Let’s talk about tea and longevity. Not just any tea, but the wide array of herbal teas that Ikarians drink. “We drank herbal teas like sage and fliskouni (pennyroyal). Those were the ‘antibiotics’ of our time! Our mother would prepare sage tea, honey and a clove of garlic if we had a cold or the flu.” So says my friend, Yiorgos Stenos, an incredibly vibrant 83-year-old beekeeper on Ikaria.
Ikaria, like most of Greece, in fact, has an impressively rich and varied flora. Outside our door, within a few meters, depending on the season, we can collect several species wild oregano (used as a seasoning and also as an infusion for fighting tummy aches and indigestion), St. John’s Wort (used topically to heal cuts), wild mints such as pennyroyal, amazingly potent wild sage, chamomile (a calmative), rosemary, borage and more. All of these have their therapeutic place in the folk medicine traditions of the island. These were the “antibiotics,” as Yiorgos said, long before any pharmacies ever popped up here, and people had an inherent knowledge of what to drink in order to heal ailments from arthritis pains (savory) to the blues (thyme).
Most of these herbal infusions are diuretic, which helps keep blood pressure at healthy levels, and are chock full of antioxidants, too.
Learn more! Pre-order my new book, IKARIA: LESSONS ON FOOD, LIFE and LONGEVITY FROM THE GREEK ISLAND WHERE PEOPLE FORGET TO DIE (Rodale, October, 2014).