They are the color of spring. They are the taste of spring. They grow anywhere, everywhere. I have found them in the woods, in the shade and in full sun in our strawberry beds at the farm. VIOLETS!
The entirety of the violet plant is useful in some way… the flowers, the leaves, and the roots.
How to Use Violets
To start with, try a leaf. Go ahead, pluck one off and chew on it. Taste it. Note the slipperiness of the leaves in your mouth. The way an herb tastes is a very good indicator of its medicinal value.
To try a violet tea, put a large teaspoon of fresh chopped up violet leaves (and flowers and roots if you like) into a cup and pour boiling water over it.
Violets sooth red inflamed skin and can ease the symptoms of eczema and a bad case of the hives (especially mixed with chickweed or plantain).
The painful symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease can be eased by infusing violet leaves into oil (olive oil is a good choice) and smoothing on the area that is bothersome. The Nerdy Farm Wife wrote a most excellent article on making this into a salve she calls violet leaf balm. She gives excellent directions for making it.
cold sores (herpes)
Mix a bit of honey in with some crushed violet leaves and make a small poultice. This can be applied and changed as you can. If you drink an infusion (tea, not boiled) you can help ease symptoms from the inside out.
impetigo, cradle cap, & scabies
The entire plant tincture (roots, leaves, and flowers) is a specific for these above bothersome complaints.
tinnitus, sore throat, digestion
Karen Vaughan, L.Ac., Registered Herbalist (AHG) says…
The Spring pseudo-flower (true seed-bearing flowers which are green and hidden come in the Fall) is antiscorbutic and aperient. All Viola-flowers are edible. Make an olive oil infusion for tinnitus. Make a flower syrup to soothe sore throats, coughs, stomach ache, constipation and digestive distress. (1-5 tsp/day)
This was too funny not to quote in its entirety, although you can read his entire article here, Bioregionalism and Fad Herbs. He was talking about “Fad” herbs, but Howie Brounstein at Columbine School of Botanical Study said this specifically about the violet…
Violets: Fad Herb of Choice
As for the newest fad herb, I don’t think I’ll wait for the new one to come around. I’ll just go ahead and nominate Violets now as the new fad herb.
Why? What qualifications should a fad herb have?
- Environmental considerations : We don’t want a unique, unusual plant growing only in one area. This can cause environmental damage and gives one area or country political control. Violets are exceptionally good because we can use any Violet, Viola sp., rather than the specific Viola most expensiva. Everyone has violets growing near them. Around here they are plentiful, not threatened or endangered, and can handle ethical wildcrafting. Plus they grow in the garden easily. Even desert species can be grown in the arid regions.
- Strength : A fad herb should be mild. No “ten drops only, ten more causes side effects.” Let’s face it, with the fad herb hundreds of thousands of folks will be taking it every day because they heard it was good for you. Maybe we should even give it to grandma. These folks will often take more of it when they feel bad. After all, “if I take more I’ll get better quicker.” This leads us to ….
- Minimal side effects : Since by definition, people will eventually believe the fad herb will cure nearly everything — that it will increase sex drive, cure cancer, arthritis, and grey hair, slow or reverse aging, and let you lose weight while reading the free newspaper — it had better have minimal side effects. It will be mixed with a variety of pharmaceuticals, without the knowledge of the doctor. It will be taken long-term every day without true knowledge of its effects. Again, Violets are perfect.
- Not too specific an herb : works gently on a variety of problems: Once again, because of its blatant overuse, it shouldn’t be too active on any one system of the body. Plus it has more of a chance of curing everything.
One student of mine always ate the Violets that we saw on field trips. There are many Violets in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, and the students see most of them. Some are tasty, some bitter, bland, rich, or sweet. It seems as though location, species, and time of harvest make a big difference in palatability. Luckily taste is not a requirement of a fad herb.
I’ve seen the yellow people who have taken Goldenseal every day like a vitamin. And how many doctors are looking for a hidden low grade infection, not realizing that it’s really the high doses of Echinacea stimulating the immune system whether or not there is an infection? Not to mention the Kombucha people with foul burping … (hey … two gallons a day, what do you expect?) No problems like these will arise from the ever-gentle Viola. But then, will I be seeing Violet-colored people in a few years?
Oh, and last but not least, you can use violet water to create a litmus test…
You can make homemade litmus solution by filling a jar with violet flowers and boiling water. Strain after steeping it overnight. Acid turns it purple/red and base turns it yellow/green. Use to test whether your bilberry plant’s soil needs acidifying.