By Steph Zabel
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator
This time of year as you walk around our city streets, you’re very likely to come across a beautiful tree filled with creamy white, fragrant flowers. Its aroma is so gorgeous that it makes both bees and hurried city folk slow down their pace.
This tree, which tends to go unnoticed when it's not in flower, is our graceful linden (Tilia americana). We are fortunate to have many lindens in our neighborhood — there are even a few streets named after this beauty. Linden makes for an excellent city tree due to its ability to tolerate pollution and harsh urban environments. In addition, it is also an important food source for bees, a wonderful shade tree, and — with its heart-shaped leaves and delightful flowers — brings beauty wherever it grows.
Not surprisingly, linden is one of my favorite herbs to give to people. It has many healing virtues and is also a very safe and gentle remedy for people of all ages and constitutions. In Europe, it was traditionally used in baths for young children before bed to help them have a sound night’s sleep. Stressed-out adults can also benefit immensely from a linden bath.
But if a bath is not for you, a cup of linden tea will do the trick. Well-loved for its soothing properties, it is one of the herbalist’s favorite relaxing nervines, meaning that it helps to soothe and calm the nervous system. It truly is useful for any kind of anxiety or tension, whether it manifests as headaches, nervous tension, restlessness, tense muscles, or poor sleep. I mix it into bed-time blends to help people unwind after a long day and prepare for a deep night’s sleep. Even though linden is so gentle, I have personally found it to be a profound herb for anyone needing better sleep. It mixes beautifully with other relaxing herbs such as oats, skullcap or lavender. Linden seems to have an ability to help you feel how tired you truly are, so that you can finally get the sleep you need.
Beyond its wonderful soothing qualities, linden is a plant that supports a healthy heart. As noted above, linden helps to relax us when we are feeling tense, so it has traditionally been used for the emotional causes behind hypertension and heart palpitations. With its supportive, opening and calming properties linden can help to address emotional issues and stress that may manifest as physical imbalances.
Linden is also a demulcent herb: high in mucilage it imparts a cooling and soothing quality on dry and irritated tissues. This soothing, anti-inflammatory action works on both our internal tissues and our external skin - you use it as a wash or a compress on itchy or inflamed skin.
This beautiful, gentle tree has so much to offer us: from anxiety and stress, to tense hearts and minds, to troubled sleep - it is is a beautiful balm that grows right on our city streets.
HOW TO USE:
Linden Sun Tea
Linden makes for a delicious cold-brewed tea. This method is perfect in the summer time when it is too hot to boil water.
Place 1 heaping handful of dried linden leaves and flowers in a glass quart-sized jar. Cover with cold water and stir. Place on the cap then set in a sunny windowsill for 3-4 hours. Strain out the herb. Chill in the refrigerator if desired or drink at room temperature. The longer it steeps the more the mucilaginous quality (which makes the liquid viscous) will be drawn out.
Soothing Linden Sleep Blend:
2 Tblsp. linden
2 Tblsp. oat tops or oat straw
1 Tblsp. skullcap
1/2 Tblsp. chamomile
pinch of lavender
Blend all herbs together, then use 1 heaping spoonful per mug of hot water. Let steep at least 10 minutes, then strain. Best enjoyed at dusk.
Steph Zabel is an herbalist and educator based in Somerville, MA who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world. She teaches herbal classes, is available for individual wellness sessions, and is also the founder of HERBSTALK, a community herbal conference. Learn more about her work at: www.flowerfolkherbs.com and www.herbstalk.org.
This blog post — Our Graceful Linden Tree — is for general health information only. This blog post is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.