July is the month when the Linden (Tilia cordata) is in full bloom not only in Poland or England but also throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Linden is a sacred tree. It had a special meaning in pagan, pre-Christian tradition running so deep that Christianity was forced to embrace the tree as their own. Gods were living there. In Poland the summer month of July (Lipiec) was named in the name of the Linden tree (Lipa). There is a lot of Polish legends that suggest that cutting down the Linden tree without a special need will bring the misfortune not only on the person who has done it but also on his family. Slavs believed that the lightning would never hit the holy tree and they were finding shelter underneath its branches during thunderstorms. If there were ill people or cattle at home, linden branches were brought in for healing. Pagan gods that used to inhabit the tree gave way to Mary and it is said that she has been seen in the thick and dark branches of the tree. These appearances made it the favourite tree of the Blessed Mother, and now all throughout the country you can still see the roadside shrines dedicated to her. People made talismans from the linden wood, pagan and Christian traditions blended. The churches often planted the tree around the boundaries of the churchyard, forgetting about its protective properties, but using its fragrant flowers to attract the bees. Polish Linden honey is one of the best in the world. But the magic of the Linden tree has not been forgotten in Poland and was placed by the Slavonic Faith in the Denomination of their faith – “Slavonic Faith, it’s an Oak and Linden braided together, It’s Family, it’s Union” (http://www.rodzimawiara.pl/).
In mythology the Linden tree is a symbol of peace, truth and justice. In Germanic mythology it is associated with Freya, the motherly goddess of truth and love. According to German folklore, it was not possible to lie while standing under the Linden Tree. Consequently Germans often met under the tree and held their justice cases and marriage ceremonies. Throughout Europe the Linden trees stood usually in the hearts of villages and were present during all of the happenings and events of great importance, they were also present in everyday life giving shelter and shade from the sun. With its relation to justice the Linden tree has a similar folkloric meaning to Oak.
Today the Linden tree is still bringing us its healing properties and dry flowers and bracts are present in almost every Polish medicine cabinet. They certainly are present in mine.
The flowers contain phenolic acids, proanthocyanadins, tannins, flavonoids, mucilages, and a small quantity of essential oil that has a sedative effect. Taken internally, the flowers are prescribed for minor sleep problems and nervous conditions. They are also used to treat feverish colds, coughs and sore throats. They have anti-cold, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, they are antispasmodic, stomachic and diuretic. They have been recommended for the treatment of hypertension, for fatty deposits in blood vessels (as they dilate vessels), and to relieve migraines. Used externally the flowers can soothe cracked and chapped skin, insects bites and skin irritations.
TO TREAT COLDS:
Put 1 teaspoon of dried flowers (you can also buy it in teabag form from any Polish shop. Look for “Kwiat Lipy”) into a cup and cover with boiled water. Leave to infuse for 5 mins, then strain. Drink 3-4 cups a day until the cold symptoms subside.
Use Linden tree honey in teas and cooking – it will help fight colds and lift your spirits.
TO TREAT DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS CAUSED BY THE LIVER, GALLSTONES OR BLOATING:
Tincture (1:5 in 25% alcohol). Take 5ml in water 3 times a day before meals. Do not take for long periods of time. If the symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
TO TREAT MINOR SLEEPING PROBLEMS:
Put a teaspoon of dried flowers into a cup and cover with boiled water. Leave to infuse for 5 mins, then strain. Drink 1 cup in the evening before bed.
LINDEN FLOWER AND SPEARMINT INFUSION:
This is a pick me up infusion which I use when I feel down, sad, when I can feel the first symptoms of cold coming, or when I can feel the aura of migraine. It generally makes me feel happy. It refreshes and calms so can be drunk at any point of the day as well as before bed.
25g of dried linden flowers
25g of dried spearmint
Mix well together in a large pot. Put 1 teaspoon of the mixture into a cup and cover with boiled water. Leave to infuse for 5-10 mins, then strain. Drink when needed. You can add honey to taste, but it really tastes refreshing and quite sweet without honey.
(You can buy your dry herbs in Neal’s Yard Remedies or Revital, and you can find Kwiat Lipy in any Polish shop in UK.)
DO NOT GIVE HONEY TO CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 12 MONTHS!
DO NOT TAKE ANY REMEDIES INDICATED ABOVE WHEN YOU ARE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING!
LINDEN SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN BY ANYONE WITH A HEART DISORDER, EXCEPT AS DIRECTED BY A MEDICAL HERBALIST!
DO NOT EXCEED THE STATED DOSE AS THIS MAY AFFECT HEART FUNCTION!
- Ben-Erik van Wyk, Michael Wink, Medicinal plants of the world: an illustrated scientific guide to important medicinal plants and their uses, Timber Press, Portland 2004.