You may not have heard of Greek mountain tea (Sideritis scardica), but if you’ve ever needed to stay focused while under stress, it may be a perfect fit. Like green tea (Camellia sinensis), Greek mountain tea can help you stay mentally and physically alert and active, but without the caffeine of green tea that could ultimately add to stress or anxiety.
As a warming and energizing drink, Greek mountain tea has been a favorite with anyone who spends long hours doing challenging tasks. The beverage is even commonly known as “shepherd’s tea” due to its association with the trade. And that makes a lot of sense, considering that tending to a flock outdoors in all kinds of weather is tough work. It requires you to be alert and physically able to respond quickly interspersed with long periods of inactivity.
Not surprisingly, this longstanding traditional use of Greek mountain tea attracted the attention of researchers who wanted to see what kind of results participants would experience in placebo-controlled clinical trials for cognitive health when compared to another popular botanical for the same purpose, Ginkgo biloba.
This study tested two dosages of a Greek mountain tea supplement (475 mg and 950 mg) against an active control of ginkgo (240 mg) for comparison’s sake, and a placebo.
After this month-long, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel groups trial, there were some pretty significant findings. First, individuals taking Greek mountain tea, at both dosage levels scored much higher in tests of accuracy, processing visual info at a rapid pace, and under pressure.
Secondly, those in the higher dosage group felt less anxiety, which, as anyone who has had difficulty with final exams or presentations at work knows firsthand, can really interfere with focus and concentration.
Third, those in the Greek mountain tea group also showed improved oxygenated red blood cells in the prefrontal cortex a part of the brain involved in impulse control, learning and plasticity, and working memory. Overall, these results seem to indicate that this herb helps the brain operate at better speed and efficiency.
It should be noted, too, that while ginkgo also showed some positive effects on accuracy under pressure, the results weren’t as strong as they were for Greek mountain tea, nor did ginkgo help participants feel the state of calm alertness that characterized those in the Greek mountain tea group. While enjoying Greek mountain tea as a beverage is a healthy addition to a daily diet, for consistent results, finding Greek mountain tea in a supplemental form is best.
Wightman EL, Jackson PA, Khan J, et al. The Acute and Chronic Cognitive and Cerebral Blood Flow Effects of a Sideritis scardica (Greek Mountain Tea) Extract: A Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Parallel Groups Study in Healthy Humans. Nutrients. 2018 Jul 24;10(8):955.
Background: The presence of polyphenols such as hydroxy-cinnamic acids and flavonoids in Sideritis scardica (Greek mountain tea) are likely responsible for the cognitive and mood effects of its consumption and this could be underpinned by the ability of such polyphenols to prevent monoamine neurotransmitter reuptake and to increase cerebral blood flow (CBF).
Objective: The current study extends the small amount of Sideritis scardica literature in humans by assessing both cognitive and mood outcomes in a sample of older adults, as well as blood pressure (BP) and CBF, in a subsample, utilizing near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).
Design: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel groups trial randomized N = 155, 50⁻70-year-old male and female participants who were assessed for the cognitive (N = 140), mood (N = 142), BP (N = 133) and CBF (N = 57) effects of two doses of Greek mountain tea (475 and 950 mg) as well as an active control of 240 mg Ginkgo biloba, and a placebo control, following acute consumption (Day 1) and following a month-long consumption period (Day 28).
Results: Relative to the placebo control, 950 mg Greek mountain tea evinced significantly fewer false alarms on the Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVIP) task on Day 28 and significantly reduced state anxiety following 28 days consumption (relative also to the active, Ginkgo control). This higher dose of Greek mountain tea also attenuated a reduction in accuracy on the picture recognition task, on Day 1 and Day 28, relative to Ginkgo and both doses of Greek mountain tea trended towards significantly faster speed of attention on both days, relative to Ginkgo. Both doses of Greek mountain tea, relative to placebo, increased oxygenated haemoglobin (HbO) and oxygen saturation (Ox%) in the prefrontal cortex during completion of cognitively demanding tasks on Day 1. The higher dose also evinced greater levels of total (THb) and deoxygenated (Hb) haemoglobin on Day 1 but no additional effects were seen on CBF on Day 28 following either dose of Greek mountain tea. Ginkgo biloba led to lower levels of Ox% and higher levels of Hb on Day 1 and lower levels of both HbO and THb on Day 28.
Conclusions: The significantly improved cognitive performance following Greek mountain tea on Day 1 could be due to significant modulation of the CBF response. However, these improvements on Day 28 are more likely to be due to the reductions in state anxiety and, taken together, suggests that the former mechanism is more likely to facilitate acute cognitive effects and the latter more likely to underpin more prolonged cognitive improvements.
Here is the link to the complete article: The Acute and Chronic Cognitive and Cerebral Blood Flow Effects of a Sideritis scardica (Greek Mountain Tea) Extract: A Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Parallel Groups Study in Healthy Humans