by Nicole Perez ©2004/2013


First published in the 'Aromatherapy Times'

Vol 1 no 62 Autumn 2004 -Journal of the International Federation of Aromatherapists

Updated 17 August 2013

       Latin names: Tilia cordata Miller, hybrids Tilia phlatyphyllus Scop., Tilia x europea L. syn. Tilia vulgaris


      Common names: lime tree, linden tree or tilleul (this is not the lime citrus fruit)

      The origin of the name ‘linden or lime’ derives from the Old English and German words Lind or Lynde and linden used to

      mean ‘made from lime wood’. Linden is the root word for the Swedish names of the families Linnaeus (which includes the

      botanist Carl Linnaeus), Lindelius and Tiliander who were all named after a particular legendary lime tree in Sweden.

      Botanical family: Tiliaceae

      The Tilia genus grows throughout the temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere (Northern Europe, North America   

      and Western Asia). The trees grow spontaneously in England and can live a very long time, the longest living tree is

      recorded to be over 700 years old and some trees are known to have lived 1000 years. They can grow up to 40m and

      have always been very popular as ornamental trees and are valued for their lovely honey scent,their profuse foliage that

      gives relief from the sun in the hot summer days and their numerous medicinal benefits.

       Endangered status

      In Britain, lime trees are often found spontaneously growing in ancient woodlands but although fairly common in the  

      past, they have now been given SSSI status (Special Sites of Scientific Interest) due to their worrying decreasing

      number. Shrawley Wood in Worcestershire, one of the ancient largest woodland in the UK and home to bluebells,

      chestnut and small- leaves lime trees (tilia cordata) is now a protected woodland site, see http://www.shrawley.org.uk/.   



Olfaction Therapy

Exploring our inner garden

Odours can evoke or provoke sensations or emotions of such intensity that often take us by surprise. They can suddenly reactivate a past fragment of our life and make us feel its presence as if it was happening right now still. An odour may quietly sneak in as we pass by the bakery or pharmacy and discreetly reconnect us to a certain person we disliked or to a feeling of safety and joy without us knowing where this rain of feelings and memories have actually come from.

If it is possible to be moved by odours in an impromptu way then it is also possible to intently smell certain odours and obtain some benefits from doing it. Essential oils each have their own characteristic scent that can affect us in different ways and although, not everyone respond in the same manner, it is possible within a small range of emotions to predict how a scent may affect us. Some essential oils can induce a mild state of hypnosis or stimulate our active imagination faculty, unfolding a slow motion dreamscape in our mind's eye that we can choose to enter and interact with. This conscious dreaming is an essential function of our psyche because it is a place of healing where we can assess our true feelings and transform whatever weariness of spirit or uneasiness we may have. This is where we can regain control of our emotions by being more aware of them and nurturing ourselves. This process is very important to the modern life person because so much is demanded from all of us and so little time is allowed for personal reflection or contemplation.

Yet, not everyone is able to go alone into this inner journey because sometimes people are too vulnerable or too afraid of being assaulted by our own hurt emotions. Sometimes people need someone else or something else to connect them to their inner self. Essential oils by reaching within help people rediscover their own story, each fragrance represents a scented journey of discovery into one's inner garden. The results of this therapeutic process are not always obvious or immediate but it seems to help many people reconnect what matters to them and conquer some of their fears. Life is always in motion and it is hard to keep up with everything sometimes so perhaps the best way to manage everyday is to adjust and balance ourselves at every step of the journey.

Currently in France, specialist therapists are working in hospitals with coma, severe trauma or Alzheimer disorder patients, using olfaction and essential oils therapy as their main tool to help these patients recall everyday events and names of familiar objects and persons, recover their life memories and for some conquer their sense of disorientation.

What can Linden Blossom Scent do?

Olfaction Therapy – inhaling the scent of linden blossom acts very quickly on the nervous system and calms mental or emotional agitation, decrease hyperactivity, hysteria and anxiety. Its soporific property induces pleasant dreams and restful sleep and helps recalls memories of childhood. Similarly to camomile, it can help people who suffer nightmares and it is a wonderful scent to explore innocence, the inner child, openness, warmth and gentleness

for people who are interested in lucid dreaming, deep relaxation or meditation.

