If you’re Greek, you’ve probably already tried Greek mountain tea. You probably even know the best tips and tricks to flavor it to your liking, like adding honey or lemon.
But, what about the little-known fun facts that no one in your family told you about it? Read on for five things you didn’t know about this ancient tea.
1. Greek shepherds drank it as a tonic while tending to their sheep
Shepherding is hard work that requires persistence, grit and stamina. Although Greek mountain tea is caffeine-free, its health benefits and refreshing nature helped shepherds stay energized to perform their work.
Also known as “Shepherd’s Tea,” Greek shepherds have been steeping and drinking mountain tea for centuries. This well-kept secret may help us get through our long days, too.
2. It only grows in high elevations above 3,200 feet
Imagine a sunny and dry climate with tall, rocky cliffs. The sideritis plant, which is part of the mint family, grows in regions like northern Greece with such a climate. Its unique phytonutrient content protects it from strong ultraviolet rays at high elevations.
Given the rocky, high-altitude terrain, the plant is harvested in small batches, mostly by small farms even to this day. Unlike many plants that can easily be grown in any garden, the sideritis plant requires these specific conditions for growth.
3. Greek mountain tea is rich in antioxidants, similarly to green tea
Green tea gets all the credit for its antioxidant effects. Although lower in antioxidant content than green tea, Greek mountain tea may have just as potent of an effect when it comes to reducing oxidative stress.  Antioxidants are helpful for your health since they can combat and prevent chronic diseases that result from years of oxidative damage.
Remember that not all mountain teas are the same. The ones that grow in Greece are particularly high in antioxidants and phytonutrients given the unique climate.
4. Hippocrates recommended it for its immunity benefits
In ancient Greece, father of modern medicine Hippocrates drank and recommended Greek mountain tea to others for its health benefits. Studies now show that this tea can help reduce oxidative stress, combat chronic disease, fight off illnesses, relieve mild pain, and potentially prevent or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more about Greek mountain tea’s unique health benefits in this post, where we cover specific studies and benefits related to immune health.
5. Some Greeks believed it could heal wounds from iron
The sideritis plant means “made of iron”. There are several potential origins for the ironwort tea’s name, including its high iron content or due to it being shaped like an iron spear.
A favorite Greek belief is that the plant could heal wounds, cuts, and stabs from iron weapons. Picture a brave Greek warrior coming home valiantly from battle and being treated with this plant and drinking its tea.
The bottom line
Greek mountain tea is a tasty and healthy tea with a rich history. From ancient physicians to everyday shepherds, it’s been hailed as a natural energy tonic for Greeks all around the world. Since it’s caffeine-free, it’s so easy to incorporate into your daytime or nighttime routine for a health boost.
- Danesi F, Saha S, Kroon PA, Glibetić M, Konić-Ristić A, D’Antuono LF, Bordoni A. Bioactive-rich Sideritis scardica tea (mountain tea) is as potent as Camellia sinensis tea at inducing cellular antioxidant defences and preventing oxidative stress. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Nov;93(14):3558-64. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6214. Epub 2013 Jun 7.
About the author
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian based in Indianapolis. She obtained her bachelor of science in nutritional science at Cornell University and her MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She is the founder and CEO of a nutrition communications firm called Pink Pamplemousse LLC, where she creates engaging nutrition and wellness content for clients. She has also coached clients on various health conditions including heart disease, obesity, digestive issues and diabetes over the last seven years. Visit Chrissy’s website.
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