It’s no secret that I adore violets. As in absolutely adore them.
Some of my favorite medicines to make are the violet ones (rose too, then there’s linden, and chamomile, and red clover…). Violet elixirs, violet tinctures, violet glycerites, I even tried (and failed) to make a violet liqueur.
Not only are they one of my favorite springtime plants of the garden and woods, but they are an invaluable medicinal herb. The thing about violet, along with other some other spring herbs like chickweed, dandelion and cleavers, is that it is so gentle and supportive, yet powerful at the same time.
If you are an herbalist or herbally minded, then you are familiar with the group of herbs called adaptogens. They are herbs which help the body adapt to the stress of being alive. It seems like a huge generalization, but it’s not only true, but helping the body adapt to general stress is the defining feature of adaptogens.
Well, I think that violet could belong to a group of herbs that are are defined by gentleness, and that are safe for all sorts of people, young and old, and nourishing to tissues (it probably is; it’s been a while since herb school and I tend to forget things).
That’s not to say violet is a benign food herb. It is cooling and soothing to hot and irritated tissue states, supports lymph movement and clearance. We can see these action in Chinese medicine, too. Viloet/Zi Hua Di Ding belongs to the “Clear heat toxins” category, useful with infectious diseases of an excess nature, like with virulent colds, flus, and other infectious diseases we don’t see so much today, like mumps, measles, and eruptive skin rashes.
I’ve used violet with much effectiveness for sore throats, coughs, colds, fevers, ear infections, headaches, constipation, swollen lymph nodes, mastitis and plugged milk ducts, toothaches with inflammation, canker sores, eczema, and just plain feeling overheated and irritable, like when it’s waaaay too hot outside.
Leaf or flower?
Both the leaf and flower can be used, and I use whatever is around for the picking!
I like them both fresh, right off the plant. Although dried violet leaf is of use and good to have around, I only like the violet leaf that I personally harvest and freshly dry. None of that cut and sifted dried violet in the marketplace that is who-knows how old; it just doesn’t seem to have any vitality to me.
When the flower is in bloom in early spring, I pluck them whole and eat them as medicine (and food just ’cause). Sometimes I’ll chop them and add to a salad, and I have tried them as hot and cold infusions (tea), but usually I like them straight off the plant. It’s not to hard to find a patch growing close by to pluck flowers for my scratchy throat or my son’s lymph congestion.
The leaves and flowers are used for similar reasons, but the leaves have an extra affinity to breast tissue.
How many to munch? It’s hard to quantify these little flowers, but about a small palmful. Perhaps 7-12? I eat them all at once. It’s easy to do, they are quite delicious. Same with the leaves; just pick a handful and much or bring home for tea.
A most gentle alterative
When you eat a violet, you will notice a spicy tingle that is slightly irritating to your throat. That is part of its alterative qualities. Alteratives assist the body’s detoxification processes and often stimulate lymphatic flow and/or the immune system, among other things. From Herb Pharm’s education blog:
Remember that a true alterative/depurative herb is one that not only cleanses and detoxifies, but also facilitates proper nutrient assimilation and which has a normalizing action on overall physiology.
Both violet leaves and flowers fit the alterative description, although they are both quite gentle.
Violet Honey Paste
Okay, now for my favorite violet recipe of all time!
It is so simple. Blend violets with honey (or glycerine if you don’t partake in honey), water and lemon juice. That’s it.
The hardest part is also the best part: harvesting the violet flowers. It takes a while to find a big enough patch of violets and to pick a packed cup of violet flowers, but it makes for a dreamy afternoon adventure.
Sweet Aunt Vi – from Susan Weed, Healing Wise
- 1 cup packed violets
- 3/4 c water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 c honey
Blend all ingredients in a blender. Pour into an 8 ounce glass jar and keep in the freezer. Use 1/4 teaspoon for children and 1/2 teaspoon for adults every hour as needed for “coughs, constipation, headaches, and grief” according to Susun Weed.
Those dosages are really loose. Remember violet is soooo gentle and mild. My 2 year old and I have been known to sit down and eat about a dozen small spoonfuls each in one sitting (it’s that good). If I had all the violets in the world, I would make these into popsicles and not worry about eating too much violet – although I shouldn’t really eat that much honey in one sitting (or day).
If you aren’t wanting something cold from the freezer, scoop a spoonful in a little dish and let melt.
It’s not a stimulating laxative in the slightest, so no need to worry in that regard.
I call it a violet paste, but it’s not terribly “pasty”. It’s more of a slurry, a slushie, especially after being frozen. After being blended, it makes an exquisitely beautiful foam, with representative array of anthocyanin pigments. It’s hard not to eat a few spoonfuls of this off the top; it’s like violet marshmallows.
Sometime in the future I’ll post a picture of the frozen violet paste. It’s still quite beautiful.
Best violet wishes,