Tilia: a cure-all tea from the grandmother tree
Linden blossoms and flowers have a long history in folk medicine around the world. Linden or lime blossom tea is a traditional remedy for colds, coughs and flus, and is also valuable for anxiety and depression. It has even been employed for a variety of cardiovascular conditions, such as arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure.
Known as tilia to herbalists (shorthand for a variety of species, the main one being tilia cordata), it has a range of actions, including: antispasmodic, diaphoretic (inducing sweating), expectorant (bringing up phlegm) and calming.
The linden tree herself is sacred in many cultures: one of those magical grandmother trees that humans reach out to at the key moments of our life, from birth and death to illness and conflict. In old Germanic cultures, villages set up their law tribunals under lindens to enlist the tree's help in discerning the truth of difficult situations. (Unter den Linden is one of the main thoroughfares of Berlin as well as the title of a medieval poem/folk song.)
In Slavic lands, the linden tree was believed to ward off evil and protect the people or buildings where it grew. Lamus Dworski, a blogger who writes about Slavic paganism, notes of linden trees in Poland:
The old traditions connected to linden trees were quickly incorporated into the Christian customs, for example most of the old churches had at least one such tree planted in a parcel, usually close to an entrance area or a corner. They were decorated with shrines and figures of the Holy Mother as the trees representing peace, safety and the feminine aspects of nature ([the]other sacred tree was an oak representing the masculine side in the folk traditions).
My first encounter with the profound healing capacity of linden tea was on a trip to Turkey a few years ago. There was a series of short plane journeys where I got sick every time we flew: migraine headaches with severe nausea. Eventually I realized it was the cheese sandwiches I was eating on these flights that were making me ill—this was in my pre-vegan days— but in the meanwhile I found that linden tea stopped the nausea *and* the headaches. This was a great surprise because I had been through the entire pharmaceutical armamentarium over the course of the years (triptophans, blood thinners, opioids, even epilepsy drugs) and nothing seemed to stop my migraines once they got rolling. The only thing that helped were antispasmodic drugs, which seemed to work as “circuit breakers” for the waves of muscle cramps and nausea I experienced, so I theorised this must be the case for linden tea too.
But linden has a comforting and soothing quality that just can't be found in a pill, a quality I feel more and more is an essential part of good medicine. It's like having a kind grandmother by your side, laying a cool hand on your head.
There there, now dear, it'll be all right.