Malotira – Cretan mountain tea
One of the most outstanding herbs at the island of Crete is Cretan mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca), well known to Cretan people as malotira. Malotira is popular on the island and its name derives from the Italian: male means ailment/illness, while tirare means to pull, to draw out. Hence, malotira means draw out the illness.
Moreover, since Cretan shepherds used malotira to make brewed tea while tending their flocks high, on the top of the hills, it is also known as ‘Shepherd’s Tea’ (common English name).
Sideritis – Mountain tea
There are several Sideritis species with different names, one for each region where they come from. The name Sideritis (ironwort) derives from the Greek word for iron, ‘σίδηρος’ (SEE-thee-ros) literally translated as ‘he who is or has the iron’, because Sideritis was considered a great remedy against wounds of war from iron weapons in ancient times. Dioscorides advises the herbal infusion of ‘mountain tea’ to soldiers as a rejuvenating, regenerating aid to help them heal quicker and fuller (González-Burgos et al., 2011).
Medicine and Sideritis
Nowadays, according to the assessment report of European Medicine Agency on Sideritis species, it is acceptable that Sideritis species have been traditionally used (and still are) for the treatment of inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders, and cough associated cold. While it is also mentioned that pharmacological properties of the plants found in relevant scientific literature like the anti-inflammatory, gastro protective, spasmolytic effects and anti-microbial activities could support these indications.
Local’s deep faith in the therapeutic uses of the malotira have now been confirmed and brought to light by today’s scientific community, while the more you discover about this unique herb the more you appreciate it. Let’s have a look at some interesting points referring to the plant itself and its unique properties:
- Malotira is an endemic * plant of Crete and grows at an altitude over 900m, so for finding natural populations you must be found on the highest mountain peaks, mainly in the western part of the island.
- In recent years it is cultivated in different areas of the island, with the famous plateau of Omalos being one of the most important. Malotira’s cultivation can be rainfed, while the years that during winter the cultivation is covered by snow the production is increased compared to the years with milder winter.
- Bees really love malotira. Till a few years ago, the famous “malotira honey” was a special kind of honey, however, due to the dramatic reduction of the plant populations that fed the bees with their flowers, it has now been disappeared.
- Their biological activities are mainly due to the presence of flavonoids, phenyl-ethanoate glycosides and terpenes. 34 substances with various, mainly antimicrobial and medicinal properties have been isolated in the essential oil of malotira.
- In recent research, German scientists have detected in three different Greek mountain tea types (one of which is Malotira) properties able to enhance memory and possibly cure dementia. Research is still on primary level, however, the interest that the international scientific community is showing on the properties of this Cretan herb is indicative of its medicinal significance.
* species (animal or plant) found only in a specific geographical location and nowhere else in the world.
And one tip! When you have to decide something, try to drink a cup of Cretan mountain tea. Of course, we know the reasons. But more important is to enjoy the Cretan mountain tea and take personal and professional decisions.
The journey into the world of herbs is going on….