Viola odorata-Sweet Violet
Other names: Violet, Blue Violet, Wild Violet,Viola hirta L, Viola hirta subsp, brevifimbriata W. Beck
Habitat: Widely found in Europe and Asia. Fields, hedgerows and woodlands, especially on calcareous soils.
Sweet violet has a long and proven history of folk use as a medicinal herb, especially in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough. It also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin. It is therefore effective in the treatment of catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract. The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative. Externally, Sweet Violet is used to treat mouth and throat infections. The plant can either be used fresh, or harvested when it comes into flower and then be dried for later use. The flowers are demulcent and emollient. They are used in the treatment of biliousness and lung troubles. The petals are made into a syrup and used in the treatment of infantile disorders. The roots is a much stronger expectorant than other parts of the plant but they also contain the alkaloid violine which at higher doses is strongly emetic and purgative. The seeds of Sweet Violet are diuretic and purgative. They have been used in the treatment of urinary complaints are considered to be a good remedy for gravel. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant. It is considered useful in the treatment of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist. An essential oil from the flowers is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of bronchial complaints, exhaustion and skin complaints.
Description of Sweet Violet:
Viola odorata , Sweet Violet is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Feb to April, and the seeds ripen from Apr to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, Cleistogamous.
The plant is self-fertile. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Cultivation of Sweet Violet
Succeeds in most soils but prefers a cool moist well-drained humus-rich soil in partial or dappled shade and protection from scorching winds. When grown in the open it prefers a moderately heavy rich soil. Plants have done very well in a hot dry sunny position on our Cornish trial grounds. Tolerates sandstone and limestone soils. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. Sweet violets are very ornamental plants, there are many named varieties. They produce their delicately scented flowers in late winter and early spring – these are designed for fertilisation by bees and since there are few bees around at this time of year these flowers seldom set seed. However, the plants also produce a second type of flower later in the year. These never open, but seed is produced within them by self-fertilization. The plants will often self-sow freely when well-sited. They can also spread fairly rapidly at the roots when they are growing well. Responds well to an annual replanting in rich loose leafy soils. All members of this genus have more or less edible leaves and flower buds, though those species with yellow flowers can cause diarrhoea if eaten in large quantities.
Propagation of Sweet Violet:
Seed – best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. The seed requires a period of cold stratification and the germination of stored seed can be erratic. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in the autumn or just after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.
Collection: The leaves and flowers are gathered in the spring, in March and April. Dry with care. The roots are gathered in the autumn and dried for later use.
Culinary uses of Sweet Violet:
Edible Parts: Flowers, Leaves. Edible Uses: Condiment, Tea.
Young leaves and flower buds – raw or cooked. Usually available all through the winter. The leaves have a very mild flavour, though they soon become quite tough as they grow older. They make a very good salad, their mild flavour enabling them to be used in bulk whilst other stronger-tasting leaves can then be added to give more flavour. When added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra. Also used as a flavouring in puddings etc. A tea can be made from the leaves. Flowers – raw. Used to decorate salads and desserts. A sweet mild flavour with a delicate perfume, the flowers are an especially welcome decoration for the salad bowl since they are available in late winter. The flowers are also used fresh to flavour and colour confectionery. A soothing tea can be made from the leaves and flowers. A leaf extract is used to flavour sweets, baked goods and ice cream; such as Parma Violets.
Actions: Expectorant, alterative, anti-inflammatory, diuretic.
Part Used: Leaves and flowers.
Indications: Sweet Violet has a long history of use as a cough remedy and especially for the treatment of bronchitis. It may also be used to aid in the treatment of upper respiratory catarrh. With the combination of actions present, it has a use in skin conditions such as eczema and in a long term approach to rheumatism. It may be used for urinary infections. Sweet Violet has a reputation as an `anti-cancer’ herb, and whilst this concept is inappropriate, it definitely has a role in a holistic approach to the treatment of cancer.
Preparations & Dosage of Sweet Violet:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water into 1 teaspoonful of the herb and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.
Other uses of Sweet Violet:
An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used in perfumery. 1000kg of leaves produces about 300 – 400g absolute. The flowers are used to flavour breath fresheners. A pigment extracted from the flowers is used as a litmus to test for acids and alkaline. Plants can be grown as a ground cover when spaced about 30cm apart each way. They make an effective weed-excluding cover.
Calms the nerves, draws prophetic dreams and visions, stimulates creativity, and promotes peace & tranquility. Violet leaf provides protection from all evil. Violet crowns are said to cure headaches and bring sleep. Carry or give to newly married couples or new baby & mother to bring luck to the bearer. Keep a spray of violets on the altar to enhance night magick. Wear the leaves in a green sachet to help heal wounds and prevent evil spirits from making the wounds worse.
- Phenolic glycosides, gaultherin, violutoside(=salicylic acid methyl ester)
- Saponins; myrosin and violin
- Flavonoids; rutin and violarutin
- Miscellaneous; odoratine, an alkaloid, 2-nitroproprionicacid, mucilage.