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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lovely Linden


Linden growing in a medieval garden in Tarascon, France

I recently spent a month in France to meet my husband’s family. Like most herbalists on vacation I viewed this trip as a great opportunity to see lots of different plants! We traveled all over France, staying with different friends and family, and everyone very generously took us to medieval herb gardens and other botanical sanctuaries. 

One “herb” we didn’t have to go searching for was linden trees. These incredibly beautiful and aromatic trees are EVERYWHERE in France. They line the streets of Paris, drape across the boardwalks at lakes in the alps, and shade the castles in the south. 

Walking through the villages of France I quickly learned that you can often smell the sweet scent of linden before you find them with your eyes. More than once my nose caught the perfume of linden and we were off to find the culprit. 


Linden
Tilia cordata, Tilia americana, Tilia europaea and several other species 
Also commonly called basswood and lime tree
Plant family: Malvaceae/Tiliaceae
Plant energetics: Cooling, moistening
Parts used: Mainly flowers, buds and leaves, but bark and sap is also used for food and medicine
Plant properties: Hypotensive, relaxing nervine, relaxing diaphoretic, demulcent, astringent, anti-spasmodic, mild diuretic
Lime is one of the ingredients of my own special ‘tea of happiness’ that will bring you peaceful nights, joyful awakenings and happy days, if you will take it regularly. Maurice MessegueHealth Secrets of Plants and Herbs

The above quote comes to us from the infamous French herbalist, Maurice Messegue. The linden tree may be the most popular herb in France. Its lovely tasting flowers and leaves are frequently used for teas and many lotions also include this wonderful herb. 

Linden is one of those sterling examples of a plant that has it all. It is delicious, it is gentle enough for children and the elderly, yet it has also been employed for serious acute problems. 





As an herb for the heart...
These days I most often hear people speak of Linden as a remedy for the heart, especially for hypertension. One way to understand how this works is by thinking of it as a relaxing nervine. Linden relaxes tense musculature, bringing relief and calmness. We know how it feels to walk around with our shoulders tense to our ears, jumpy and on edge. That alone can raise blood pressure! Perhaps because it is a relaxing nervine, or maybe because of more specific actions, linden is also a vasodilator, something that dilates blood vessels. This in itself can lower blood pressure. 

[Linden] also cleans the blood and makes it more fluid. This means that it is a valuable defense against arteriosclerosis, phlebitis, angina and heart attacks. Naturally one must not expect much from it after these troubles have already occurred: I am recommending the lime as a preventative, and as this you cannot start taking it soon enough. Maurice MessegueHealth Secrets of Plants and Herbs

An herb for the nervous system...
As a relaxing nervine it soothes and calms the nervous system. It can be specific for anxiety that is accompanied by tension: tense shoulders, muscle cramping, tension headaches, painful menstrual cramps, etc. Also think of it for difficulty sleeping due to excessive tension. 
Have a restless child who isn’t interested in bedtime? Take David Hoffman’s advice for a bedtime bath. 

Herbs such as Tilia and Trifolium [Red Clover] added to a bath as an infusion will have a calming effect and will prove useful before bedtime. David HoffmanMedical Herbalism

Historically it is listed for use during mild hysteria and even for epilepsy and convulsions. I don’t know of any herbalists currently using it in this way but looking at historical references can give us new resources and ideas to use herbs in ways that may have been lost to us.


Linden for dryness... 
Linden is both demulcent and astringent, making it a perfect remedy for excessive dryness. The demulcent qualities add moisture to the body, while the astringent qualities tighten and tone tissues, helping to keep moisture in. 

Think of linden for dry and irritated rashes. Besides taking it internally as a tea it can also be applied externally as a poultice or used as a bath herb. Messegue recommends it for any type of skin inflammation such as burns, boils and abscesses. 

Linden is one of my favorite summertime drinks. It is cooling and moistening, quenching thirst while tasting aromatically heavenly.

As an herb for digestion...
As an aromatic herb that is also anti-spasmodic it can be used for indigestion or even stagnant digestion. It is especially useful for those high strung, type A people with a red face, hot skin and a boisterous demeanor who have trouble digesting foods due to excitement or stress. 

As a mild astringent it can be used for diarrhea, especially diarrhea accompanied by cramping and other painful digestive symptoms. 

