Malotira (cretan mountain tea)
For the Greeks, it was the "tea of the Titans", the rulers of the world before the Olympian gods and lived on Mount Otris, where mountain tea is native.
There are more than 150 species in the Siderite family, with the small yellow flowers, all sharing the name of mountain tea. In the Greek mountains, about 17 species are native and the most famous of are “Agioritiko” or “Vlachiko” (Sideritis athoa), Olympus tea (Sideritis scardica), Taygetos tea (Sideritis clandestina), Euboea tea (Sideritis Euboea), and the Cretan Malotira Sideritis syriaca).
The species is endemic to the mountains of Crete and the name “syriaca” (instead of cretica) is probably due to a mistake by the botanist who classified it.
The scientific name of sideritis comes from the Greek word “sidero”, meaning iron and may be due to the high iron content of iron in the plant. There is also the version of tradition that wanted it to heal wounds caused by the iron weapons of antiquity.
Its Cretan name “malotira” is probably due to the Venetian’s periode and derives from the Italian words "male" and "tirare" because it was considered a panacea for colds and respiratory ailments. In Crete, of course, haired, hairy is called “malotos”, so the name also fits on its fluffy leaves.
In Greece, mountain tea has been known since antiquity and is mentioned by Theophrastus (372-287 BC) and Dioscurides (10th century AD).
In addition to an excellent decoction in aroma and taste, it is used proactively or for the treatment of diseases. In its essential oil, 34 substances with antimicrobial but mainly medicinal properties have been isolated. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, persimmon, perspirant, tonic, anti-irritant, anti-anemic, heating, diuretic and detoxifying.
It is a relief in colds and respiratory diseases. Adding cinnamon and honey to the decoction (and a bit of raki for the more adventurous) gives an excellent cough and antiseptic softener for the throat.
Mountain tea in Greece is widely used for its beneficial effects on colds and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, and for the treatment of indigestion and gastrointestinal disorders
It is considered anticonvulsant, analgesic and healing. These traditional uses are scientifically confirmed.
Ongoing laboratory studies determine its constituents and their effect on the human body. The most prominent of these are flavonoids, diterpens, phenylpropanes, iridos and monoterpens.
Contemporary research by a research team from the University of Patras and Ioannina in the genus Sideritis clandestina, confirm the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial but also analgesic and anxiolytic activity of these substances, without any noticeable side effects.
Experiments performed on mice showed that the antioxidant defense of brain areas was enhanced in what they consumed for 6 weeks of mountain tea decoction.
There are also indications that it is beneficial for the circulatory and blood vessels.
The essential oil of the mountain tea and especially the salmon is particularly active antimicrobial. A study by the University of Athens has shown that the extract of Sideritis clandestina and Sideritis euboea can help prevent osteoporosis by enhancing bone mechanical strength and protecting from bone density reduction.
It is especially refreshing when consumed cold.