On our recent trip to Crete, we were introduced to traditional Mountain Tea, and suddenly began to see it and hear about it everywhere we went. Many Cretans were eager to share with us the powerful healing properties of this tea, and to suggest that we should drink it every day. It is especially recommended for use if someone has a stomachache or feels a cold coming on. It is said to be a cure-all.
Crete has been historically known to have the highest rates of longevity and lowest rates of virtually all diseases. We asked several people over the age of 50 what they believed was the cause of this, and one of the most common answers was: the wild herbs that grow here, especially the Mountain Tea.
Mountain Tea is also called Shepherd’s Tea. This is because shepherds would use the plant for making tea while tending their flock in the mountains. Another name for Mountain Tea is Ironwort. This name comes from ancient Greek mythology, where stories of battle would include using this plant to cure wounds inflicted by weapons made of iron. The plant grows at high altitudes, with little water and little soil. It is comprised of long, slightly fuzzy stems, with multiple yellow flowers that are in full bloom in July in the Mediterranean, the time when this plant is wild harvested. Very little cultivation of this plant occurs because it grows so abundantly in the wild.
The tea is also commonly called MAAOTHPA by Greeks (pronounced Malotira). We saw bags of dried Mountain Tea for sale everywhere we went, often combined with dried wild marjoram, as the flavors blend together so well. We prepared this tea in the little kitchenette of the small apartment we were renting during our stay in Chania. Soon we were hooked! We love the aromatic, slightly floral, slightly earthy taste, and the golden color. It’s even more flavorful when you add the local honey.
To make the tea: boil a pot of water, add the dried stems (with leaves & flowers attached) to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain and drink.
Upon further research, we found that this plant does indeed possess a wide array of healing properties, the rumors are true!
Its medicinal actions are: anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant. It is used to prevent colds, flu, fevers, allergies and respiratory problems. It aids digestion by reducing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, and is commonly used to sooth stomachaches. It lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. It also helps to reduce anxiety.
What’s not to love about Mountain Tea? The only downside is that it does not grow in North America. If you’re not able to make a trip to Crete to stock up on Mountain Tea, we recommend checking out a Greek market in your area. But if there aren’t any nearby, you can always buy it online. Here is a link to one supplier.