Welcome Back, Sweet Violets
Spring is finally here and we’ve earned it! All around the neighborhood our spring friends are greeting us again, making us want to shout “hello!” to the daffodils, robins, tulips, magnolias and especially violets. Each year, as the snow melts into puddles, I look forward to seeing these delicate, purple and white flowers growing along trails and bringing a pop of color to the lawn. Like spring itself, the violets’ energetics (herbal qualities) are sweet, bitter, and cool. Besides being such a darling little flower, it may surprise you to learn that violet has medicinal value as well.
Viola odorata, or Sweet Violet, has been used throughout the ages for its value towards health. In addition to relieving symptoms of numerous ailments, the flowers are believed to lower blood pressure. The plant’s aerial parts have been used for centuries as a blood purifier because violet stimulates the removal of waste and toxins from the blood.
The leaf of the violet, can be used as a remedy to relieve pain and soothe nerves. Furthermore, the violet leaf helps relieve headaches and pains in the limbs and joints. Violet also alleviates symptoms associated with sleeplessness, and insomnia, anxiety, hysteria, lamenting, and other nervous conditions.
A layman recipe for those dealing with heavy grief, is to steep the flowers in honey; making a medicinal syrup. The modern herbalist uses violet flower tincture (alcohol extraction) as an effective expectorant to clear upper respiratory phlegm and alleviate chronic, dry coughs; which makes violet an effective aide in treating bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma.
The violet leaf is believed to improve the body’s resistance to disease and infection, internally and externally. For example, in the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen applied violet salve to dissolve lumps and cysts, which is still an effective remedy today. The leaf is soothing, cooling, and anti-inflammatory; which makes it an effective first aid remedy for hot, inflamed skin conditions. A macerated violet leaf poultice on the affected area can help alleviate abscesses, pimples, psoriasis, eczema, acne or other hot skin conditions. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends drinking both the violet leaf tea and using the leaf poultice to reduce lumps in the breast.
Violet has affinity for several organ systems, including: the lungs, stomach, liver, heart, and skin. The energetics of the violet leaf: cooling, soothing and demulcent, and anti-inflammatory. Other energetics associated with violet are: antipyretic (fever reducer), alterative (body/blood tonic), antispasmodic, anodyne (nerve pain reliever), aperient (laxative), vulnerary (wound healing), expectorant, anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-scrofulous (tuberculous of the skin), anti-tussive (cough suppressant), cathartic (accelerates defecation), sudorific (induces sweating), diuretic, emetic (induces vomiting with large dose), lymphatic (stimulates lymph circulation), emollient (softens skin), nervine (calms nerves), and refrigerant (cools heat).
This spring, you can make your own tinctures by gathering unsprayed violet leaves and flowers and extracting their medicine in alcohol. Our Human Nature office, also has 1 oz tincture bottles of Violet from Herb Pharm available for purchase. Violet leaves can be used as a poultice for the skin, as needed, throughout the summer—think bug bites and skin rashes. In addition to the numerous health benefits the violet offers, the leaves and flowers are also edible, so you can use them to brighten up a spring salad.
Erin Liljegren May 2014
Godino, Jessica. Violet. 2002. Wise Woman Herbals Website: http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_wisewoman3e.htm
Grieve, Maude. Violet, Sweet. A Modern Herbal. https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vioswe12.html
Tierra, C.A., ND, Michael. Planetary Herbology. Lotus Press: Twin Lakes, WI. 1988. pp. 183-84
Weed, Susun. Nourishing and Tonifying Herbs: Nourishing Herbal Infusions. 2007. Wise Women Herbals Website: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/September08/anti-cancer.htm