Sideritis scardica is a low growing, perennial plant from family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Balkans where is used since ancient times as a panacea. Tea made from it's flowering tops is very popular in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey and Albania, where it grows in wild on a high altitudes in moutainious regions and in last century become a cultivated herb. Even though the knowledge about it's medicinal values is growing due to results of clinical and laboratory studies. This herb is popular only in Balkans and some Mediterranean areas, while still almost unknown in rest of Europe and other continents. In Bulgaria, although this plant is scheduled in the Red Book of Plants, this tea is very popular and praised for it's unique, subtle taste and health benefits, that brought it its name of Bulgarian Viagra. An interesting thing is that during Communist Party rule, in times when Bulgaria was part of Soviet bloc, knowledge about this herb was blocked to the public and only members of the Party could enjoy consumption of it. This tea was given to both russian and american astronauts before their space flights. There are several species of Sideritis that have both appearance and medicinal values similar to Sideritis scardica, like Sideritis raeseri, Sideritis euboea, Sideritis montana and Sideritis syriaca, it all grows in Mediterranean region and have tendencies to hybridise.
Name Sideritis comes from greek word ''sideros'' which means iron and is said to be given this name becouse of use in healing wounds made by iron weapons. Scardica derived from scardus - latin for Sharr moutains, where it was found by german botanic August Grisenbach. It have many common names in english. Ironwort is common name for whole Sideritis genus. Moutain Tea or Greek Moutain Tea (Greece was first exporters of this herb) as well as Shepperd's Tea may refer to herb of different species of Sideritis. Mursalski Tea (Мурсалски чай), Pirin Tea (Пирински чай) and Olympus Tea refer to Sideritis scardica only and indicate region of origin. The first one is gathered in Rhodopi region and second in Pirin Moutains, both are in Bulgaria while third one comes form Mount Olympus in Greece.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
In its natural form it is growing in shape of small rosettes of leaves coming from it's roots, with only frowering stems (usually no more than ten) growing up, reaching no more than 60cm. This have place on rocky hillsides, moutains or outskirts of forests, where it is growing on even very poor or barely any soil at all. But in cultivation, on a very good (alkaline or neutral) soil one plant can spread up to two meters in diameter, producing over hundred of flowering stems at once. It is propagated by seeds and made flowers in second year. Even though it is perennial it is known to be short lived plant. It likes full sun or light shade. Copeing well with extreme hot weather and temrorary droughts as well as severe winters (up to -25'C as long as coverd with snow), but can easily die if soil is to wet over longer period. Fully developed flowering stems can be gathered from june to august, but some early harvested plants can even produce rich second crop in september.
Although voltile oils of Sideritis scardica plants are giving it very plesant, refined, soft herbal fragrance the only perfume contained it that you can find on market is ''Sideritis''. It was launched in 2009 by Maria Candida Gentile and it is said to suit both women and men. This herbs valuable antioxidant, desinfecting and detoxifying properties are also underuse and it is hard to find any cosmetics lines like ''Korres'' or ''Ile de Jardin''. Those brands are offering different creams, body lotions and gels with Sideritis extract, that helps to keep skin healthy, young and beautifull.
Infusion or decoction from flowering stems of Sideritis scardica is regarded as a cure-all. This pleasantly tasted tea can be drink at any ocasion to cure or to prevent illnesses, as there is no reported contraindiction or side effect of it's consumption. It's ant-inflammatory, anti-microbial and soothing propertis make it helpful with colds, flu, angine also bronhit, asthma and lung emphysema. It is recomended an hour before meal for digestive tract ailments, It strenghten liver and kidneys and is regarded helpfull with urinary tract infections as well as prostatis and reumatism. Clinical studies proved it to be effective in prevention of osteoporosis. It is also said to strenghten eyes, memory and soothing nervous system. This herb is lowering blood pressure, which helps to prevent heart attack and its antioxidant and detoxifiyng properties are helpfull with preventing and fighting cancer. General health benefits of this plant make it valuable remedy for allergies and general weekness, and those strenghtening powers builded it's reputation as Bulgarian Viagra. It's slighty wooly, crushed leaves are excellent antseptic cover for wounds and bruises. It contains flavonoids, diterpenoids, steroids, iridoids, coumarins, lignans and essential oils.
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