The Unique Foods of Greece and Their Healthy Benefits – Malotira, Cretan mountain tea (Sideritis Syriaca)
Since ancient times, Greeks have known how precious Mother Nature’s gifts were. The Mediterranean climate along with the geological formations of the country created fertile ground where an abundance of wild herbs and plants could grow. Today, there are about 1800 endemic species that grow on Greek soil, with certified medicinal properties, this month we review Malotira, Cretan mountain tea!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates
ORIGIN AND TRAITS
Malotira is a herb known since the age of Dioskourides (1st century AD) that has always grown in the mountains of Western Crete – Lefka Ori and Psiloritis with altitudes of 900-2000m (2952- 6561 ft.). Cretans were quick to discover its medicinal properties and began using the plant to treat common colds as well as diseases of the stomach and respiratory tract. When Venetian conquerors were introduced to the medicinal herb, they named it Malotira after the Latin words male (illness) and tirare (drag, push away); the panacea that pushes away all illness.
Malotira is a popular aromatic herb. It is a perennial whose height ranges from 10 to 50 cm (3, 9 – 19, 6 inches). Its branches are thin, round and covered in fuzz and its leaves are 1-6 cm (0, 39 – 2, 4 inches) long, thick and succulent. The plant produces corymbs of yellowish flowers.
The herb blooms from late June till the end of July and it is collected from May to August, during its flowering. Malotira is an endemic plant of Crete; it does not grow anywhere else in the world.
BENEFITS AND HEALING PROPERTIES
Malotira contains flavonoids, triterpene acids, essential oil of diterpenes, carvacrol, curcumin and karyofyllini and is known for its medicinal properties against diseases of the circulatory system. It also helps treat respiratory problems, anxiety and common cold.
More precisely, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, diaphoretic and anti-irritant. It is also diuretic and detoxifying and it helps prevent diseases of the urinary tract. Recent studies have shown that it helps prevent osteoporosis. Moreover, it is known to be beneficial for the blood vessels of the heart and the proper function of the digestive system. The essential oil of Malotira even protects against skin diseases and sunburn.
For greatest benefit, it is suggested that Malotira be consumed on a regular basis.
The wide range of diseases that Malotira treats or protects against has made this Cretan herb not only an ideal beverage but also an essential ingredient in pharmaceutical products and dermocosmetics.
USE AND DOSAGE
As Malotira is a Cretan mountain tea, you can simply boil and drink it to reap its benefits. Add about two tablespoons of dried leaves into a teapot, fill with boiling water and let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Ideally, you can add a tablespoon of marjoram dried leaves.
If you add honey and a cinnamon stick you instantly have a remedy for sore throat!
There is no “recommended” dosage as it is an herb, and poses no side effects if you consume large quantities.
RESEARCH AND INTERNATIONAL INTEREST
In Greece, scientists from the Laboratory of Pharmacognosy and the Institute of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry have conducted research on the antioxidant activity of Sideritis Syriaca, the results of which are available on scientific sites, studied by institutions worldwide.
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.