Sunday, February 22, 2015
Violets: Viola Adunca, Viola Canadensis, Viola Nuttallii, Viola Orbiculata, Viola Odorata, Viola Tricolor, Viola Beckwithii, Viola Purpurea, Viola Arvensis, Viola Diffusa, etc.
Also known as: hearts ease, pansy, johnny jump ups, wild okra, field pansy, bonewort, cuddle me, constancy, love-lies-bleeding, etc.
Parts Used: leaves, flowers, roots
Meridians/Organs affected: skin, bone, respiratory, capillaries, blood, stomach, liver, heart
Properties: antiseptic, expectorant, laxative, alterative, antispasmodic, emetic (roots), antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, emollient, demulcent, antipyretic, vulnerary, anti-hypertensive, diuretic, mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, cosmetic
Violet is a member of its own family known as Violaceae. These plants are fairly easy to identify in bloom. Each flower has five petals with two upper petals bent slightly backwards, two lateral petals and one lower petal with a spur at its base for its nectar. Each flower also has 5 stamens. This class of plants also has heart shaped leaves for the most part. There are three classes of violets; the white flowered, the blue or violet flowered and the yellow flowered. There are over 900 species of violet globally and over 30 wild varieties that grow just here in the Pacific Northwest. They get between 3-14 inches tall and the flowers might make 3/4 inch if one is lucky. They bloom from April to June and are considered a forager's food. They are no relation to the African violet which is not edible. Wild violets are edible, both the leaves and the flowers can be consumed. The leaves picked early in the spring have been used in salads, soups and sauteed and used much like spinach. The flowers have been used in vinegars, wine, salads, jams, syrups, honey and candied for use on wedding cakes or pastries. Too much of the leaves, as they have a fair amount of saponin, can cause upset stomach or vomiting.
The name violet is said to originate from 'Ion or Io" who was a greek maiden that Zeus turned into a heifer to hide from his wife (this I must admit made me laugh out loud). Both Virgil and Homer spoke of violets often in their works and the Athenians used them to help with sleep, mood and mental clarity. The Chinese would burn the blossoms underneath abscesses believing they would help to heal the wounds. They also used the blossoms and leaves in a variety of poultices and decoctions. Pliny said mixing the root with vinegar was a useful topical for gout or spleen complaints. He also believed if one wore a crown of violets on their head it would help with hangovers and dizziness. In the mid 1500's, William Turner wrote that it could help to mend broken bones, Gerard said it was excellent for respiratory issues (bronchitis, whooping cough), skin issues, fevers, epilepsy and other spasmodic illnesses. Culpeper used it for venereal disease and in the Middle Ages it was used to repel evil spirits. In 1525 in a publication called 'Bankes Herball' it stated, "Heat oil of violet meddled with powder of poppy seed and anoint the small of the back therewith....also for him that may not sleep for sickness, steep this herb well in water and at even let him soak well his feet in the water...and when he goeth to bed, bind this herb well to his temples." Gerard said that violet stood for honesty, virtue and comeliness. It was used by many southern women in their 'tussie mussies' which was a kind of floral bouquet used to keep them alert during long religious meetings (they would squeeze the flower to sniff the aroma and it would help to keep them from fainting). The violets in tussies also were said to represent modesty, loyalty and chastity. (Be that the case they should pass them out in every school instead of condoms. No doubt capital hill could use a huge amount of them as well). Mohammed referred to violets in his writings stating, "The excellence of the extract of violets above all other extracts is as the excellence of me above all the rest of creation." Clearly the man had a high opinion....of a great many things.
The herb is high in vitamin A, E and C as well as iron and rutin. It has more vitamin A than spinach and 1/2 cup of the leaves and flowers has more vitamin C than 4 oranges. The rutin content is high enough to have been found beneficial for strengthening capillary blood vessels and it is also fairly high in salicyclic acid (an aspirin like compound). It has been used as a laxative but the yellow flowered variety seems to be the best for that particular use. The blue flowered varieties were used by the early pioneers to ease labor pains and the native americans used violet roots to induce vomiting in cases of poisoning. It has been used for asthma, sore throats, rashes and boils, eczema, psoriasis, bruises, heart palpitations, to stimulate urination, for cradle cap, mastitis and to soften hard tumorous masses or cancerous lumps. Due to the salicyclic acid content it also has been found beneficial for rheumatism and arthritis. The flowers have been said to reduce atherosclerosis which in turn helps to lower one's blood pressure. The Chinese have used a variety of violets to treat leukemia, mumps, anemic conditions and poisonous snakebites. Violets contain anthocyanins which have been found to be effective against E. Coli. As violets have a lovely scent and are good for the skin they have been used in a number of perfumes and cosmetics.
All violets are edible (except African violets). The leaves are often used to thicken soups (much like okra) and should be gathered in the early spring and eaten or dried for tea. The flowers should be gathered while in bloom. Consume this plant in small amounts as large portions can cause severe vomiting.
Water violet is one of the Bach Flower remedies. It is used for people who are loners, who are chronically shy or have problems making human contact in general.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Use them as you feel best. Stay strong and healthy!