Friday, March 5, 2010

Sweet Violet:: A Gentle Friend

Viola odorata

To me, one of the most welcome sights of spring is my special friend, Sweet Violet. Although diminutive in size, their heart-shaped leaves and happy blue, white or violet faces fill me with such delight that I use them as often as I can while they are in season. Although considered by some as a weed, (perish the thought!) this precious plant should have an honored place in everyone’s garden. I have even gone so far as to transplant them into the garden bed from the lawn or walkways instead of tossing them into the compost pile when weeding. 

For starters, Sweet Violet is delicious. For anyone who still uses weed killers and pesticides, you’ll just have to sit on the sidelines while the rest of us enjoy our wild, healthy and delicious “weeds.” Tender, young Violet leaves and flowers in a salad make it not only more beautiful and enticing, but it also is a very healthy addition because of the high content of vitamins A and C. Another culinary option would be to steam either young or older, tougher leaves, as a cooked green vegetable or to use the cheerful blossoms either candied or plain to decorate desserts or as an edible garnish. By carefully drying the leaves and fresh flowers slowly in a cool, dark area with good air circulation until just crisp, then storing the herb in a glass jar in your pantry, a wonderful herbal tea will be available to delight your senses year-round.

Violet is not limited to being a choice edible however, it is also a mild and effective remedy for a myriad of conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine, a species of Viola has been used for over two thousand years as a powerful detoxifier. The local variety boasts properties quite similar to her Asian cousin. Cooling and soothing, Violet had earned a reputation for reducing fever, relieving a sore throat and as an effective expectorant for a variety of lung complaints from asthma to bronchitis. As an effective diuretic, it is often prescribed in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Many skin conditions are also helped by the use of Violet due to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties; eczema, sores, suppurations, swellings, and allergic rashes can benefit from either internal or topical applications of this useful herb.
Last summer, while strolling with a visitor around the property, she suddenly began hopping on one foot, obviously in pain. It became apparent that she had stepped on a bee in her bare feet and was stung on the bottom of her foot. While sitting her down on the patio steps, I noticed the Violets clamoring for my attention. I quickly grabbed some leaves (while thanking them for the reminder) and had our friend chew the leaves and apply the poultice to the now-swollen bee sting. Her relief was immediate and the swelling and pain promptly subsided. Within five minutes she was up and walking around again, but this time with her sandals back on!

That in itself would seem reason enough to add Viola to your list of herbal friends, but the most impressive qualities of Viola include some of the more recent studies that show her to be antimicrobial in vitro against Tuberculosis, cleansing to a congested lymphatic system, and as an antihistamine for childhood allergies to cow’s milk. The seeds of Violet are especially diuretic and assist in the dissolving and flushing of kidney stones. It has also been reported to be very useful in the treatment of cancerous tumors when taken at 2-3 times the normal dosage. Caution should be used when ingesting large amounts of the herb as it can cause vomiting due to the high saponin content, not to mention that when treating any serious imbalance or illness, consulting a professional is always advisable.

The essential oil of Violet has also been valued for centuries. Its fragrance speaks of calming and nurturing support for times when we experience emotional fragility and mental depression. It can help to open our hearts in a safe, gentle manner and allow us to speak our Truth in a loving way. Truly, Sweet Violet is a charming and devoted friend that we can be grateful for when she appears so abundantly each spring.

Lisl Meredith Huebner, Dipl.CH (NCCAOM), RH (AHG) is a nationally board certified Chinese Herbalist, and a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. Lisl is also a certified Medicinal Aromatherapist, a level II Reiki practitioner, an Acupressurist, an Auriculotherapist, a photographer, a renowned diagnostician, a teacher and a published writer in private practice for over a decade. She is available by appointment.
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1 comment:

  1. Violet seed does need aperiod of cold to germinate. You can grow it in a cold frame in theautumn and transplant in the spring.