Name: Linden (Tilia vulgaris)
Otherwise known as: Lime Flowers
Habitat: A deciduous tree member of the Tiliaceae family growing up to 40m in lime-rich soil in woodland in Europe. It has a smooth grey bark and heart-shaped leaves, with small pale-yellow flowers that transform into the wing-like bracts. Linden flowers become toxic with age.
What does it do: The common name of the tree is from the Anglosaxon for pliable: Lind – a reference to the use of the inner bark as cordage. In Greek mythology there is the usual ravishment of a Water Nymph – Philyra – by the God Saturn, in the form of a stallion, this led to the birth of the centaur, Cheiron and the transformation of his mother – who couldn’t live with the shame – into a lime tree.
The plant contains flavonoids, mainly quercetin and kaempferol, caffeic acid, volatile oil and some interesting benzodiazepine compounds. The flavonoids improve circulation and the low tannin content assists in the proper digestion of proteins. Culpeper states: ‘Lime flowers are a good cephalic and nervine, and excellent for apoplexy, epilepsy, vertigo and palpitations.’ The plant is antispasmodic, sedative, hypotensive, anticoagulant, diaphoretic, diuretic and an immune booster. Herbalists use it principally to treat high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, hysteria, insomnia, cramps, migraine and other headaches. It has proved useful in reducing fevers and the muscular discomfort associated with flu. Aromatherapists use the essential oil to treat similar afflictions. In medieval times epileptics (falling fever) were encouraged to sleep beneath Linden trees.
In continental Europe Linden tea is the classic digestive to end the meal, and the French make an ointment from the leaves to relieve acne and other skin irritations. Charcoal is made from the small twigs and used to combat gallstones and fungal poisoning.
Some of the finest honey is made from linden pollen and the essence to flavour liqueurs and medicines.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s most Dangerous Plants