Super-secret magic linden tea: An herbal treatment for colds and flu 5

I had planned a very different post for today, but days of virus-induced fever, sore throat and general “feeling crappiness” had me reaching for my secret weapon, a linden tea blend I bought at a street market in Turkey years ago. I know what you’re thinking, but this is no “I-can-buy-that-at-the-grocery-store” kind of thing, so we’re going to play a round of “Do you know me?”

Random picture of a saz player in an Istanbul rug shop circa 1997. Completely unrelated to the post, yet still cool.

Most importantly, this tea isn’t all ground up and wrapped in porous, bleached paper that you can dunk in a cup and nuke in the microwave. At the market in Southeast Turkey where I bought it, row after row of open barrels displayed what seemed to me all the herbs and spices in the world. You could buy the individual ingredients for this tea or you could buy it already blended. After trying it once, I went back and stocked up. The problem is that now, 12 years later, my stash is running low and that street market isn’t exactly around the corner anymore. I’ve searched and searched, but can’t find this blend available anywhere, not even online. That’s the “super-secret” part of it. I’m almost resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to collect the raw ingredients and blend it myself.

So what is it? I’m only half-kidding when I call it magic because it has worked like a charm every time I’ve had a cold or the flu. A Turkish friend told me that it had been a well-known remedy for generations at least and gave me the Turkish-language names of the ingredients all those years ago. Unfortunately, I only wrote down the English name of the blend (just plain old “linden tea”). It supposedly consists of linden flowers, dog rose (though I’m not sure if that’s the flowers or the hips), sage, hollyhock, cinnamon bark, cloves, licorice root, daisies and wild chicory root. Some of those ingredients are easily identifiable and some aren’t. Frankly, I don’t see anything in it that looks like licorice root or cloves, and I don’t remember if perhaps they were in there and I used them all. So part of my motivation for writing this post is the selfish hope that someone out there will recognize the blend and tell me where I can find it, what the real Turkish name is or where I can get some of the harder-to-find ingredients like dog rose and hollyhock. Here’s a picture:

To make it, you fill a pot with water, put in two big handfuls of the dried blend, bring it to a simmer and let it steep just like any other tea. Then you can ladle it through a strainer and drink. It tastes great on its own, fruity and cinnamon-y, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to add a little honey or sugar. It makes about a gallon, so I keep jars ready to pour it into so I can have a supply for the entire time I’m sick.

Before I get to why it works, let me describe what it does. Today I drank about three cups while I was researching it. My previously dry, raw throat now feels properly moist and any lingering pain is the “in-the-process-of-healing” variety. I was starting to cough last night, but haven’t once in the last several hours and my sinuses, which were starting to get congested, feel clear. I am a little sleepy, and I’ve noticed that the sicker I am, the sleepier I get after drinking the tea.

I would think the longer you steep the tea, the more of the healing compounds you get.

Aside from the selfish motive of wanting to find more of it, I’m also just really interested, as The Organic Adventurer, in natural remedies. Maybe it was being around a Grandma who always kept aloe around for cuts and told us to drink ginger ale for upset tummies among other “grandma fixes,” but I think it’s incredibly interesting to pay attention to what nature can do, especially in our pill-popping age. After researching the uses of the tea ingredients in herbal medicine, it makes perfect sense that this tea should be so effective with the flu and colds:

Linden– induces low-grade fever to aide the body in fighting infection; expectorant; relieves throat irritation and nasal congestion; has a sedative effect

Dog rose – vitamin C…’nuff said.

Sage – antiseptic; fever reducer; decongestant; antioxidant; antimicrobial

Hollyhock – fever reliever; expectorant

Cinnamon – antibacterial; antifungal

Cloves – analgesic; antiseptic

Licorice root – anti-inflammatory; expectorant; cough suppressant

Daisy – expectorant; astringent

Wild chicory – anti-inflammatory; hepato (liver) protectant; deacidifier

It actually seems like a little bit of overkill to have all of those ingredients in there, some of which seem to do the same thing, but perhaps it’s the way they work together that makes it so effective. Either way, there’s no telling how long this tea has been used in such an ancient culture as that of Turkey, and there’s a very good reason for that—it works.

If you’ve ever heard of this tea, know a good source of all manner of herbs and spices, or just have a good home or herbal remedy story to share, I hope you’ll comment!

P.S. I am not a professional herbalist, and this post was in no way, shape or form intended to be medical advice. Most herbs, spices, barks and flowers used for herbal remedies can have serious side effects if used incorrectly. As with any medicine, one should always be very cautious and educated when it comes to herbal remedies.

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5 thoughts on “Super-secret magic linden tea: An herbal treatment for colds and flu

  • Katie

    Did you ever find the proper blend for your tea? I have a similar story. I was starting to get sick during a 2-week tour of Turkey in 2012. At a spice market in Antalya, I found a blend the shopkeeper assured me would be perfect for my cough, although she didn’t know the English names of the ingredients. It was a miracle. Almost immediately, the congestion started breaking up but without drying out my chest the way OTC cough medicines do. And, it soothed my sore throat to boot, when the OTC stuff has only ever made it worse. I have just a tiny bit left that I’m afraid to use for fear of never being able to find it again (and my dream of making a friend with unlimited free access to a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer is fading fast). Mine looks different than your picture, though – it’s ground into a powder and dissolves in hot water. Also, it has a definite pink color to it. I’ve been able to recognize the flavors of clove and cinnamon, but I’m not sure I’d even know what linden tastes like. Any thoughts???

    • The Organic Adventurer Post author

      Hi Katie! Thanks for visiting The Organic Adventurer and for commenting! It’s amazing how much folk remedy knowledge is retained in other cultures…and that it works, isn’t it?! I don’t really have an update to the tea saga. No one has come forth with a source for the blended version, so I’ve resigned myself to buying the individual ingredients and blending it myself.

      As for what you’re looking for specifically, it reminds me of an “instant tea” that was pretty popular in Turkey, especially with kids and the Americans. It was very fine, pinkish crystals, almost like sugar, that would dissolve in hot water. It was “elma chai,” or “apple tea,” and it definitely had an apple flavor, not really the flavor you’re describing, although there could have been other flavors I just didn’t come across.

      There is a popular brand called Dogadan (the “g” is a g-breve, but the first time I tried to type that it exited me from the page and I lost my reply, so not going to try that again!) that sells all kinds of bagged teas, including a clove and cinnamon tea. The flavor is called Tarçin Karanfil (cinnamon clove). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if those two items helped you; cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant that has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and while clove shares those properties, it is also an expectorant (so it would have helped you cough up the gunk) and an analgesic (pain reliever)*. That’s a pretty powerful combination!

      Again, thanks for visiting and sharing your story, Katie! And if you make it back to Turkey, bring us all back some Magic Linden Tea! 🙂

      P.S. I, too, dream of making a friend with unlimited free access to a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, so if you meet such a person, introduce me!!

      *(Inevitable disclaimer: These comments are NOT intended as medical advice. Many herbs, spices, etc. have contraindications and should not be consumed therapeutically unless under the supervision of a medical professional.)