For olfaction therapy, essential oils should not be smelled straight out of the bottle because many scents are very concentrated and too strong for the olfactory cells to detect anything properly.


Myths and traditions associated to Lime Trees

There are many fascinating myths and healing traditions associated with lime trees, some going back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Celtic times and Europe with many especially associated with Scandinavia, Germany, Poland and Austria. The Ancient Greeks were already knowledgeable of many plants and they often named a plant after a divine, heroic or tragic figure and allocated a myth to each plant. These symbolic stories were used as a way to teach what could be learnt from each particular plant. Generally, myths about plants are almost always sublimated tales of deep anger, rejection, love or deep sorrow as felt by the human divine soul. They reveal that subtle spiritual dimension of the medicinal benefits of a plant and the human connection to Nature and healing. It also shows plants as the continuation of life after death and the immortality and rebirth of the soul once the body returns to the earth.

Two Greek myths about lime trees have journeyed to us - the first tells the story of Zeus and Hermes who decided to pay a visit to the land of mortals to see if they were behaving themselves. In disguise, they knocked on many doors and found that no one would give them shelter. Eventually, they came to the house of Philemon and Baukis who welcomed them. To reward them of their generosity, Zeus granted them their wish to remain together forever after they died and transformed Philemon into an Oak tree and Baukis into a tilia (lime tree) so they could be intertwined side by side.  In nature, it is common to find oak trees and limes growing close to each other.

  The second myth is of Philyra, a nymph whose lover was the youngest of the Titans, Kronos. One day the pair were discovered in embrace by his wife Rhea, Kronos instantly transformed himself into a winged stallion to avoid her anger and fled. Philyra was so ashamed when later she gave birth to a child half-horse, half human (it was Chiron the healer who has knowledge of medicinal plants) that she begged Zeus to change her form. He agreed and transformed her into a linden tree.

  The lime tree was also a sacred tree to the Celts and a Holy tree to the Christians.


Symbolism of the Linden Tree


The lime tree is a ‘friendship’ tree that brings sweetness and peace; a ‘justice tree’ because judicial cases used to be heard while the court sat under the lime tree as it was said to inspire fairness and justice; a ‘love tree’ dedicated to the goddess of love; a ‘guardian tree’ as it protects homes, weddings and children and a magical tree as in Germany, Transylvania and Romania lime trees were planted outside houses to prevent witches or the devil from coming in. In Scandinavia, it was forbidden to cut a lime tree as it was the abode of the spirits. What these ancient stories seemed to be really telling us is that a very special spirit inhabits this majestic and legendary tree and that it has much to teach us while we shelter under it and its sweet flowers induce us into a gentle slumber that mends our broken dreams.

Folk Medicine

In folk medicine, because of its heart-shaped leaves the Lime tree falls under the realm of the love goddesses (Aphrodite, Venus, or the Norse goddess Freyja) and was said to cure all manners of heart, sexual and reproductive diseases. In Britain, lime trees were planted by royal decree along many roads to ensure that at time of the harvest its flowers were plentiful as it was an important medicinal remedy and indeed, sitting under a lime tree was believed to cure epilepsy and other nervous illnesses.

Use of Tea in Herbalism

The wood, leaves and flowers have many medicinal properties and the herb tea is used to calm nervousness, ease digestion and induce sleep. In herbalism, Linden flower tea (tilleul) is used for upper and lower respiratory infections, fever, high blood pressure, migraine, digestive spasms, and as a diaphoretic, diuretic and sedative. If you are fortunate to have lime trees near you, the best time to harvest the flowers is during the warm weather immediately after they come into bloom. They can then be left to dry naturally in the shade. Many bees are attracted to the pollen of lime flowers in the early summer and they make a very rare pale honey which has healing properties and is used by itself or in medicinal remedies for coughs, bronchitis and insomnia and as an ingredient of many herbal liquor. Lime tea/tilleul has been used in infusion to help go to sleep for centuries and a brew of linden blossoms and elderflower flowers is one of the most potent sleeping remedy.

