Category Archives: Medicine

The medicine category includes plants, because they have medicinal benefits. It includes traditional medicinal benefits, and modern verified information.

I will try to cite sources where possible, and report my own usage of them, if applicable.

Lime or Linden Tree Flowers – Tilia x europea

As something I’ve been aware of for some time, and looking out for Linden tree (Lime) flowers in the local area; I was pleased to find a big, old Linden tree not far from where I live. And it was positively overloaded with flowers.

Just for clarification, with these trees the name “Lime tree” and “Linden tree” are interchangeable. They are not the tree which bears the lime fruit. Also, I’ve titled this Tilia x europia (common Lime) because that’s the tree I found. It’s equally applicable to Tilia platyphyllos (Large-leaved Lime) and Tilia cordata (Small-leaved, Lime).

The flowers are usually within reaching distance anyway (unless the lower branches have been trimmed), but as an added bonus, this tree was on a slope too, so a lot of branches were at waist height, for easy picking.

Tilia x europea – Common Lime (Linden)

Identification

  • Common Lime is a deciduous, broadleaf tree, native to the UK and quite common.
  • The bark is pale grey/brown and has irregular ridges.
  • It is quite common to find multiple shoots growing out from the base of the tree.
  • Twigs are hairy and brown, but can turn reddish when in the sun.
  • Leaf buds are red with two scales; one small and one large. The buds look a little like a boxing glove.
  • The leaves are dark green and heart shaped, usually six to ten centimetres. The base of the leaf is asymmetrical and the underside has tufts of small white hairs at vein axils.
  • The flowers are white-yellow, five petals, hang in clusters of two to five, hang from a bract, and have both male and female reproductive parts.

Uses

So why am I going on about these Linden tree flowers? Well, in the past, Linden Flowers have been used as a herbal remedy for all kinds of ailments, including high blood pressure, migraine, headaches, digestive complaints, colds, flu, insomnia, liver and gallbladder disease, itchy skin, joint pains and anxiety.

Apparently, during the war, Linden was used to make a soothing, relaxing tea. You can imagine why people might have wanted it then!

Personally, I have been known to suffer from mild anxiety, insomnia (of a kind) and joint pains, so I’ll be giving it a try (after doing my own research).

As I understand it, it also makes a nice drink, and as an occasional thing isn’t likely to do any harm

Warning

As always, you absolutely must do your own research before diving into believing the first thing you read online, and also check with your doctor too. Apparently some people have reported allergies to Linden, but apart from that Linden tea is pretty harmless stuff.

What to do with Linden tree flowers

Make sure that you pick the pale green bract that comes with the flowers – you’ll need it all. Also, pick responsibly. Whilst it’s unlikely that you could over-harvest a tree, if you need a lot, make sure you take small amounts from several trees.

linden tree flower

Next step – either dry it for future use (in the sun on a sheet, in your oven, or in your electric dehydrator), or make a tea from it immediately.

Tea

Put a few handfuls of flowers in a pan with one to two litres of water.

Bring to the boil, cover and remove from the heat, and leave it overnight.

Strain out the blossoms and keep the infusion in the fridge for up to three days. You can drink it cold, or reheat it. You can freeze the tea to keep it for longer, or make it into an elixir (thanks to the ladies at www.handmadeapothecary.co.uk for the idea) by adding 50% spiced rum to use as a cold remedy (take 50mls in hot water and go to bed to sweat it out).

Next steps

Coming soon – I plan to make my linden tree flower tea on video…

Jew’s Ear Mushroom (Auricularia auricula-judae)

The Jew’s Ear fungus is one that I was on the lookout for, and came across it by accident. It’s quite unique looking and has been used in food and medicine for a very long time.

Jew’s Ear on Elder

Other Names

The name “Jew’s Ear” probably came about as a corruption of the original “Judas’ Ear”; Which in turn, was probably from the belief that Judas hung himself from an Elder tree. Nowadays, it is considered not politically correct, so it is often referred to as Jelly Ear or Wood Ear. Other names it has had include: Ear Fungus, Common Ear Fungus, Chinese Fungus, Pig’s Ear, Black Wood Ear, and Tree Ear.

