Genus species: Viola odorata L. or tricolor L.
Energetics: cool, moist
Taste: cool, sweet, mucilaginous
Actions: expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, nutritive, alterative, emollient
Degree of action: 2nd
Tissue states: atrophy, stagnation
Both V. odorata and V. tricolor have both been used interchangeably throughout history. Violet has most commonly used for bronchial infections and upper respiratory catarrh as an expectorant and demulcent. It is also very commonly used both internally and externally for inflammatory skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis and cradle cap.
Violet has a long history in Europe and has been mentioned throughout texts by Homer, Virgil the poet, Shakespeare and even Napoleon. It was used by Athenians to ‘moderate anger’, bring about sleep and ‘comfort and strengthen the heart’. Violet is most well known for the fragrant purple syrup that various cultures across Europe made from the flowers. The flowers were also popular in vinegar and wines.
Both V. odorata and V. tricolor have been used similarly throughout traditional and modern western herbal medicines. Each has been shown to have particular affinities or uses however many texts mention the ability to interchange species of violet based on availability and locale. Violet is a cooling cough remedy that helps in cases of bronchitis and respiratory congestion that is dry and unproductive. Its mucilaginous quality helps soothe a dry cough and provide moisture to soothe inflamed mucous membranes as well as expectorate phlegm. Violet does contain salicylates and rutin which are both known anti-inflammatories which may contribute to helping soothe inflamed mucosa of the lungs and also explain some of its historical use for gout and rheumatism. Susun Weed mentions violet particularly when the person is producing thick, yellow and sticky mucous during a cough. Violet is generally considered a lymphatic alterative so helps the movement of lymphatic fluid particular in the chest and throat where much of its use is focused.
The other major role of violet that is generally more attributed to V. tricolor or wild pansy is the effect it has on the skin. Pansy and violet make great topical and internal treatments for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, abscesses, swellings and cradle cap. Violet flowers are commonly infused with oils for topical use and tea infusions of the leaf taken internally. Another common topical treatment for violet flowers is as a mouthwash to help with inflamed, irritated and swollen gums. Another, both topical and internal, use of violet is for fibrocystic breasts as well as cancers involving the breasts, lungs or lymphatic organs.
Violet’s cooling nature seems to have a similar effect on the brain as well. It is mentioned to help with general nervousness, restlessness, sleeplessness and the ‘falling sickness of children’ or epilepsy. The violet flower syrup acts as a nice form medicine for sore throats, dry coughs, or nervous irritability. The pleasant flavor is soothing and can help allay irritation and lack of cooperation in both children and adults.
Violet is also a food in which the flower and leaves can be added to fresh salads and sautes. The leaves of violet has been shown to contain carotenoids that are antioxidant and Vitamin C. The leaves picked later in the year will not be as tender and have a slightly more bitter flavor but provide a slightly stronger medicine.
phenolic glycosides (gaultherin, methyl salicylate), saponins (myrosin, violin), flavonoids (quercetin, rutin, luteolin), alkaloids (odoratine), mucilage, tannins, minerals
Tincture: 1-2ml TID (1:5, 40%)
Tea: 1oz loose herb to 1qt water steeped a minimum of four hours
Syrup: Soak 1 part violet leaves and flowers in overnight infusion. In the morning simmer 15 minutes then strain. Combine with 2 parts honey and heat gently to combine liquids. Dose 1 Tbsp (15ml) for adults and 2 tsp (10ml) for children as needed up to five times per day (Cech, 2000).
No known contraindications. Root and seeds exhibit stronger diuretic and emetic effects so are not often used in modern practice.
Cech, R. (2000). Making plant medicine. Horizon Herbs.
de Baïracli Levy, J. (1991). The complete herbal handbook for the dog and cat. Macmillan.
Duke, J. (1997). The Green Pharmacy. New York: Rodale Inc
.Felter, H.W., J. U. Lloyd. (1898). King's American Dispensatory. Retrieved on June 11, 2016 from http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/zea.html
Feyzabadi, Z., Jafari, F., Kamali, S. H., Ashayeri, H., Aval, S. B., Esfahani, M. M., & Sadeghpour, O. (2014). Efficacy of Viola odorata in treatment of chronic insomnia. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 16(12).
Gautam, S. S., & Kumar, S. (2012). The antibacterial and phytochemical aspects of Viola odorata Linn. extracts against respiratory tract pathogens.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India Section B: Biological Sciences, 82(4), 567-572.
Grieve, M. (1971) A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications.
Holmes, P. (1998). The energetics of western herbs: Treatment strategies integrating western and oriental herbal medicine, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Snow Lotus Press.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.
Mills, S. (1988). The dictionary of modern herbalism: A comprehensive guide to practical herbal therapy. New York: MJF Books.
Qasemzadeh, M. J., Sharifi, H., Hamedanian, M., Gharehbeglou, M., Heydari, M., Sardari, M., ... & Minae, M. B. (2015). The effect of Viola odorata flower syrup on the cough of children with asthma a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 20(4), 287-291.
Siddiqi, H. S., Mehmood, M. H., Rehman, N. U., & Gilani, A. H. (2012). Studies on the antihypertensive and antidyslipidemic activities of Viola odorata leaves extract. Lipids in health and disease, 11(1), 1.
Vaughan, K. (1997). Violets. The medicinal herbalists. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from http://www.henriettes-herb.com/articles/viola.html.
Weed, S. (2003). The wise woman herbal: Healing Wise. Ash Tree Publishing: Woodstock, NY.
Wolff, Lise. (2013). Viva violets. Retrieved on June 26, 2016 from http://www.herbalistlisewolff.com/violets.html
Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal: Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Wynne, S. & Fougere, B. (2007). Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Mosby Elsevier: St. Louis, MO.