sweet violet flower large Violet

Violet | Viola odorata

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include sweet violet, wood violet, common violet, blue violet.
 
Sweet violets are a herbaceous perennial (whole plant dies back in winter then re-emerges in spring) belonging to the Violaceae family that flower from mid spring and well into summer in some cases. Their native range includes the UK, mainland Europe and Asia and is an introduction in America and Australia where they prefer a shady and slightly damp spot. The plants are low growing (around 6 inches high) and form clumps of heart shaped leaves with small serrations along their leaf edges. The flower colour ranges from deep purple to blue and less common,  pink yellow and white. The leaves and flowers of the sweet violet emerge from a basal rosette and they spread by above ground runners and by seed.
There are around 400 different species of violas but the plants most often used in herbal medicine (and that most scientific studies are based on) are the Viola odorata or sweet violet. The heartsease or wild pansy (Viola tricolour), also a very popular therapeutic medicinal viola, will have its own page eventually.
The 'sweet violets' have a beautiful uplifting fragrance whereas the 'dog violets' have no discernible scent and 'wild pansies' tend to have a mixed variety of petal colours on the same plant. Sweet violet flowers have a quirky effect on our sense of smell as referenced by Shakespeare - 'Sweet, not lasting. The perfume and suppliance of a minute, no more'. The flowers contain Ionone, which after a few deep sniffs, dulls the olfactory nerves. No matter how hard you sniff, the initial perfume seems to vanish!

Violet leaf powder is available to buy in our herbal shop.

 


harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

Firstly, find the correct plant, there are a great many violets in the UK, many are escapees from gardens and are cross breeds of various cultivars etc. The easiest way to identify sweet violet is to first smell the flowers! If it has a definite parma violet like scent then there is a good chance it is a sweet violet as it is the only UK native fragrant violet.
The leaves are often used but the flowers also have medicinal properties and are edible. Ideally, to get a good range of medicinal ingredients and actions, harvest the whole plant (leaves, stems and flowers) when in flower just above the ground, leaving the roots intact as the plant will grow again the same year if taken early in its growing season. Discard any flowers that have gone over or gone to seed.
 The flowers are edible and can be added to salads, smoothies and the like but can also be made into delicious jams, jellies, syrups, vinegars, oils,  butters, creams, wines etc.
 
Pretty much all varieties of viola flowers are edible but try and get Viola odorata leaf if you plan on using as medicine, if in doubt buy it in!
 
 Seeds and roots of Viola odorata do have some medicinal properties but both have toxicity so unless you have some very good info on uses and dosage for these parts, stick to leaves and flowers.
 
 
 Violet leaf powder is available to buy in our herbal shop.

 


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Sweet violet flowers and leaves have been in use as a medicine around the world for centuries and prized for their various therapeutic properties. They may be small but they are very impressive with their exquisite beauty, intoxicating fragrance and plethora of medicinal actions including mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, diuretic, anti-cancer, decongestant, antihypertensive, anti-lipemic (reducing blood lipids/fats), diaphoretic, pre-anesthetic, antipyretic, anti-fungal, mildly laxative as well as having positive effects on body-weight reduction. Chemical constituents include salicylic acid, mucilage, vitamin C, essential oils, glycosides, cyclocides, anthrocyanins and are especially rich in carotenes and carotenoids. Here is a comprehensive list of sweet violet constituents and their applications.

Violet leaf is particularly suited to conditions involving dry atrophied tissues (degeneration and lack of function) and stagnation.

 

Cancers (breast cancer in particular) and other tumours. Sweet violet leaves contain substances called cyclotides which make cancer cell membranes rupture, leak their contents and subsequently die. Besides having this powerful cancer cell killing action on their own, violet leaves can also be used alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy as they render cancer cells much more permeable and therefore more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy, link here. Violet leaf has also shown an ability to cause cell death of cervical cancer cells, link here. Cancer of the throat and mouth have also been helped with violet leaf tea and many cancer sufferers have found pain relief from drinking the tea. Violet poultices and pastes can be used externally for cancers of the skin or near the surface.

 

Sweet violet has the reputation from old herbals as being a 'blood purifier' and is well thought of as a spring tonic herb, to help clear away the thickness and stodginess of a winter diet and lifestyle. It is well known to herbalists as a deep yet gentle lymphatic cleanser, helping the body to efficiently remove waste from the system.

 

Violet leaves will help to decongest and dissolve lumps and congestion anywhere in the body such as in blocked salivary glands, swollen glands in the neck and throat, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovaries and cysts and boils generally, breast lumps (tea and poultice), mastitis, enlarged spleen and many chronic and stubborn skin conditions such as impetigo. Childhood diseases such as mumps, chickenpox and measles could also benefit from violet leaf tea - soothing itching, dispersing hard swellings and cooling heat.

 

Violet leaves are often used for their mucilaginous, cooling and hydrating nature. They will help in fevers and dry tissue states, cool hot flushes, soothe irritated mucous membranes and dry skin as well as dry constipation and even the burning pain of cystitis.

 

Perhaps as a result of its mucilage and sedative properties, it is used in Ayurvedic medicine for whooping cough and has a good reputation against any dry hacking cough. The flowers and leaves appear to have an affinity for conditions of the lungs and respiratory system and can be used in bronchitis, sore throat, dry mouth and nose, dry sinus congestion, hoarseness of voice, symptoms of common cold etc.

Has a long history of use in Switzerland in angina and for headaches, migraine and as a calming nerve tonic in Persian medicine. For headaches, make a strong tea and soak a cloth in the infusion before applying to the forehead.

Sweet violet also possesses potent anti-inflammatory actions to equal the action of corticosteroids but without the side effects as shown in this research abstract.    

 

Sweet violet leaves have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal actions.

Has a protective effect on liver cells, especially damage caused by alcohol consumption.

 

Sweet violet flowers are often used in chronic insomnia due to their sedative and moistening effects. Traditional Iranian medicine likes to use violet flowers infused in almond oil (one part violet flowers to 2 parts almond oil) as nasal drops before bed, 2 drops in each nostril. Read a recent study on this here. A handful of flowers can also be added to baths to induce restfullness and bring on a peaceful sleep.

 

High blood pressure can be lowered with violet leaf tea as it dilates blood vessels. Sweet violet also reduces circulating fats and can aid in cholesterol reduction and weight loss in those consuming a high fat diet. Link to study here.

 

Sweet violet leaves are traditionally used in some Asian countries as a liver protector. Studies have shown that they are successful in protecting the liver from the harmful effects of medicines such as paracetamol. A tea of the leaves significantly reduces the inflammation and cell death of liver cells that drugs such as paracetamol and some cancer medications, link here.

 

On an emotional level, violets are used to help dispel shyness (shrinking violets!) and to aid and calm an emotionally troubled heart and also to cool heated emotions such as anger. I personally feel it softens a hard heart too - "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it" (Mark Twain).

 

A link to a lovely informative article on sweet violet including a violet honey syrup recipe suitable for children.

A link to an in depth analysis of Violata odoratas' chemical constituents and how they affect health is found here.

Another link to a great article on sweet violet uses, including many other useful links to violet info is here.

 

dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Generally considered a safe herb

 

Adult 

 

Dried herb: 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb, add boiling water and infuse for 15 minutes. Drink 3 cups daily.

Tincture: 2ml up to 3 times daily.

Stock obtained from medicinal herb suppliers are often leaf only but you can harvest your own supply of flowers from the wild or the garden and use separately or add to the leaves.

 

Children

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
 
 
 
 
 

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