Materia Medica: Violet
The leaves and flowers of the common blue violet are edible and medicinal. Typically considered a “weed” because of its relative ease in adapting to human disturbance, think twice before weeding out this medicinal and edible wildflower; it may be one of the most valuable plants in your garden, even if you didn’t put it there!
Latin Binomial: Viola sororia
Common Name(s): Common blue violet
TCM Name: Zi Hua Di Ding
Ayurvedic Name: (Sanskrit) Vanapsa, (Hindi) Banafsaj, Banafshah
Physical Description of the Plant: Violet is a herbaceous perennial plant with leaves and flowers emerging directly from the rhizomes, and forming a basal rosette. A typical mature plant may be 6" across and 4" high, with the flowers slightly higher than the leaves. The leaves are individually up to 3" long and 3" across (excluding the long petioles), and vary in color from yellowish green to dark green, depending on growing conditions. They are oval-ovate to orbicular-cordate in shape, and crenate or serrate along the margins. The flowers are about ¾" across, and consist of 5 rounded petals. There are 2 upper petals, 2 lateral petals with white hairs (or beards) near the throat of the flower, and a lower petal that functions as a landing pad for visiting insects. The flowers of this form of Viola sororia are medium to dark violet. The inner throat of each flower is more or less white, from which slightly darker veins radiate outward along the petals (particularly the lower one). There is no noticeable floral scent. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring, and lasts about 1-1½ months.
The Viola genus contains over 500 species, mostly found in the temperate climates of the world. The common blue violet (Viola sororia, Violaceae) is native to most of central and eastern North America, found in lawns, gardens, sidewalk cracks and along trailsides. The “confederate violet” is an escaped cultivar of Viola sororia—it has white flowers with blue streaks and is common in the southeastern United States.
The sweet violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae) is the principal medicinal and culinary species used in Europe. It has escaped cultivation in many locales, because it is popularly planted for its fragrance. Much of the American use of violets stems from the European herbal tradition. However, most violet species in North America lack the signature aroma of sweet violet.
Harvest and Collection: Pick violet leaves and flowers fresh to make a tea. Drying the leaves first will make a more mineral rich detoxifying drink.
Parts of the Plant Used: Leaves and flowers.
Qualities: Cooling, soothing, moistening and anti-inflammatory.
Chemical Constituents: Violet leaves contain mucilage, or soluble fiber, helpful in lowering cholesterol levels and restoring healthy populations of intestinal flora. The leaves are high in Vitamins A and C, and rutin, a glycoside of the flavonoid quercetin.
- peripheral vasodilator
- used as a poultice, compress or salve for cuts, bits, scrapes, stings, other wounds/abrasions
- specific for eye inflammation
- cooling/soothing for eczema, hemorrhoids or varicose veins
- acts on all channels of elimination – liver, urinary and lymphatic
- chronic inflammatory conditions – acne, eczema, psoriasis, gout
- chronic joint inflammation including rheumatic conditions and arthritis
- jaundice, constipation
- swollen lymph nodes, edema, lymphatic congestion
- Inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract (including chronic conditions)
- reduces inflammation associated with urinary tract infections
- gravel in urine
- secretolytic (breaking up phlegm) expectorant
- especially useful for dry/unproductive coughs
- bronchitis, whooping cough, chest colds, pleurisy, asthma
- helps modulate fevers
- helpful with sinus congestion/mucus and chronic congestion around the ears
Contraindications/Cautions: Violet can safely be consumed in large quantities. As a gentle food herb, violet is generally safe for elders, youngsters, and people taking pharmaceuticals. However, because it contains saponins it can be mildly irritating to the mucus membranes of the throat and digestive tract.
Drug Interactions: None reported
- Infusion: : pour a cup of boiling water into 1 teaspoonful of the herb and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups of tea a day for 1-3 months as a spring tonic.
- Tincture: take 1-2ml (30-45 drops) three times a day for 1-3 months
Combinations: Used internally as a blood cleanser and lymphatic stimulant with chickweed, dandelion and red clover.
Energetics: Cool and moistening/mucilaginous
Folklore: Violet has a rich tradition in Europe, where it has been used for centuries as a pulmonary remedy for dry hacking cough. It is often recommended for bronchitis and whooping cough, along with the roots of marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Violet can also be used as a tonic for chronically swollen lymph nodes. As with many other herbs with an action on the lymphatic system, it has a long tradition of use in the treatment of cancer. Topically, violet is used as a poultice, compress, infused oil and salve in the treatment of dry or chafed skin, abrasions, insect bites, and eczema. It has been used traditionally as a remedy for hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Flower Essence: Violet essence opens a space of deep self-acceptance, contentment, and individual wellbeing. Calming, steadying, and maternal, this unassuming, yet sweetly robust flower helps you to feel comfortable and supportive of yourself as an individual. Letting go of negative attachments and patterns of relating (especially to oneself) Violet helps you to foster good connections that come from a deep recognition of self-importance. Violet helps you to appreciate stillness— mindful observation, moments of silence, and the importance of just being. It will expand your abilities as a listener— both to yourself as well as others— and open you to a powerful place of acceptance, allowing all people to be just who they are.
In Ayurveda violet is used for lymphatic congestion, swollen glands and constipation, violet helps relieve ama from the fluids of the body. It is excellent for the respiratory system and is good for spring coughs and colds, or for people who have asthma or other chronic lung related issues.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine Viola is considered bitter, pungent and cold, and is traditionally associated with the heart and the liver. It is also sometimes used for bacterial infections. It is often used for clearing heat, releasing toxins, or dissolving masses, and it is an age-old remedy for snake bites (to help reduce both swelling and toxicity).
Enjoy violet leaves and flowers in salad with other wild greens, pesto and in sandwiches and wraps. The flowers can be sprinkled on salads and added to cakes and pancakes. Violet flowers are also beautiful candied or frozen into ice cubes.
Violet is high in rutin, which has been shown in animal and in vitro studies to be anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and blood thinning.
PHARMACOGNOSTIC RESEARCH ON VIOLA DECLINATA WALDST. ET KIT. (VIOLACEAE)
ANCA TOIU1 , EDWARD MUNTEAN2 , ILIOARA ONIGA1 , MIRCEA TĂMAŞ1 1 Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Iuliu Haţieganu” Cluj-Napoca, Romania 2 University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine ClujNapoca, Romania *corresponding author: email@example.com
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