Tilia cordataTilia cordata (Small-leaved Lime, occasionally Small-leaved Linden) is a species of Tilia native to much of Europe and western Asia, north to southern Great Britain, central Scandinavia, east to central Russia, and south to central Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Caucasus; in the south of its range it is restricted to high altitudes.

Tilia species are large deciduous trees, reaching typically 20 to 40 metres (70 to 100 ft) tall, with oblique-cordate leaves 6 to 20 centimetres (2 to 8 in) across, and are found through the north temperate regions. The exact number of species is subject to considerable uncertainty, as many or most of the species will hybridise readily, both in the wild and in cultivation.

Lime is an altered form of Middle English lind, in the 16th century also line, from Old English feminine lind or linde, Proto-Germanic *lenda, cognate to Latin lentus "flexible" and Sanskrit lata "liana". Within Germanic languages, English lithe, German lind "lenient, yielding" are from the same root. Linden was originally the adjective, "made from lime-wood" (equivalent to "wooden"), from the late 16th century "linden" was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde. Neither the name nor the tree is related to the citrus fruit called "Lime" (Citrus aurantifolia, family Rutaceae). Another widely-used common name used in North America is basswood, derived from bast, the name for the inner bark. In the US, the name 'lime' is used only for the citrus tree.

The Tilia's sturdy trunk stands like a pillar and the branches divide and subdivide into numerous ramifications on which the twigs are fine and thick. In summer these are profusely clothed with large leaves and the result is a dense head of abundant foliage. The leaves of all the Tilias are heart-shaped and most are asymmetrical, and the tiny fruit, looking like peas, always hang attached to a curious, ribbon-like, greenish yellow bract, whose use seems to be to launch the ripened seed-clusters just a little beyond the parent tree. The flowers of the European and American Tilias are similar, except that the American bears a petal-like scale among its stamens and the European varieties are destitute of these appendages. All of the Tilias may be propagated by cuttings and grafting as well as by seed. They grow rapidly in a rich soil, but are subject to the attack of many insects.

In Europe, Tilia trees are known to have reached ages measured in centuries, if not longer. A coppice of Tilia cordata in Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, for example, is estimated to be 2,000 years old. In the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg is a Tilia which tradition says was planted by the Empress Cunigunde, the wife of Henry II of Germany. This would make the tree about nine hundred years old (as of 1900 when it was described). It looks ancient and infirm, but in 1900 was sending forth a few leaves on its two or three remaining branches and was, of course, cared for tenderly. The Tilia of Neuenstadt am Kocher in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, was computed to be one thousand years old when it fell. The Alte Linde tree of Naters, Switzerland, is mentioned in a document in 1357 and described by the writer at that time as already "magnam" (huge). A plaque at its foot mentions that in 1155 a Tilia tree was already on this spot.

Tila cordata is the preferred species for medical use, having a high concentration of active compounds. It is said to be a nervine, used by herbalists in treating restlessness, hysteria, and headaches. Usually, the double-flowered Tilias are used to make perfumes. The leaf buds and young leaves are also edible raw. Tilia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species.

Lime FlowersLime flowers are a popular domestic remedy for a number of ailments, especially in the treatment of colds and other ailments where sweating is desirable. A tea made from the fresh or dried flowers is antispasmodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypotensive, laxative and sedative. Lime flower tea is also used internally in the treatment of indigestion, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, hysteria, nervous vomiting or palpitation. The flowers are harvested commercially and often sold in health shops etc. Lime flowers are said to develop narcotic properties as they age and so they should only be harvested when freshly opened. A charcoal made from the wood is used in the treatment of gastric or dyspeptic disturbances and is also made into a powder then applied to burns or sore places.

Tilia cordata/platyphyllos flowers are sometimes suggested to treat colds, coughs, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine); as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative.

The following are recommended adult doses:

  • Tea (infusion): 1 - 2 tsp flowers in 8 oz of water. Steep covered for 20 minutes. Drink three cups of hot tea daily.

  • Fluid extract (1:1 in 25 % ethanol), 3 - 4 ml daily, taken in three divided doses

  • Tincture (1:5 in 30 % ethanol) 4 - 10 ml daily, taken in three divided doses

You should not give this herb to a child under 18 without your doctor's supervision. There are some known side effects including: Allergic skin reactions (called contact dermatitis). Estrogen like effects.

Primarily because of its ability to induce sweating, Tilia flower tea Called Tiearle in France, is used to prevent and treat feverish colds, stubborn coughs and flulike symptoms. Plus, it relaxes intestinal and menstrual cramps and aids in strengthening the immune system. Traditional medicine has long relied on Tilia flower tea as a gentle tonic for the heart and circulatory system.

An infusion with the flowers makes a refreshing toner for the skin. Apply aparingly to soothe and tighten the skin and to help alleviate mild skin irritations. Tilia flowers can also be used in steam facials and hair rinses.

Tea for inducing sweat : To ease a fever, drink the tea as hot as you can tolerate. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-2 tsp. of fresh or dried Tilia Cordata flowers; steep for 10-15 min. Drink 1 cup up to 4 times daily. Sweeten with honey, if desired.

Calming bath : A Tilia Cordata bath will calm nerves, quiet anxiety and prepare you for restful sleep. Bring 3 ½ oz. of fresh or dried Tilia Cordata flowers to a boil in about 2 qt. of water. Steep for at least 10 min; strain and add to your bathwater.

Poultice for wounds : Pour ½ cup of water over 1 cup of dried or fresh Tilia Cordata flowers. Allow leaves to become saturated. Strain, but do not squeeze. Apply the saturated leaves directly on open or poorly healing wounds. Keep a cloth or towel beneath the affected area to soak up extra moisture. Leave on for 20-30 mins.

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