Lime was formerly known as the linden tree, so beloved by poets. Linden tea was a popular digestive tea for many years in France; ‘tilleul’, made with dried lime flowers, is a well-known after dinner drink.
The lime tree, tilia europaea, tall and elegant with lovely fragrant blossoms, is an attractive sight in the countryside and when in flower the air round the tree is heavy with its sweet scent. The pale yellow flowers bloom in June and July, growing on short stems in clusters of five and drooping down amongst the leaves; they attract the bees in great numbers. The leaves are heart-shaped, dark green above and pale underneath, and are connected to the main stalk by a long narrow bract. Lime trees have traditionally been widely cultivated in parks and gardens and avenues of limes are a familiar sight.
Lime trees take many years to attain their full height and it is a long time before a new tree comes into flower. Lime trees are usually propagated by layering; the layered branch, once rooted, can be severed from the parent tree and planted in rich moist soil.
The flowers are the only part of the tree used in medicines and for beauty care in the home. Lime flowers have a soft sweet aromatic flavour which is distinctive and pleasant. The flowers can be used fresh or dried. For drying gather the flowers and bracts together at the end of June and beginning of July. They are then dried and stored in the usual way.
Lime flowers calm the nerves and digestion, help to clear catarrh, increase perspiration and bring down the temperature. Lime flower tea is good for sleeplessness when taken hot last thing at night. A cup of warm lime flower tea is also said to be helpful for migraine and can be taken once or twice a day after meals on a regular basis. This should reduce the severity of a migraine.
* To make lime flower tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried flowers. Cover and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain and add honey to sweeten to taste, although the tea is already pleasant to drink without extra sweetening. For a feverish cold or influenza the infusion should be taken as hot as possible.
For a head cold accompanied by a headache lime flower tea acts like an aspirin, relieving the symptoms and soothing the head. It will help to ease a harsh cough, loosening the mucus and is, at the same time, a soothing and pleasant drink to take. For digestive troubles a cup of hot lime flower tea will be helpful taken after meals.
To clear a head cold or chronic catarrh an inhalation can be an effective treatment.
* To make an inhalation: Use a handful of each of the following flowering herbs: lime flowers, sage, elder- flowers and peppermint. Place the herbs in a china bowl. Pour 6 cups of boiling water over the herbs and immediately cover both head and bowl with a large towel to stop any steam escaping. If the heat and steam become overpowering the towel can be partially lifted. Inhale the steam for 10-15 minutes or until all the steam has disappeared. Afterwards wipe the face and neck with cold water. It is important after this treatment not to go outside but to rest and relax in bed in the warmth. An inhalation can be used once a day until relief is felt.
In the spring when the leaves first appear, lime leaf tea can be made to help relieve those who are suffering from nerves.
* To make lime leaf tea: Pick only the round, tender leaves and chop them finely. Pour ½ cup of hot water over the leaves and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain carefully and drink while still hot.
Lime flower is one of the most helpful cosmetic herbs. It has slight bleaching properties and can therefore help to fade freckles.
* To make a skin lotion: Pour ½ cup of boiling water on to a small handful of lime flowers. Leave until cold before straining into a screwtop bottle. Dab the lotion on to the freckles night and morning. Make fresh lotion each day.
Lime flower lotion is good for the skin, stimulating the circulation. Used as a compress it can also heIp to smooth out tiny wrinkles. Dip a large piece of lint into the lotion and cover the face, pressing the lint gently down on to the skin. Relax for I 0- I 5 minutes. Alternatively pat the lotion on to the wrinkles.
A facial steam is an effective way to cope with black- heads by cleaning the pores.
* To make a lime flower facial steam: Pour boiling water on to lime flowers in a bowl and cover head and bowl with a towel. Steam the face for 10 minutes. Clean the face with a cotton wool pad or ball and close the pores using cold water.
A strong infusion of lime flowers added to the bath water is delightfully fragrant and relaxing to those who are weary after a long day.
* To make a strong infusion: Pour 4 cups of boiling water on to 3 large handfuls of lime flowers and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the infusion and add directly to the bath water.
For tired, swollen and aching feet and ankles a lime flower footbath is very helpful.
* To make a footbath: Prepare 2 bowls each large and deep enough to hold the feet comfortably. Fill I bowl with tepid water and pour a strong hot infusion of lime flower into the other. Plunge feet and ankles into the hot lime flower infusion for 5-10 minutes. Then dip them quickly into the tepid water bowl. Repeat the treatment then dry the feet carefully. Relax lying down for a short while with the feet propped up higher than the head.
Lime water hair rinse used regularly will help to keep the hair soft and in good condition.
* To make a hair rinse: Hake a strong infusion of lime flowers, leaving it to infuse for 5—10 minutes before straining into a jug. Shampoo the hair and rinse well in water. Finally pour the lime flower rinse over the hair 2-3 times. This will leave the hair shining and improve its texture.