|by Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas
||13 Sep 2012
ALL SOCIETIES have relied on natural substances to cure ailments, but Greek herbal medicine notably dates back to antiquity, with Hippocrates declaring: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Take Greek mountain tea: years ago, when my parents purchased a handpicked batch to take back with them to Canada, the weather-beaten street vendor endearingly told them that the tea cured… everything.
Perhaps he wasn’t far off the mark.
According to the recently aired Deutsche Welle television segment entitled “New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease”, German researcher Jens Pahnke and his team have experimented with several medicinal plants traditionally associated with age-related disorders. So far, the most effective one for preventing or reversing dementia has been Greek mountain tea (alternatively called ironwort or sideritis).
Drink your tea
After 50 days of tea therapy, Pahnke found that the protein deposits and damaged nerve cells once dotting the brain tissue of mice with Alzheimer’s disease had nearly vanished.
The accompanying practice sessions were also remarkable to watch: the mice were placed in a basin of water to see if they could recall the location of a platform hidden underwater on which they could rest. Needless to say, the tea takers struck out for the platform, whilst the others splashed around pointlessly.
Pahnke says that Greek mountain tea provides a mental boost; experiments on humans will be conducted next year. If successful, the tea’s international market value should rise. My husband’s family, who originate from a mountain village, annually gather the tea stalks. Unfortunately, they inform me the tea grows in the wild and would prove difficult to cultivate commercially.
Briton Jean Bailey-Moutzouki has lived in Greece for more than two decades, and only turns to mountain tea when she runs out of camomile. “It’s too bulky,” Bailey-Moutzouki says, “and doesn’t have the sweet smell of the camomile flower.”
Apply a compress
She’s converted to using natural remedies, utilising her favourite camomile, for example, as tea with honey to cure winter colds, as a tepid wash for sties and as compresses for stomach aches. Amongst other things, she’s also heard of louisa, or lemon verbena, for digestion and oregano for coughs.
Samantha Stokes already used herbal remedies back in the UK, but after her move to Greece in 2002, she learned about applying cucumber or yogurt to sunburn, chewing mastic for an upset tummy, teeth whitening and oral hygiene, and drinking tea with spathohorto, or St John’s wort, for kidney stones.
Fennel tea, Stokes says, is phenomenal for an upset stomach – she’s even convinced her husband, an urologist surgeon, to drink it.
Alas, all three of us women admit that Greek mountain tea is not one of our favourites. But… those wee paddling rodents may soon change our minds.
Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas is an Athens-based, Canadian Greek (by marriage) writer, and a transnational of some 30-odd years. She blogs at kathrynlukeycoutsocostas.wordpress.com