Sideritis, also known as ironwort,[1] mountain tea, and shepherd's tea, is a genus of flowering plants known for their use as herbal medicine, commonly as an herbal tea. They are abundant in Mediterranean regions, the Balkans, the Iberian Peninsula and Macaronesia, but can also be found in Central Europe and temperate Asia.[2][3][4][5]

Sideritis syriaca (ironwort)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Subfamily: Lamioideae
Genus: Sideritis

See text

History and etymology

In Greek, "sideritis" (Gr: σιδηρίτις) can be literally translated as "he who is made of iron".[6] The plant was known to ancient Greeks, specifically Pedanius Dioscorides and Theophrastus.[7] Although Dioscorides describes three species, only one (probably S. scordioides) is thought to belong to Sideritis. In ancient times "sideritis" was a generic reference for plants capable of healing wounds caused by iron weapons during battles. However, others hold that the name stems from the shape of the sepal, which resembles the tip of a spear.[3]


Sideritis scardica

In 2002, molecular phylogenetic research found Sideritis and five other genera to be embedded in Stachys.[8] Further studies will be needed before Stachys, Sideritis, and their closest relatives can be revised.

Some schemes recognize and categorize up to 319 distinct species, subspecies, ecotypes, forms or cultivars, including:[9][3]

  • Sideritis barbellata Mend.-Heu. - endemic to the Canary Island of La Palma.
  • Sideritis candicans Aiton - endemic to Madeira, Bugio Island and Porto Santo Island.
  • Sideritis cypria Post - endemic to Cyprus
  • Sideritis euboea Heldr - found in the island of Euboea
  • Sideritis hyssopifolia L. - mountains of the Iberian Peninsula
  • Sideritis lanata L.
  • Sideritis leucantha Cav.
  • Sideritis macrostachyos Poir.
  • Sideritis montana L.
  • Sideritis purpurea Talb. - found in western Greece, the Ionian Islands and Crete
  • Sideritis raiseri Boiss & Heldr - found in Mount Tomori, Albania
  • Sideritis remota Urv.
  • Sideritis romana L.
  • Sideritis scardica Gris. - native to the Sharr Mountains extending from Kosovo and North Macedonia to Albania. Also grows in Bulgaria.
  • Sideritis syriaca L., S. cretica Boiss, S. boissieri Magn. - found in Syria, Turkey and Crete and collectively known as Malotira (Μαλοτήρα)
  • Sideritis theezans Boiss & Heldr - found in the Peloponnese

Botanists have encountered difficulties in naming and classifying the varieties of Sideritis due to their subtle differences. One particularly confusing case is that of S. angustifolia Lagasca and S. tragoriganum Lagasca.[10]


The genus is composed of short (8–50 cm), xerophytic subshrubs or herbs, annual or perennial, that grow at high altitudes (usually over 1000 m) with little or no soil, often on the surface of rocks.[2][5][11][12]

It is pubescent, either villous or coated by a fine, woolly layer of microscopic intertwined hairs.

Sideritis inflorescence is verticillaster.[2][3]


Ironwort herbal tea.

In Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, and Turkey, Sideritis scardica, Sideritis clandestina, Sideritis syriaca, Sideritis perfoliata and various other species from the section Empedoclia are used as herbs either for the preparation of herbal teas, or for their aromatic properties in local cuisines. The herbal tea is commonly prepared by decoction, by boiling the stems, leaves and flowers in a pot of water, then often serving with honey and lemon.

Some plants in the genus have a history of use in traditional herbal medicine.[13] Research into the potential effects has taken place in universities in the Netherlands and in the southern Balkans where the plant is indigenous.[14]

Chemical constituents include diterpenoids and flavonoids.[15]


Sideritis raeseri is the most commonly cultivated Sideritis in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and North Macedonia, where advanced hybrids also exist.[5] Planting is recommended during two periods (October–November or February–March in the Northern hemisphere) and gathering in July, when in full bloom. The plant is typically dried before usage.[16]


  1. USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Sideritis". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  2. "Sideritis (Genus)". 2013-10-04. Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  3. "Τσάϊτουβουνού: ανασκόπησητηςδιεθνούςβιβλιογραφίαςτουγένουςSideritis" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  4. Barber, Janet C. (2000). "Evolution of Endemic Sideritis (Lamiaceae) in Macaronesia: Insights from a Chloroplast DNA Restriction Site Analysis". Systematic Botany. 25 (4): 633–647. doi:10.2307/2666725. JSTOR 2666725. S2CID 86223380.
  5. "Greek Mountain Tea - Tsai tou Vounou - Shepherd's Tea". 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  6. Itsiopoulos, Dr Catherine (2015-07-16). The Mediterranean Diet. Macmillan Publishers Aus. ISBN 978-1-74353-944-6.
  7. "οικολογια ασπροποταμος". Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  8. Lindqvist, C.; Albert, V. A. (2002). "Origin of the Hawaiian endemic mints within North American Stachys (Lamiaceae)". American Journal of Botany. 89 (10): 1709–24. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.10.1709. PMID 21665597.
  9. such as Wikispecies, ITIS and ZipcodeZoo Archived 2013-11-02 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Figuerola, R.; Stübing, G.; Peris, J. B. (1991). "Nomenclature and Typification of Sideritis angustifolia and S. tragoriganum (Lamiaceae, Spain)". Taxon. 40 (1): 123–9. doi:10.2307/1222936. JSTOR 1222936.
  11. "τσάι του βουνου γενικές πληροφορίες". Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  12. Stephen Mifsud (2002-08-23). "Wild Plants of Malta & Gozo - Plant: Sideritis romana (Common Siderits)". Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  13. Tadić, Vanja; Jeremic, Ivica; Dobric, Silva; Isakovic, Aleksandra; Markovic, Ivanka; Trajkovic, Vladimir; Bojovic, Dragica; Arsic, Ivana (2012). "Anti-inflammatory, Gastroprotective, and Cytotoxic Effects of Sideritis scardica Extracts". Planta Medica. 78 (5): 415–427. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1298172. PMID 22274814.
  14. González-Burgos, E.; Carretero, M.E.; Gómez-Serranillos, M.P. (2011). "Sideritis spp.: Uses, chemical composition and pharmacological activities—A review". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 135 (2): 209–25. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.014. PMID 21420484.
  15. Villar, A; Recio, MC; Ríos, JL; Zafra-Polo, MC (1986). "Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from Sideritis species". Die Pharmazie. 41 (4): 298–9. PMID 3523549.


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