Linden flowers have a pleasant, tangy taste, and for this reason the tree is sometimes called “lime flower.” Besides use in beverages and liqueurs, linden flower has a long history of medicinal use for such conditions as colds and flus, digestive distress, anxiety, migraine headaches, and insomnia. The wood of the linden tree has been used for liver problems, kidney stones, and gout.
Linden flower has been approved by Germany’s Commission E for the treatment of cold symptoms.1 Unfortunately, there is no meaningful evidence that it is helpful for this purpose. Linden is said to promote sweating, and this in turn has long been presumed to be helpful for people with colds; however, there is no meaningful evidence that sweating helps colds, nor that linden promotes sweating.
Other proposed uses of linden also lack scientific support. Two exceedingly preliminary studies that evaluated linden flower for potential sedative or anti-anxiety effects returned contradictory results.2,3 Very weak evidence hints that linden flower might help reduce symptoms of digestive upset 4-6 and protect the liver from toxins.7 One highly preliminary study found possible anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects with linden leaf.8 However, none of this research approaches the level of meaningful evidence. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can show a treatment effective, and none have been performed on linden. (For information on why such studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)
Other proposed benefits of linden that lack any meaningful supporting evidence include the claims that linden flower reduces blood pressure, prevents blood clots, and decreases risk of stroke or heart attack, and that linden bark can treat viral hepatitis.
Linden flower is usually taken at a dose of 2–4 grams daily, often as tea. A daily dose of linden wood is prepared by boiling 15–40 grams in water for several hours.
Linden is widely believed to be a safe herb, but it has not undergone comprehensive safety testing. Numerous texts state that when taken in high doses linden can be toxic to the heart, but this appears to have been a case of authors quoting one another for decades in succession; the original source of this concern is unclear. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:163.
Viola H, Wolfman C, Levi de Stein M, et al. Isolation of pharmacologically active benzodiazepine receptor ligands from Tilia tomentosa (Tiliaceae). J Ethnopharmacol. 1994;44:47–53.
Coleta M, Campos MG, Cotrim MD, et al. Comparative evaluation of Melissa officinalis L., Tilia europaea L., Passiflora edulis Sims. and Hypericum perforatum L. in the elevated plus maze anxiety test. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2001;34(suppl 1):S20–1.
Fiegel VG, Hohensee F. Experimental and clinical screening of a dry, water extract of tiliae libri. Arzneim Forsch. 1963;13:222–5.
Sadek HM. Treatment of hypertonic dyskinesias of Oddi’s sphincter using a wild Tilia suspension. Hospital (Rio J). 1970;77:141–7.
Langer M. Clinical observations on an antispastic factor extracted from Tiliae silvestris alburnum. Clin Ter 1963;25:438–44.
Matsuda H, Ninomiya K, Shimoda H, et al. Hepatoprotective principles from the flowers of Tilia argentea (linden): structure requirements of tiliroside and mechanisms of action. Bioorg Med Chem. 2002;10:707–12.
Toker G, Kupeli E, Memisoglu M, et al. Flavonoids with antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities from the leaves of Tilia argentea (silver linden). J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;95:393–7.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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