As an herb for cold and flus...
Another common use for linden is during colds and flus. As a relaxing nervine and vasodilator it both releases tension in the musculature and aids circulation to the skin, helping to move heat out of the body. It’s specific for a higher fever accompanied by tension and restlessness. 
It’s also used as a pectoral herb for use in catarrhal symptoms such as bronchitis, coughing, congestion, etc. Think of its soothing mucilaginous textures for sore and irritated throats. Some herbals refer to linden being used for people with asthma. 

Dr. Sharol Tilgner reports its use has been shown to shorten the duration of infectious viral conditions such as cold sores and other herpes virus outbreaks. 


Bark
In France the bark was commonly sold as a gentle laxative. 






Scientific research on linden...
Not too much modern research has been done on linden, but at Greenmedinfo.com I found studies showing it inhibits proliferation of lymphoma cell lines, that it is able to reduce pain and, when used as a relaxing nervine, it does not affect motor function. 

Edible Qualities
I’ve never eaten Linden myself but in researching for this article I ran across several references using linden as food. 

The leaves and flowers can be pounded into a flour that can then be mixed with other flours such as wheat to make baked goods. This was commonly done in Europe during WWII when food was scarce. 

The young leaves can be eaten when fresh. I’ve seen recipes that called for linden leaves as salad greens as well as sandwich toppings. The inner bark is also edible and the sap can be boiled down into a syrup. 


Herbalist Ananda Wilson tells me the green fruits can be eaten as well. 





Other uses for linden
Linden has been an important source for workable wood. It boasts a light soft wood that lends itself to carving. 

The inner bark can be used to make various fibrous tools such as baskets, ropes, mats, paper and cloth. 

Botanically speaking
In Europe they commonly use Tilia cordata. In north america we have Tilia americana. As far as I know all species of Tilia can be used interchangeably.
Linden growing on the shore of Lake Geneva
Linden grows to be a tall stately deciduous tree, up to 130 feet in height.
Various species are native to practically all northern latitudes and they are often frequently planted as ornamentals. Here is the range map for Tilia spp.



The leaves are shaped like a heart and have serrated edges. They form an alternate leaf pattern.

Linden flowers are white to yellowish and they grow in cymes or clusters. When in bloom you can smell their delicious scent from far away.


Plant Preparations
Linden makes a wonderfully refreshing tea. You can simply steep one teaspoon of the leaves and flowers in a mug for 15 minutes. Be sure to cover it while steeping. This is a pleasant and slightly mucilaginous tea.
You can also make it into a nourishing herbal infusion by steeping one ounce of the leaves and flowers in a quart of water for four hours or overnight. This will have a stronger therapeutic action than the tea. Some people prefer to only use the flowers for teas and infusions. 

Linden can be eaten; both the young leaves and flowers are great on salads. 

The flowers can be infused into honey for a tasty and soothing treat. You can see an article I wrote on linden honey here. 


For external purposes you could make a poultice or fermentation from the leaves and flowers. 

You could also infuse it into oil to use in salves or creams or even try it as a bath herb. 


Linden can also be made into a tincture. The tannin content indicates it would be a good choice for a glycerin extraction and you might even try it in vinegar. 


Where to find Linden... 
Hopefully you have a linden tree growing near you. If not check with your local herbal apothecary. 


Mountain Rose Herbs carries high quality bulk linden. By using this link you help support my blog. Thank you! 

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin




3 comments:

Deborah Gideon said...

One of the things I love about Linden is the way the bees love it. Sometimes when it's in blossom, the tree seems actually to be humming with the sounds of bees in bliss.
Thanks for writing about this lovely tree.

Kat said...

When I was in Ireland this past Spring I saw a violin that had a Linden top, they called it Lime! And I remember smelling them in Sweden. I'm going to purchase some from Mt. Rose and try it out, sounds amazing! Thanks Rosalee.

-Kat
electrickat.wordpress.com

Kat said...

When I was in Ireland this past Spring I met a young woman who had a violin made partially out Linden, they called it Lime! And I remember smelling them in Sweden, they are my friend Pontus's favorite tree. I'm going to buy some from Mt. Rose Herbs and try it out, thanks Rosaless.

-Kat
electrickat.wordpress.com