A severe cold with swollen tonsils, cough, hoarseness, bronchitis – that sounds like a trip to the doctor and the pharmacy and a whole lot of medication. But that doesn’t have to be the case. As an alternative medicine, Greek mountain tea (botanically Sideritis scardica) helps with the ailments mentioned and even with Alzheimer’s, ADHD and depression.
“Mountain tea” is increasingly written on tea packages in health food stores, drugstores and pharmacies, but what sounds like a mixture of mountain herbs is actually a single plant genus, Sideritis, also called verbena. Although other Mediterranean regions also sell their mountain teas, in this country the tea on offer is usually Greek vervain. Greek verbena is not to be confused with the verbena known here (Verbena Officinalis) or with the French verbena (Lippia Citriodora, lemon verbena). The various Sideritis species are more closely related to sage (Salvia Officinalis).
Mountain tea was already known in ancient Greece, where it was the remedy of first choice for colds with coughs and other respiratory diseases. Nowadays, the tea is still used as an alternative medicine, but is not only drunk in case of illness, but is also used to relax after work. In the mountain regions, the tea is drunk daily, and some think that the old age of the mountain dwellers is due to the medicinal herb. – More and more city dwellers, and for some years now also those outside Greece who are interested in medicinal herbs, are discovering the beneficial effects of Hellenic vervain for illnesses of all kinds.
Harvesting and cultivation
The demand for Greek mountain tea is growing steadily, but Sideritis is still mostly picked and dried by farmers on the mountain – so a tea cannot be more organic. Some Sideritis species are also cultivated, but here too, care is taken to ensure that this is done in an organic manner. When shopping, however, one should not only pay attention to the regions from which the tea comes – which is reflected in the taste – but also whether the tea bears the organic seal.
The main ingredients of Greek verbena are essential oils, bitter and tannic substances and flavonides. The essential oils contained include, for example, monoterpenes, which form the basis for several naturopathic remedies for bronchitis. Monoterpenes have an expectorant effect and facilitate expectoration. Just like Salvia Officinalis, which is better known in our latitudes, Sideritis has anti-inflammatory properties and even antibacterial action, which is why verbena is not only used internally but also externally. As early as ancient Greece, a vervain plaster was placed on wounds sustained in battle to make the wound stick and keep inflammation at bay. The flavonides also strengthen the heart and circulation.
Medicinal herbs are also attracting more and more attention in research. Recently, a study showed that Sideritis species, like St. John’s wort, have a mood-lifting effect and ensure that the happiness messenger serotonin remains in the brain longer, which is why the herb can be said to have an anti-depressant effect. Sideritis also has an effect on ADHD, as dopamine, which is responsible for controlling attention, also stays in the blood longer due to the ingredients of verbena. For a similar reason, mountain tea is also effective against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is because dopamine also promotes the performance of long-term memory.
So no matter whether you have a cold coming on or a cough or bronchitis that needs something to loosen mucus and promote expectoration, whether you are restless, can’t sleep, suffer from dementia or simply want to enjoy a delicious tea that tastes of cinnamon, chamomile, liquorice, fennel or sage (depending on the type of sideritis), Greek mountain tea is always the right choice.