Tilioideae (formally Tiliaceae) Tilioideae is a sub-family of Malvaceae.
French common name: Tilleul
Linden Blossom or Lime Flower Tree
So is it a linden blossom or lime flower tree? Both names appear to be used interchangeably. One thing for certain it is not a citrus tree and bears no edible lime-like fruit. It is however a very beautiful tree and definitely one of my favourites which I enjoy chatting about when teaching the virtues of the plant world !
Scientifically there are several species. The small-leaved lime, Tilia cordata, grows up to a height of 30m. Tilia platyphyllos, or large-leaved lime, grows up to a height of 40m. Tilia x vulgaris and Tilia x europaea are both applied as scientific names for common lime. The common lime is a naturally occurring hybrid between the small and large-leaved lime. All the above are used interchangeably medicinally.
In English you may find the common name written as large or small-leaved or common linden blossom or lime flower.
Mills (1993) advises there is a difference in leaf size between the species but no known differences in therapeutic activity.
The leaves often described as heart-shaped are occasionally slightly asymmetrical at the base.
Linden blossom or lime flower – how to use and dosage
The dried flowers are used in an infusion with one teaspoon of the herb per cup of boiling water. Two to three spoonfuls are recommended in cases of fever (Hoffmann).
Mills (1993) recommends 1 to 4g of flowers three times a day.
Mills (1993) advises the tree is found throughout the temperate world growing in large parks, gardens and in the wild. He recommends drying the flowers quickly after picking as they spoil quite easily.
Barker notes bark is sometimes used though adds externally as an anti-inflammatory poultice. Fresh leaves can be eaten. He advises harvesting early in flowering for medicinal use.
A popular infusion in France and often found dried for sale at French markets. Trees frequently found in France in school playgrounds or village squares. Believed to be popular in these areas to promote relaxation.
This tea almost immediately makes me feel calm and very relaxed with a most pleasant, warm and comfortable feeling. I like the taste which I would describe as a combination of light, sweet, floral and with a subtle fruity, slightly astringent flavour.
This wonderful tree has countless examples of traditional use.
The wood was used for detailed carvings. Easier to work with than other woods particularly for minute detail. Traditionally popular for detailed carvings. Reputedly there are many lime wood carvings in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and in Windsor Castle. Apparently the lightest wood produced by any European tree and said to never get woodworm. Used for clogs and cuckoo clocks as well as musical instruments. Also used in sounding boards for organs and pianos.
Honey is produced from the flowers (Grieve).
Bartram advises once utilised to reduce severity of epileptic seizures. While Ward (1936) noted it a popular remedy for chronic catarrhal conditions following colds. Given for nervous headaches and hysterical tendencies. Recommended as an infusion of 1 drachm in 1 pint of boiling water or in bed-time baths, in equivalent strength, for those suffering from insomnia. Even today many herbalists utilise lime flower for insomnia.
Mills (2001) indicates lime flowers for any acute infections particularly if accompanied by fever. Thus indicating common colds, bronchitis and influenza. Further described as being antispasmodic and relaxant and indicated for anxiety, intestinal colic, irritability, restlessness and sleeplessness and tension headaches and migraines.
Barker suggests combining with Elder for the common cold with fever. In addition, he recommends with Hawthorn and Yarrow for poor peripheral circulation. Furthermore, like Mills, he recommends for headaches and insomnia from nervous tension. Finally he combines with hawthorn for hypertension (high blood pressure). I have often combined hawthorn and lime flower in herbal prescriptions.
Hoffmann advises use as a prophylactic particularly for arteriosclerosis and recommends it specifically in the use of high blood pressure with arteriosclerosis. He recommends combining it with hops for nervous tension.
Mills (2001) describes lime flowers as a herbal aquaretic meaning the herb is a diuretic that excretes water from the body. He recommends its use as a decoction for hypertension. Herbal aquaretics benefit in replacing potassium lost through the use of modern diuretic prescriptions.
Recommended for phlebitis and varicose veins. Believed to have a restorative effect following auto-immune attacks such as arteritis, a condition involving inflammation of artery walls. One of the first herbs of choice, along with chamomile, for illness in babies and children (Mills, 1993).
Some science stuff…
Listed active ingredients, for medicinal purposes in phytotherapy, are flavonoids, volatile oil and mucilage components (Toker et al, 2001).
Mills (1993) advises lime flowers contain flavonoids, mucilage, saponins and tannins. The volatile oil includes farnesol. Flavonoids predominately work on the vascular system. However, they are usually diuretic and some may well be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-spasmodic. Saponins will also work on the vascular system. He describes these two constituents as having a synergistic effect on the blood vessels.
Mucilage protects against infections and neutralises toxins while tannins astringe membranes making them less sensitive to bacteria. Some saponins also have an effect on the female hormone system and can regulate steroidal activity.
Farnesol in volatile oil is anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and deodorant (Clarke, 2002).
… and a bit of research…
Weiss (2001) describes a study conducted by two paediatricians on children with influenza type symptoms. The children on lime blossom tea and bed-rest recovered much more quickly and with fewer complications than those given orthodox medications. I particularly like lime flower for children. It is quite possibly one of my favourite herbs for them.
I did read a review of scientific evidence sourced into linden blossom absolute on an aromatherapy site some years back. Inhalation experiments tested essential oil of Tilia cordata and two of its components, benzaldehyde and benzyl alcohol.
T. cordata produced a significant decrease for traditional indications such as headaches, migraine and anxiety. In conclusion use is justified in aroma-therapeutical applications. The quoted study was from 1992, Arch. Pharm. Apr. 325(4):247-8.
Energetically, linden blossom or lime flower has a warm temperament (Mills, 1993).
While Holmes describes linden energetically as a bit pungent, sweet and astringent. In Ayurvedic energetics he describes it as decreasing Pitta and Kapha.
Furthermore, he finds it beneficial for several conditions. External wind heat includes fever and unrest. Other indications include lung wind heat which covers thirst, dry cough, red sore throat. Both lung wind heat and external wind heat cause irritability. Headache and nervous tension are kidney Qi stagnation.
Finally further reading including linden blossom or lime flower:
Introduction to Herbal Medicine Half-Day Workshop
A popular local workshop. A half day course available for between 2 to 6 people. Three and a half hours duration. Held throughout the year.