Linden tea: are we sure it is good for us?
These days during your walks in the countryside you may have noticed a wonderful scent that captures your soul, leaving a smile of harmony on your lips: most likely you are passing under a linden tree.
Oh yes, we have officially entered the balsamic period of this lovely tree, definitely appreciated all over the world. Don’t be misled by its inebriating scent, it is not only intended for cosmetics or aromatherapy; Linden is mainly used for its phytotherapeutic qualities, which we all have to take advantage of.
Although there is only limited clinical information about it, linden has been used for centuries for its curative properties, as it contains several medicinal constituents: such as quercitin, rutin, campferol, volatile oils, mucilage, p-cumaric acid and flavonoids. The latter two are considered responsible for the diaphoretic prerogatives of linden (they induce perspiration). It is antibacterial and calming, that’s why it is used for the treatment of colds or respiratory tract infections, cough or sore throat; given its sedative and anxiolytic effect it can be indicated for the treatment of nervous palpitations and high blood pressure, but also to give relief to epidermal itching.
Since mankind has known its benefits since the Middle Ages, I assume that you too are no exception, which is why I would like to talk to you about another aspect: when we catch a cold and drink a linden tea, are we sure it is good for us?
This question has two answers:
– Yes, if we drink the loose herbal tea.
– Probably No, if we drink those in teabags, when these do not comply with certain important health criteria.
And already, for some decades in the Western part of the World, when we have a hint of cough or sore throat, we follow our collective memory, but up to a certain point.
As in every area, the food industry has “taught” us to trade comfort for health.
Practical and handy, indisputably: we insert the teabag into the cup, add hot water and wait only 3-5 minutes without dirtying any other tools such as teapots and strainers, and all without running the risk of clogging the sink drain.
However, comfort often comes at a price, in this case not very cheap (it is true that the cost of loose leaves practically doubles if purchased in a single serving teabag, but it is not the most important problem).
These bags are made from various materials such as paper, hemp, bamboo fibers, abaca, silk gauze, nylon, PVC, thermoplastic, polypropylene, cellulose, etc.
And some of them, when used at high temperatures typical of an herbal tea or tea, could not be used in the same sentence together with the word “health”.
I am referring in particular to those flamboyant teabags made of nylon and Pet, responsible for an impressive release of plastics!
A research conducted in 2019 found that such teabags, once immersed in boiling water, release, in addition to the desired medicinal constituents, about 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics(1): a far higher number than other foods packed with plastics, such as water or beverages in general, among other things they are already on the top in the ranking.
Some big giants in the sector, faced with a risk that can no longer be concealed, reassure us that they use “much less” microplastics for their products; or they use a plastic that is not oil-based, but new substances – which they call bio-plastics... which is certainly not enough to make us feel good. Because we don’t know their long-term effect on the human body, we don’t know if they can actually cause cancer or other auto-immune diseases; and not knowing doesn’t mean that the risks don’t exist.
One thing we are certain of, however: micro and nanoplastics irreversibly damage aquatic life, as well as having a very limited biodegradability.
So in my opinion there is no reason to insist on buying them.
Now let’s look at the most popular and basic alternative, for many people the only way to enjoy hot drinks: paper bags.
They are less harmful than plastic ones, but it is a relative “less”; since most brands on the market use a glue containing the dreaded particles to seal the paper layers. Worse, the formulation of some brands may involve the use of bleaching agents that can release dioxin or epichlorodrine(2): the latter substance, useful to give a more stable and resistant form to the sachet, is carcinogenic and present in pesticides and epoxy resin(3).
Finished? Not at all.
How have the teabags been closed with? There are three options: glue (thermoplastic materials or those of the new generation made of corn starch), metal staple (contamination with toxic metals – taste alteration) and stitching (expensive but remains the best method for health).
At the end of all these considerations I would like to add that our health is directly linked to that of the planet: it must be taken into account that a little comfort could damage too the environment in a significant way; just think about how much material is used to pack only 2 grams of product, and now imagine the amount of packaging multiplying it on a planetary level! Do you believe that all this cocktail of different materials is recycled correctly? You already know the answer, but maybe not the solution.
So what to do? Do we have to use medicines to find the remedy for the cold? Of course not: let’s adopt “the old good habits” again; let’s abandon comfort (very relative, in the end); let’s reduce consumerism and regain the benefits of our most beloved herbs and teas, using them in a loose form.
In this way we could finally give relief to the sore throat without risking damage to the neurological and immune system, the environment, not to mention worsening household expenses.
Therefore use bulk products and take advantage of these weeks of June and July to pick the blossoms and leaves of Linden tree in the full bloom of their goodness. Then you will only have to be patient for about ten days in order to dry them completely before putting them in jars. I recommend doing the procedure not under the sun but in the shade, so as not to degrade their medicinal properties.
How to make a good Linden tea
Anyone can do it well, you just have to pour 1-2 tablespoons of leaves and/or blossoms (after washing them first under running water) into a cup of boiling water; wait a few minutes, filter and drink it hot or cold, with or without honey, that’s all. All you need is a teapot (or container), a strainer and the herbal tea you prefer
Note: It is always best not to exaggerate with the consumption, as for any plant with phytotherapeutic characteristics; the recommended daily dose is between 2 and 4 grams of dried blossoms. According to German clinical research, its consumption is not recommended for people with heart disease, as Linden blossoms are considered “cardiotoxic”(4).
(1): Plastic Teabags Release Billions of Microparticles and Nanoparticles into Tea, by Laura M. Hernandez, Elvis Genbo Xu, Hans C. E. Larsson, Rui Tahara, Vimal B. Maisuria and Nathalie Tufenkji. Environmental Science & Technology. DOI 10.1021/acs.est.9b02540
(2): Schwalfenberg, G., Genuis, S. J., & Rodushkin, I. (2013). The Benefits and Risks of Consuming Brewed Tea: Beware of Toxic Element Contamination. Journal of Toxicology, 2013, 370460. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/370460
(3): Göen, T., Bader, M., Drexler, H., Hartwig, A. and (2018). 1‐Chloro‐2,3‐epoxypropane (Epichlorohydrin) [BAT Value Documentation, 2017]. In The MAK‐Collection for Occupational Health and Safety (eds and ). doi:10.1002/3527600418.bb10689e2318
(4): Blumenthal M, ed. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston, MA: American Botanicals Council; 2000