Thursday, July 25, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #2: Linden Tree

Basswood, Linden, Lime Flower

LATIN NAME: Tilia cordata, Tilia europaea, Tilia vulgaris, Tilia parvifolia, Tilia ulmifolia, Tilia tomentosa,  Tilia argentea, Tilia platyphyllos, Tilia grandifolia, Tilia rubra
BRIEF DESCRIPTION:  There are nearly as many medicinal uses for this grand tree as there are names and varieties of it (see names above). 

Traditionally, the magic of Tilia europa was its ability to ‘dispel evil spirits’, or to quell ‘hysteria’.  In traditional speak, this often (but not always) means that a plant was used to treat anxiety, nervousness or depression.  While there is no suggestion of its use in the treatment of depression, Tilia species are well indicated in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, restlessness and insomnia. One animal study suggests that Tilia species contain GABA-like substances (GABA is one of the main inhibitory/relaxing neurotransmitters in the brain), while other studies point to plant fats, such as beta-sitosterol, as playing a role in the anti-anxiety effects of  Linden(2,3). 

It is also through the relationship between nervous tension and the circulatory system that Tilia species are used to treat complaints of the heart.  It is well indicated in the treatment of high blood pressure and palpitations that are of an emotional, or anxious nature.   Its use in the treatment of heart complaints is beautifully reflected in the heart shaped leaf of the tree.  Continuing the link between Tilia and the heart, many of the myths surrounding the Linden tree describe it as a “sacred tree” for people in love.  It was thought to ensure fertility and prosperity (1).  The flower essence is also described as helping people to anchor universal love in their hearts (1).

Tilia species are also thought to have antimicrobial properties (4).  It is these properties that likely make Linden flowers part of many effective cough-relieving tea blends (5).  Part of its usefulness in treating coughs, colds and mild infections would be its diaphoretic action (4).  Diaphoretic herbs are those that help to optimize fever, so that fevers can run their course naturally, and therefore kill microbes in the body.

Lastly, due to its texture (and easy workability) and its neutrality (in regards to resins and oils in its wood), linden trees offer some of the best material for the construction of medical grade infra-red saunas.

PARTS USED: leaf, flower blossom
ACTIONS:  anti-anxiety, anti-hypertensive, diaphoretic
INDICATIONS:  anxiety, hypertension, cough
BODY SYSTEMS TREATED: cardiovascular, nervous system, lungs
HARVESTING NOTES:  June, July, when flowers are in full bloom.
PREPARATIONS:  The medicinal properties of Tilia species are typically extracted in teas and infusions, but there is also a long history of the production of Linden blossom honey in Europe.  This is a purely natural phenomenon, since bees are highly attracted to the wonderfully strong fragrance of this flower when it is in full bloom.  
TRADITIONAL USES: “hysteria” (anxiety, depression), cough
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS:  may potentiate antihypertensive drugs.  May cause palpitations in some people. 
*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interaction or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare profession before using plant substances.

3)     Aguirre-Hernández E, Rosas-Acevedo H, Soto-Hernández M, Martínez AL, Moreno J, González-Trujano ME Bioactivity-guided isolation of beta-sitosterol and some fatty acids as active compounds in the anxiolytic and sedative effects of Tilia americana var. mexicana.Planta Med. 2007 Sep;73(11):1148-55. Epub 2007 Sep 7.
4)     Brantner, Adelheid, and Edith Grein. Antibacterial activity of plant extracts used externally in traditional medicine Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1994, Vol. 44:35-40.
5)     Puodziūniene G, Janulis V, Milasius A, Budnikas V. [Development of cough-relieving herbal teas] Medicina (Kaunas). 2005;41(6):500-5. Lithuanian.


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