Linden or Lime Blossom

Linden or Lime Tree Blossom

Across Eastern Europe and Germany the Lime Tree or Linden Tree was a sacred or holy tree. Groves were seen as meeting places for cultural and judicial meeting places. Lies should never be told beneath a Lime tree! It is seen as a feminine tree associated with the Norse Freya and the Baltic Laime goddesses of love, fertility, battle and judgement. Be that as it may the Lime tree has many values in the world of today.

At the outset we must not confuse this tree with the lime fruit from the Citrus family. This is the genus Tilia with numerous species but here we are concerned primarily with the European species.

Lime or Linden trees have many values and uses. Similar to Oaks in that they are seen which as a host tree for biodiversity. Linden supports a huge number of insect species. The Lime blossom and leaves are like a magnet for numerous aphids and the blossom and aphid residue not only attracts ants but also bees whilst the leaves support many caterpillars and mites. This population makes the tree a favourite hunting ground for insect seeking birds. The wood is easy to work and turn and provides a good tone to musical instruments.

Herbalists have long used the leaves and flowers in therapeutic tinctures, teas or tisanes. Since the Middle Ages, the flowers of the linden tree have been recorded for use to promote sweating so sweating out the effects of flu, coughs, and colds. The flowers have been used in teas and infusions as a relaxing and enjoyable drink but also to specifically treat nervous tension and depression. Then of course the fragrance industry extracts an absolute of the flowers used in perfumery. 

In aromatherapy it is the floral water of hydrolat that one mostly sees for sale. The honey sweet scent of linden blossom promotes stillness or calmness, and the senses react by relaxing the nervous system. As with most floral waters or hydrolats, it softens sensitive skin and brings skin a feeling of light freshness. The light scent of hydrolat certainly has a relaxing and soothing effect on the mind which with its soothing effects will also benefit the delicate skin of babies and children especially if prone to irritation or eczema.

Now I have quite a large lime tree in the garden. Yes it has a brief moment or aroma but the most telling aspect is the sticky drops that fall from the leaves. That puts the word reins into my head and that leads to asking why I do not see linden essential oils. If there is a hydrolat what happens to the essential oil?

The first time I saw lime flowers being picked in France was when I saw ladder set against trees and people picking by hand, a real artisan affair. Later I saw flowers being sun dried or hung on hessian simply in a warm barn. Mostly I saw large under heating warm air dryers.    

When the ambient temperature is high, the scent is very fleetingly light, sweet yet honey dense, and a dense nectar also runs and coats the leaves closest to the flowers. Where I live the ambient temperature rarely reaches that of the South of France hence as mentioned above I get a nectar flow but  the aroma is less obvious than warmer climes or days.  

When it comes to distillation it is almost unanimously understood that high heat destroys many of the more delicate, sweetest, lightest volatiles. To distil linden inside an alembic would basically destroy almost all of the essence that we equate with the smell or scent of linden. In order to accurately transfer the scent of linden we need to spend a lot of time thinking about the flowers and get creative with how we might coax the shy perfume forth. There are special low temperature or low pressure stills yet any yield is low and still not representative of the original. Some artisan material may come to market but mostly Linden is only available as an absolute.

Linden – also known as ‘tilleul’ in perfumery – can be extracted from the dried flowers By C)2 0r as an absolute, it’s usually recreated synthetically:  beautifully sweet, exhilarating, bright as a summer’s day straight from the laboratory!

Therefore you are not going to easily find genuine Linden essential oil and if you do the search may be firstly questionable and secondly the aroma not as expected. Look out for the adulteration of absolutes. The absolute is difficult to handle this and resinous so suppliers will often ‘cut’ the absolute with Dipropylene Glycol (DPG) 50% or even more. Some will tell you this others will not. This very common petrochemical is the basis for many perfumes acting as a solvent. Does this have a role in natural aromatherapy undoubtedly no but for commercial aromatherapy it will be common place. 

So when buying Linden it can be likened to Melissa or Rose you have to be careful if it is liquid then it has a solvent. The term oil can mean many things i.e. Rose oil – what can that mean to the unwary. Or Melisse de pays which can mean a variety of concoctions. 

At Fragrant Earth we decided that our customers prefer natural to a half way compromise so we went back to our forebears for inspiration. Artisan aromatherapists generally favour as per the teachings of Margaret Maury, essential oils to be diluted into carrier oils for massage. In medical schools teaching the history and philosophy of medicine, the name Galen often arises. Galen was a physician, writer and philosopher who became the most famous doctor in the Roman Empire and whose theories dominated European medicine for 1,500 years. Still today any drug prepared from plant or animal tissue, especially vegetables, rather than being chemically synthesized can be called a Galenical. His extracts were often aromatic and the solvent wines or oils notably olive oi.

Fragrant Earth has promoted properly made maceration  of herbs in oils for many years. These slow extraction methods including solarisation. They take time and time is important t and like most commercialised business short cuts can be made by using high speed screw expression. At Fragrant Earth we take time not only to retain the lightest volatiles but to retain all the other fat soluble properties of the material such as flavonoids and other vitamins.

Our Linden Blossom Herbal Oil is a wonder and it smells as it should! Why pay a nonsensical price for something like a diluted absolute when you can enjoy the benefit of a true Galenical extraction with the traditional healing properties demanded by true natural artisan aromatherapists.  

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