As a food medicine

It is also possible to use lime leaves in the same way Greek people make vine leaves. For this, young lime leaves should be picked between April and June. They should first be covered in boiled water until they are soft but not ‘mushy’. They can then be made into little parcels by stuffing them with chopped onions, rice, mushrooms, salt and curly parsley. To cook them, it is best to use an earthen ware and bake them for about 20mn or until they are fully cooked. They then can be eaten with all types of chutney or sauce.

Linden Blossom Hydrolate

A true essential oil of linden blossom is very rare as very little oil can be extracted from the distillation process but it is possible to steam-distilled the blossoms straight after picking them to obtain an aromatic distilled water; this hydrolate is produced mainly in France and Bulgaria.

Aromatherapeutic properties and uses

- It is anti-inflammatory, sedative and is often used for

  indigestion, insomnia and colds and olfaction therapy.


- it helps drain puffiness, is a tonic for sensitive skins and lightens

  skin tone. It is recommended for dry, sensitive or allergic skin,

  dry eczema and psoriasis.

Linden blossoms is added to many skin care facial creams and lotions as it has rejuvenating effect and gives the skin a radiant glow. It is a chief ingredient in many shampoos and hair care products.

It can be sprayed directly on the face and a moisturiser can be applied immediately afterward on humid skin or added to an aqueous cream (15% hydrolat) and applied at night as it will give the skin a refreshed look in the morning.

Extraction/Production of Linden Blossom Essential Oil

The creamy double flowers and leaves from Tilia cordata ­Mill. or Tilia x­vulgaris. are used to produce the Co2 extraction, hydrolate or linden blossom absolute.


Co2 extraction of essential oils

According to some authorities, the advantage of CO2 extraction is that essential oils produced this way are of a higher quality and more potent than steam-distilled essential oils because CO2 can ‘lifts’ more volatile constituents from the plant materials and therefore produce essential oils that are therapeutically superior, that's the theory anyway but not everyone agrees with this. Also, while CO2 evaporates easily and does not leave any sort of residue behind, many aromatherapists are not so happy with the final scent of many essential oils and have often find that the scent of CO2 essential oils becomes quite faint not long after buying them. Additionally, CO2 essential oils are very expansive to produce so it is really a personal choice which essential oils aromatherapists work with and it may depend on whether the therapists value the olfaction therapy aspect of the oils or not.


Absolute extraction

Processing absolutes involve using heated solvent (usually hexane) to separate the volatile oils from plant materials. This gives a ‘concrete’, a semi-solid mixture of 50% plant wax and 50% volatile oil; the concrete is then dissolved in alcohol to remove the waxes and other unwanted plant materials, and finally, the volatile plant oil is separated by evaporation from the alcohol. Depending on how carefully the procedure is conducted, it will result in a more or less pure plant extract but sometimes up to 2% alcohol may still remain in the absolute which makes it impure.  

Linden Blossom absolute

Absolute fragrances have an intense complex scent that is often closer to the volatile oil scent in the plant than the one from the steam distillation of the oil and in the case of linden blossom absolute, the scent is much stronger than the flowers on the tree and is described by the fragrance professionals as intoxicating. Linden blossom absolute, although obtained from plants often contains added synthetics such as lilial (a sensitizer under SCCNFP opinion), cyclamen aldehyde, hydroxycitronellal and synthetic farnesol which is added to imitate the natural farnesol scent present in the flowers but the synthetic product does not compare to the natural original. (ref: ‘Natural Aromatic Materials: Odours and Origins’ by Tony Burfield©2004). 

Main chemical constituent - farnesol

Odour description - warm, honey-like floral, powdery, slightly lemony

Appearance  - clear, viscous liquid

colour- greenish- brown, yellow to pale yellow

Caution: avoid using linden blossom for long periods as it is a suspected sensitizer and may cause irritation to sensitive skins.

       Linden blossom absolute can be used in aqueous creams, lotion and massage oils in the same manner as the hydrolate.


        Author Nicole Perez ©2004/2013