In Europe and the Old World, the linden tree has been used for centuries for health and happiness. Growing up in a rural German household, I often played under our backyard linden tree. From my mother and grandmother I learned about linden lore, and the many health benefits of linden.
There are three main types of European linden – the Silver Linden (Tilia tomentosa), the Little-leaf Linden (T. cordata), and the Large-leafed Linden (T. platyphyllos). Some hybrid varieties also exist. In the United States, the American linden (T. americana), also known as the basswood or lime tree, is popular.
The linden is also called the lime tree because it likes to grow in lime-rich soil. While all linden trees have therapeutic benefits, the Little-leaf Linden (T. cordata) is the most popular in herbal medicine. The Little-leaf Linden is native to Europe and also grows well in the United States. In the UK, the Little-leaf Linden is becoming increasingly rare, and is usually indicative of old forest growth.
Because of its broad, heart-shaped leaves, the linden is a pleasant shade tree. In Germany and other parts of Europe, many a homeowner traditionally planted a linden tree in the yard.
In lore, the linden helped protect the home and hearth, so was usually planted near a door (not too close, since the linden can grow to a majestic height). It’s said that the linden tree brings blessings of good luck and happiness to the occupants of the home.
The leaves of the linden are dark green and slightly glossy. The leaves are edible especially when young, and can be used in soups or salads. The linden bears small, hard, nut-like fruit and clusters of aromatic pale yellow or white flowers. The flowers are rich in essential oils. Brewed in hot water, linden flowers make a delicious tea with many therapeutic uses.
Health Benefits of Linden
Linden is known to help relieve symptoms of bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. All parts of the linden, including the leaves, flowers, honey, fruit and wood have medicinal health benefits. Linden is most often taken as a tea. Traditionally, linden is used to treat:
- sore throat
- stuffy nose; congestion
- cold symptoms
- flu symptoms
- poor circulation
- aches and pains
- muscle tension
- stress-related illness
- skin ailments
- love sickness
The fragrant linden flowers attract bees. Honey made from linden flowers is also considered therapeutic, often blended with warm milk or tea. The honey, flowers and young leaves of the linden tree are high in valuable antioxidants.
The wood of the linden is fine-grained, smooth and pale. Linden wood is popular with carvers who work in fine detail. Linden has been used for centuries for church altars and other ornamental woodwork.
A charm made of linden wood can help ease homesickness or anxiety in travelers. Charcoal made from linden wood is also reputed to have healing and magical properties.
The elegant linden, with its heart-shaped leaves and influence on healing, hearth and home, is known in medicinal lore as a woman’s tree.