Greek Mountain Tea: an Herbal Monograph
The Joy of the Mountain
Sideritis scardica is a flowering plant which thrives upon the high altitudes of Greece and some places in the Balkans. Its name comes from the Greek phrase, Tsai Tou Vou Nou, which translates to "tea of the mountain."
Greek Mountain Tea is a fragrant, sweet tea with great therapeutic value. Known as an herb historically used to treat wounds, today is a symbol of Greek heritage. From the mountains, to the shepherd, down to the folk.
Learn about Greek Mountain Tea's history, folklore and medicinal uses.
Mountain Tea Etymology and Lore
Greek Mountain tea is also known as Ironwort, Shepherd's Tea, Tea of the Titans, Tea of the Gods, and Tsai Tou Vou Nou. Sideritis comes from the Greek word Sideros, meaning iron or 'he who is of iron.' In Ancient Greece plants associated with sideritis/iron were usually in reference to plants that heal wounds caused by iron weapons in battle.
Its name Tea of the Titans and Tea of the Gods refers to sideritis' ability to thrive in very high altitudes, such as Mount Olympos, which is mythologically known as the home of the Gods.
The Titans were the creators of the Gods, known for their vast size, strength and power. Some legends say that sideritis was the their source of food. This renders Greek Mountain Tea an herb of nourishment and strength.
Mountains are symbols of grounding, resilience and stillness. A mountain also signifies journeys- that of the hiker, the pilgrim and the shepherd. It is ascension and descension- as above so below.
Just a whiff of sideritis can transport you to the Mediterranean mountains. It fills up and opens the heart while grounding the being. Greek Mountain Tea is protective and stabilising. When uncertainty, doubt, homesickness or anger kick in, Greek Mountain Tea offers solace and steadiness.
Mountain Tea Herbal Uses
Botanical name: Sideritis spp.
Energetics: slightly warming, slightly drying.
Taste: herbal, fragrant, slightly sweet.
Attributes: anti-inflammatory, digestive, anti-oxidant, vulnerary (González-Burgos et al., 2011), nervine, mildly sedating, antimicrobial, decongestant, tonic, immuno-modulatory, expectorant.
Body parts: the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the muscuskeletal system, the nervous system, and the digestive system.
- The first known record on the use of the Sideritis species is as told by Dioscorides in his "De Materia Medica." Sideritis is traditionally used for relief in the respiratory tract, common cold and gastrointestinal disorders (Aneva, Ina et al., 2019). Additionally, various species of Sideritis was known to relieve high blood pressure and exhibit anti-anemic properties (Pieroni et al., 2005), which might explain the reference to iron in its name 'ironwort.'
- The antimicrobial, expectorant and immune supporting properties of Mountain Tea make it useful for symptoms of cold and flu, asthma, bronchitis, allergies and respiratory congestion.
- An infusion of Mountain tea may relieve bloating, gas and inflammation in the digestive tract.
- The crushed leaves can be used as a poultice for wounds.
- Its nervine and mildly sedating properties relax nervous tension, anxiety and stress.
- Mountain tea has positive actions on cognitive function by improving memory, studies show that sideritis may offer relief for Alzheimer's and dementia (Hofrichter, Jacqueline et al., 2016).
About Taygetos Mountain
Our Greek Mountain tea is harvested from Taygetos Mountain in Sparta, Greece. Taygetos is one of oldest recorded mountains in Europe, with its mention even appearing in the odyssey. It was a fortress for the ancient Spartans, today standing firm as an emblem of might and courage.
Taygetos is known to home thousands of wild botanical species that thrive in the high altitudes of the mountain. At the very peak lies a church dedicated to Saint Elias. Every year on the Saint's day, pilgrims and trekkers make their way to the top of the mountain.
I've climbed this mountain twice as a child. I remember the rewarding feeling when we arrived at the peak (totally exhausted). The aches and fatigue quickly withered away as the cool breeze from the Kalamata sea swept over me. I went into the church, lit beeswax candles in prayer, then enjoyed a warm brew of tsai tou vou nou while the trekkers surround in celebration.
When driving from Athens airport to my village in Sparta every summer, we knew we were close to home when the silhouette of Taygetos shadowed in the distance. Every time we left, we'd say goodbye to the mountain, until next time.
You know what's amazing, though? tea is a teleporter.
Scent is a powerful tool for remembering. It has the ability to take you back to a moment in time, whether it was in grandmother's kitchen drinking a warm brew of tsai tou vou nou, or playing in the garden while jasmines kiss the air. We each have our own sacred memories, ones that feel like a distant dream, so far away, yet alive within a moment.
Greek Mountain Tea transports you to the mountains at sunrise, right before the heat of the Mediterranean strikes through, and chirping crickets pierce through the olive groves. Its energy on the body is nourishing and protective, soothing and comforting. Like the food that sustains the titans, the mountain that shields against invaders, the healer of wounds. Greek Mountain Tea offers grounding and centring for when we need it most.
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