Herbal medicine

underneath the leafy Linden tree…

Linden Tilia cordata, Tilia americana

I was an herbalist for years before I fell in love with Linden.  It took traveling to Slovakia, where Linden is the national tree, to find the love.

My family flew into Vienna and make our way to Bratislava and then Budapest by train. In addition to an amazing 16th century hotel room in Bratislava, I stumbled upon a bag of linden packaged for tourists. This was the freshest, most colorful linden I’d ever seen–the leaves and flowers were vibrant, barely broken and looked like they’d traveled no more than a few feet to the shop.  It made an amazing linden infusion with the hotel’s electric kettle. While I love my suppliers, nothing I’ve bought in the US has compared to that bag from Slovakia for fresh taste and peak color and beauty.

Slovakia hails Linden as their national tree, and includes a linden leaf on their Slovak Coat of Arms. It’s also popular in surrounding countries like Germany, Slovenia, Austria.

With this new passion for Linden and remaining part of the Slovakian bag, I came home to learn more.  I pulled book after book off my shelves, searching for references to Tilia or Linden, and estimate half of my western herbal medicine books don’t even mention linden. (The horror!)  It’s not even mentioned in the Bach flower remedy books, and I have often wondered why Bach didn’t make a flower essence from Linden. I had learned a little about Linden in the context of pediatric uses, due to its pleasant, mild taste.

The flowers and leaves contain phenolic acids, proanthocyanadins, tannins, flavonoids, mucilages, and a sedative essential oil. Linden can help with:

  • minor sleep problems and nervous conditions
  • feverish colds, coughs and sore throats
  • anti-viral, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
  • antispasmodic, stomachic and diuretic
  • Cardiovascular: hypertension, for cholesterol and atherosclerosis and to relieve migraines (it dilates vessels)
  • externally can soothe dry, irritated skin
  • Historical: Culpeper says it is good for dream pillows

 

The flower essence is for the heart, for grace and ease, soothing and relaxing.

Chinese Energetics

I can’t say I’m an expert at translating Western herbs into a Chinese Medicine framework, but I’ve been working at this for a few years and will give it a go with Linden.

  • Goes to liver, heart and stomach (and I personally think large intestine–yang ming)
  • Cooling, mildly acrid, sweet,  that allows it to release the exterior with colds (CARE in the way Bo He mint is–not an overpowering acrid, but you can feel it open your pores in strong doses.).
  • Regulates qi in the middle jiao–It helps menstrual cramps and emotional tension, so it can move stagnant middle jiao (stomach and liver) qi.
  • With demulcent, yin qualities it is a gentle heart yin tonic that calms the shen.  It can cool and soothe the heart, calming the shen, and helps circulation (heart palpitations, atherosclerosis, angina).
  • The bark is said to help with LR/GB but I have not personally tried this.

Dosage:  I infuse smaller doses — tsp to 2 tbsp. with hot water.  In my experience higher doses release the exterior.

I have two personal experiences to share, one for myself and one for my son.

I have a sort-of rare, odd thing called Histamine Intolerance.  It’s no fun, that’s for sure, and mine flared up while I was pregnant.  Since then, eating has been tricky, and after working with a nutritionist and Todd Caldecott, I’ve got it managed as long as I minimize Pitta-inflaming foods and avoid gluten, dairy, anything fermented or yeasty (yes–that includes all alcohol) cinnamon and coffee. I can eat a little sugar and chocolate but I have to be careful.  (The kicker is that getting this under management and avoiding all those foods has led to ZERO weight loss…go figure.)  But at least I don’t have hives, flushing, acne, fluid retention, and a red face (people used to think I was sunburnt, when I’d just had coffee that morning.)  Other symptoms include heart palpitations and what I call ‘detached’ anxiety–I know it’s not true anxiety, but there’s an anxious, irritable feeling. Others with histamine intolerance have much worse sinus congestion flare-ups, but mine stay minor if I avoid gluten and dairy. I suspect part of mine is being a transplant from the north to the swamps of the south–I was not genetically designed to live here, and I’ve basically become allergic to the place, aka a pitta imbalance.

For me, Linden is a valuable anti-histamine helper.  At the onset of all of this, I was urged to go on either cortisone therapy or prescription anti-histamines, with the prescribing doctor knowing that they were temporary solutions and could make it worse later.  (So why was he pushing them?  I don’t know but it’s common.)  Linden helps because the flowers and leaves are cooling and relaxing for the heat, inflammation and pitta imbalance.  It can help with the nasal congestion that comes with a histamine flare-up, and it helps with digestion.  I don’t use it alone–I take a lot of pitta-reducing herbs like milk thistle, artichoke, burdock, triphala along with it. And for me, Linden is a low-dose lifestyle addition, relaxing and cooling.

The second story is pediatric, with my son, while we were traveling. My son had constipation (common with traveling for adults and kids both) and had gone three and a half days without a bowel movement. The next day we’d be flying home.  An airplane is not a place to have a grouchy, constipated four-year-old, nor is it a place to try to in any way take care of a bowel issue.  Being in Europe, hotel rooms commonly have herbal teas like chamomile, and I had my beautiful bag of Linden.  A combination of one or two chamomile teabags (that is NOT a big dose of chamomile) and my Bratislava linden, had the problem rectified in three hours.  I think it was a combination of cooling, moving and relaxing; however, chamomile alone should have needed three times the dose to get that effect.  It is my belief the linden helped the chamomile by moving qi in the middle jiao, and relaxing him with a cooling demulcent herb.

A last thought on Linden from a Chinese Medicine point-of-view is the concept of I-II-III heat.  I learned about it as a student and I’ve seen a patient with exactly this: arguments with a significant other led to anxiety and heart heat and the next morning they would wake up with a bladder infection. Heart, I, transferred the heat to its partner II, Small Intestine, who then said to the Bladder, III, “hey, you get rid of this!” The result: hot painful urination.  (I was proud of the patient for realizing the connection.) Next time I see this, I’ll think of Linden as an herb that could potentially help prevent and treat the I-II-III symptoms.

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