals (mainly mice and rats) have a similar DNA structure to humans and it’s easier to run invasive tests on them. If we take this information and add it to the things we already know about sideritis tea—such as the high antioxidant content and the many health benefits of the compounds it contains—as well as the knowledge that Greeks tend to live longer than the rest of us then it could be that Greek mountain tea really is a miraculous herb that we should all be drinking more of.
What is Sideritis Scardica?
There seem to be as many searches for “sideritis scardica” as there are for “Greek mountain tea”. To understand why this is unusual, it would be akin to “cocoa butter” generating more interest and more searches than “chocolate”. Sideritis scardica is simply a species of sideritis. It’s not really the tastiest one, at least not in our opinion, and it’s not the most abundant as far as we can tell.
So why is sideritis scardica getting all the press? Well, it all comes down to a couple of studies. The main study looked at the potential benefits of sideritis for cognitive repair and specifically Alzheimer’s disease. It was a game-changing study because it found that mice given extracts of sideritis scardica experienced a notable improvement in cognition.
It basically undid some of the harm done to the mind by the aging process, suggesting that it could have similar effects in humans and could be used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
As soon as the results of this study were announced, others followed and many of them used sideritis scardica as well. The truth is, the beneficial compounds in this variety can also be found in other varieties, but because the general public wants to replicate those results exactly, they focus on the exact tea used int he study and that’s why there has been such an influx of activity surrounding sideritis scardica.
How to Brew Greek Mountain Tea
You can boil the tea or you can steep it. Steeping is certainly a lot easier and if you have an infuser then you have all you need to do it. We like to boil up a batch in a teapot that contains enough for three cups, add a generous tablespoon of honey in a little boiling water to make sure it is thoroughly mixed, and then steep the tea in more water.
For a teapot that contains enough to fill three or four cups, we use roughly 4 to 6 sprigs, each containing two or three buds and measuring just a few inches in length. We find that the line between “Nice” and “Bitter” is quite considerable. In fact, the lack of tannins means it’s very difficult to make this drink bitter. The only real concern is that you add too little, but if you’re using a teapot and find the infusion too weak, you can simply add another sprig and wait for another couple minutes.
You will find your own preferred strength in time. The same goes for the variety you choose and the way you sweeten it. We prefer a strong, dark honey, both for taste and health benefits, but it can be sweetened with sugar too. It really is much better with honey, but it will do in a push.
Sideritis Scardica vs Other Types?
So which variety should you buy? Well, it all depends on which one you like the most. There are a lot of exciting studies surrounding all varieties of this tea and any way you can consume then on a daily basis is likely going to make a massive difference to your health. If you get a few of them and try them all you may find that you prefer the taste of sideritis syriaca, but that you still find room for the occasional cup of scardica, therefore getting the best of both worlds.
Scardica can be more expensive because the rules governing its production are a little stricter. For it to be genuine scardica it needs to be grown at elevation of between 900 and 1200 meters, which is a good few hundred meters more than other varieties. This, along with the increased demand, means it is often more expensive.
Whatever you decide to drink, make sure you’re getting a high quality sideritis from a company that knows what they are doing. It should be freshly dried, and ideally it should also be organic, or at the very least have a traceable history from the farm to the bag.
We would also advise caution when buying from Turkey and other countries near Greece as there have been issues with illegally harvested tea from government land. The stuff that is sold by major suppliers in Greece, as well as the stuff that makes it into the hands of big suppliers in Germany, tends to be a little more reliable.