Edibility

Jew’s Ear is safe to eat, and has a mild, even bland flavour. It has a soft, jelly-like texture, although older specimens can become quite chewy.

The fruit is used quite widely in Asian cooking, because although it doesn’t have a strong taste, it absorbs other strong flavours quite readily.

Identifying

In the UK, it is mostly found on Elder trees, but has also been found on Beech, Ash and Spindle Wood. It can grow both singly or in a group and it reacts to the weather; After rain, the fruit swell up and look their most ear-like; After a dry period, the fruit shrivel and are much harder to find.

Jew’s Ear Fungus

They can be pink, pale brown, often with a purplish hint when young, turning dark brown or even black when old. They’re between 3 and 8 cm, and ear shaped, sometimes cup shaped in young fruit. Often covered in downy hairs, sometimes the wrinkles resemble veins, making them even more ear-like.

They usually develop new growth in January, so late winter/early spring can be a good time to look for them; Especially after rain, as they tend to fill out a bit when wet.

Food use

Jew’s Ear has been recorded as having been used for food from ancient times in China, as well as other parts of Asia, Africa, and Poland. It is often cooked in soups and used dried to thicken stews.

Medicinal

This fungus has a much stronger background of folk medicine than as food. It has been used as a poultice to treat eye infections, and as a palliative to treat sore throats. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it would have been boiled in milk or steeped in beer to produce the throat medicine.

In China it was used as a soup to treat colds and fevers, and more recently, in Ghana as a blood tonic.

Some research has been done into the medicinal attributes of Jew’s Ear, the most noteworthy including: It was investigated for use as an anti-tumour, but the glucans extracted from it were ineffective (1). However, a more recent study in the 1980s showed that they were effective (2). A polysaccharide extracted from it has been shown to have a hypoglycemic effect and could be used in treating diabetes. Other chemicals extracted from it have had anticoagulant abilities and have been shown to lower general cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol (3).

Uses of Jew’s Ear

As a “trail food”, that is, something you can pick off a tree, clean and eat, it can be quite a good gum substitute, and the anti-cholesterol properties are not to be ignored.

Dried, it can be added to all sorts of stews and sauces to thicken them, as an un-processed alternative to flours, because of it’s absorbent abilities.

My favourite use, second to chewing on them raw, is as an ingredient in Hot and Sour soup. If I ever find enough of them in a place where I’m allowed to collect them, I’ll let you know how it goes…

References

http://www.wildmushroomsonline.co.uk/Identifying-Edible-Mushrooms-The-Jews-Ear/1.php

  1. Misaki, A.; Kakuta, M.; Sasaki, T.; Tanaka, M.; Miyaji, H. (1981). “Studies on interrelation of structure and antitumor effects of polysaccharides: antitumor action of periodate-modified, branched (1→3)-β-D-glucan of Auricularia auricula-judae, and other polysaccharides containing (1→3)-glycosidic linkages”. Carbohydrate Research. 92 (1): 115–29. doi:10.1016/S0008-6215(00)85986-8. PMID 7196285.
  2. Ikekawa, Tetsuro; Uehara, Nobuaki; Maeda, Yuko; Nakanishi, Miyako; Fukuoka, Fumiko (1968). “Antitumor activity of aqueous extracts of ediblemushrooms”. Cancer Research. 29 (3): 734–5. PMID 5813100.
  3. Yuan, Zuomin; He, Puming; Cui, Jianhui; Takeuchi, Hisanao (1998). “Hypoglycemic effect of water-soluble polysaccharide from Auricularia auricula-judae Quel. on genetically diabetic KK-Ay mice”. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 62 (10): 1898–1903. doi:10.1271/bbb.62.1898. PMID 9836425