Small-Leaved Lime – Tilleul
The Small-Leaved Lime is a European native which grows in the wild in a mixed, deciduous woodland. It prefers a warm position, sandy or stony soil. Beside the Small-Leaved Lime, there is another native Lime tree, Tilia platyphyllos (Broad or Large-Leaved Lime and a hybrid between Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphylos, Tilia x europaea. Another word for Lime tree is Linden Tree. Like the Oak tree, the Lime was considered a sacred tree by the old Germanic tribes; it has a longevity of a 1000 years. Lots of legends and history are associated with the Lime tree. In the story of the ‘Nibelungen’, the hero Siegfried, in his efforts to become immortal, took a bath in Dragon’s blood. During the bathing, a leaf of the Lime Tree fell between his shoulder blades. Later, in a battle, he was mortally injured between his shoulder blades, there where the Lime leaf had fallen. A bit of a similar story to Achilles and his heel. An old tradition was that when a boy was born, you planted an Oak tree, when a girl was born it was a Lime tree. The placenta was buried under the trees.
It is an impressive tree and often used in Parks. Before WW2, in Berlin, there was a 1 km long street called ‘Unter den Linden’, planted with four rows of Lime Trees. Since then the Lime Trees have been replanted.
It is a deciduous tree, growing up to 40m, with a smooth, dark brown trunk when young. The leaves are stalked, heart-shaped with serrated edges, smooth above, paler below with a few tufts of hair. It was introduced in towns as an ornamental tree. Here in Provence, it flowers in June. The flowers are light-yellow in colour and very fragrant. The harvesting of the Lime flowers occurs in summer. The wood is very light in weight and easy to carve. It has been used to make marionettes, puppets, recorders and bodies of guitars. The inner bark was once used in the rope industry.
In France it is the most popular tisane (herbal drink). In folk medicine it was used for hypertension. It is a herb that is ideally suited to nervous people. A cup of Lime/Linden tea 1 hour before going to sleep has a calming, restful and relaxing effect. It helps with flu and fever, it increases the perspiration: drink a couple of cups a day. It aids the digestion as it stimulates the galbladder. Medicinally, it is used for colds, infections, high blood pressure, headaches (migraine), as a diuretic and it is anti-spasmodic. It contains flavonoids (anti-oxidants), essential oils (0.1%), mucilage (10%), saponins, polyphenols (1%), tannins (2%) and other unknown substances. It is very safe to use.
The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. There are a lot of offshoots on the tree during the growing season, waiting to be picked. These can be harvested on a regular basis. They can be put into sandwiches instead of lettuce. The dried flowers make a good tasting herbal tea. Honey made from lime blossom has a special flavour.
During warm summer days ice cold Lime tea (30g/l), add a little sugar, encourages perspiration and quenches thirst.
Bibliography: RHS Encyclopedia of herbs and their uses – Deni Bown; Food for Free – Richard Mabey; Tileul – Rustica; The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism – Malcolm Stuart; Tilia – Wikipedia