Drinking Greek Mountain Tea Might be a Good Way to Maintain or Improve Your Brain Function

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.

Wightman EL, 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). pii: E955. doi: 10.3390/nu10080955.