Herbal medicine has been around for centuries, and despite the success of modern medicine, plants are still frequently used in the home treatment of a variety of ailments. Flowers from the linden tree, commonly known as the lime or basswood tree, is one such traditional folk medicine. Historically, linden flower tea, derived from the species Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphyllos, has been used to treat a variety of ailments including high blood pressure, migraine, digestive complaints, headaches, colds, flu and anxiety. However scientific evidence proving these health claims is lacking.
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Linden Tea Compounds
Linden flowers contain a number of natural compounds, or phytochemicals, that may be related to its health properties. According to a research report published in the January 2016 issue of “International Food Research Journal,” active ingredients in the Tilia or linden flowers include flavonoids, which function as antioxidants. Antioxidants help rid your body of free radicals -- unstable chemicals that form as a result of normal body processes or when you're exposed to drugs, cigarette smoke or other environmental toxins. Over time, free radicals can cause damage that leads to heart disease, cancer and other health problems. Linden flowers also include tannins and volatile oils , also known as essential oils, which are can also provide healthful benefits. While data is not available to specifically link these components in linden flower tea to health improvements, the phytochemical content is a potential reason for any benefits.
Colds and Congestion
According to a May 2012 report published by the European Medicines Agency, limited clinical research is available on linden, so there is no scientific proof that it actually works. However, this agency postulates the most plausible use of this tea is the traditional use for the common cold and treating mild symptoms of mental stress. The reputed benefits of certain linden compounds to cause sweating may have benefits in managing a fever. Linden also contains mucilage, a sticky substance that can help soothe irritated membranes in the mouth or throat, and this herb is also believed to decrease mucus production. However, data proving these benefits is lacking, and even if compounds from linden flower are proven to be effective, it’s not clear how much of these components make it into brewed tea.
In herbal medicine, linden tea is used to combat anxiety and promote relaxation. The essential oils are suggested to play a role in these benefits. A study published in the July 2008 issue of the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" found that feeding laboratory animals an extract of linden flowers reduced their anxious behavior when placed in a maze, compared to controls. Another study published in the March 2008 issue of the same journal found that linden extract lengthened the sedation time in animals who received sleep-inducing drugs, and calmed the animals when administered alone. However, it's not clear if these same benefits would be noticed from tea consumption -- as extracts tend to be more potent -- and if the same benefits would be present in humans consuming this tea.
Warnings and Precautions
Linden flower tea is generally considered safe, although some people may be allergic to the flowers. Also, much is unknown about this tea’s health effects, as there is only limited and preliminary animal and test tube research available on this herb. Because of inadequate safety data, this tea is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have heart disease. Also, linden may act as a diuretic and cause water loss from the body, and may interact with medications. Linden has also been found to naturally contain caffeine. Always check with your healthcare professional before taking linden flower tea.
Reviewed by: Kay Peck, MPH, RD