Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
American basswood, Tilia americana (formerly Tilia caroliniana, T. glabra, T. heterophylla and T. mexicana), is also sometimes called American lime, American linden, basswood, bast tree, beetree, Caroline basswood, linden, Mexican basswood, spoonwood, white basswood and wycopy. It’s closely related to the common lime/linden, the small leaved lime/linden and the large leaved lime/linden but not to the (citrus fruit) lime tree, Citrus aurantifolia.
American basswood is a full size tree, so if you don’t already have one, it’s probably going to take quite a while to grow one – though you may be able to source a sapling from a local grower. It’s not terribly fussy about location, dappled woodland shade or full sun is fine, and soil is not a problem so long as it’s moist. It won’t put up with maritime winds.
Parts used in medicine are the inner bark, bark, roots, leaves and flowers.
You can make a standard infusion of bark, inner bark, newly opened flowers, leaves, or flowers and leaves together. Use 30g (1 ounce) of bark, inner bark or leaves, 15g (a half ounce) of flowers or 15g (a half ounce) each of flowers and leaves to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water as appropriate. Allow to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours, then strain off the solid matter and discard.
A decoction can be made with roots and bark either together or alone. In each case, use 30g (1 ounce) of material to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half then strain off and discard the solids.
To make a bark poultice, make a decoction of bark in the same way and using the same quantities, mixing this with cornmeal after straining while it’s still hot.
A poultice of leaves is made by mixing the leaves with very hot water.
Poultices are wrapped in fine bandage and applied to the area to be treated, refreshed in hot water as required.
All these remedies are used for different purposes:
An inner bark infusion is used externally for burns and irritated skin and internally for dysentery, heartburn (reflux) and lung complaints.
Use a bark infusion as a diuretic. A bark poultice can be used to draw out boils.
A flower infusion is used for arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), feverish colds, bronchial congestion, migraine and nervous stomach.
An infusion of leaves is used externally as an eyewash. A leaf poultice can be used to treat broken bones, burns, scalds and to reduce swellings.
An infusion of leaves and flowers is taken for colds, coughs, nervous headache, indigestion and sore throat.
A decoction of roots and bark is taken for internal bleeding.
A decoction of the roots is used to expel internal parasites.
If you have this in your garden, or you intend to grow one, please ensure that you use organic methods, to avoid the corruption of the essential constituents by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening methods, visit the Gardenzone.