The scientific name of the genus "viola" comes from the Latin. In turn, it comes from the Greek word "Io", who was the lover of Jupiter. Jupiter's wife was jealous of her, so Jupiter protected her turning her into a calf that was fed in the meadow. For "Io" could eat well, Jupiter provided her with violets.
The species name "odorata" (= smell) comes from the Latin and refers to the characteristic intense aroma that this violet produces .
Both the legendary origin of the violet as well as its peculiar smell have been momentous to turn it into a symbol of love. There have been many lovers who have shown their love by giving violets to his beloved . The scent of violet has also been used to create love potions, with whom he could woo the woman he loved.
Habitat: From Europe, living mostly under trees in the forests of this continent and in North Africa, the Canaries and the Caucasus. It needs some moisture to live adequately thus it prefers shady areas both under the trees, and walls with little sunshine. gardens, roadsides or in grass , preferably on calcareous soils.
It has been introduced as ornamental plants in North America and Australia.
Description of violet
Perennial plant of the violet family up to 15 cm tall. Barely visible stems from a perennial fleshy root, with stoloniferous shoots.
Rosette leaves, long-stalked, heart-shaped. Peduncles of leaves with long hairs bent toward the ground.
Dark purple flowers (sometimes white) to 2 cm in length, situated at the end of long stalks that emerge from the axils of the leaves. They have 5 petals, two of which grow vertically. It mainly differs from the rest of violets for possessing a hook-shaped style. It blooms from mid winter to early spring (late February to April) .In March it that can be found in greater abundance, Because of this blooming period, in France, Germany or Holland it is also known as the Flower of March.
Traditionally the plant has been widely used since ancient times. The Greeks used it internally as a cardiotonic, to eliminate discomfort or for body purifying in cases of gout. Externally, it has been use for the belly pain or wound healing.
Cullpeper (1616-1654), apothecary, astrologer and physician in London , wrote about all the violets :
"Both the tame and the wild are so well known, that they need no description.
Time.] They flower until the end of July, but are best in March and the beginning of April.
Government and virtues.] They are a fine pleasing plant of Venus,, of a mild nature, no way harmful. All the Violets are cold and moist while they are fresh and green, and are used to cool any heat, or distemperature of the body, either inwardly or outwardly, as inflammations in the eyes, in the matrix or fundament, in imposthumes also, and hot swellings, to drink the decoction of the leaves and flowers made with water in wine, or to apply them poultice-wise to the grieved places: it likewise eases pains in the head, caused through want of sleep; or any other pains arising of heat, being applied in the same manner, or with oil of roses. A dram weight of the dried leaves or flower of Violets, but the leaves more strongly, doth purge the body of choleric humours, and assuages the heal, being taken in a draught of wine, or any other drink; the powder of the purple leaves of the flowers, only picked and dried and drank in water, is said to help the quinsy, and the falling-sickness in children, especially in the beginning of the disease.
The flowers of the white Violets ripen and dissolve swellings. The herb or flowers, while they are fresh, or the flowers when they are dry, are effectual in the pleurisy, and all diseases of the lungs, to lenify the sharpeness in hot rheums, and the hoarseness of the throat, the heat also and sharpness of urine, and all the pains of the back or reins, and bladder. It is good also for the liver and jaundice, and all hot agues, to cool the heat, and quench the thirst; but the syrup of Violets is of most use, and of better effect, being taken in some convenient liquor: and if a little of the juice or syrup of lemons be put to it, or a few drops of the oil of vitriol, it is made thereby the more powerful to cool the heat, and quench the thirst, and gives to the drink a claret wine colour, and a fine tart relish, pleasing to the taste.
Violets taken; or made up with honey, do more cleanse and cool, and with sugar contrary-wise. The dried flower of Violets are accounted amongst the cordial drinks, powders, and other medicines, especially where cooling cordials are necessary. The green leaves are used with other herbs to make plaisters or poultices to inflammations and swellings, and to ease all pains whatsoever, arising of heat, and for the piles also, being fried with yolks of eggs , and applied thereto. "
Current uses of common violet
Violet internal use herbal preparations
- Respiratory system: Common violet, mainly by its content in mucilage, has soothing, antitussive and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, its content in saponins confer expectorant properties, whereas salicylic acid gives analgesic properties. This same component along with methyl-salicylate, eugenol and beta-sisosterol are responsible for the antipyretic properties, son it can reduce fever. Malic-acid and quercetin provide it with bacteriostatic properties that prevent the growth of bacteria. All this cocktail of properties is particularly used to fight many diseases of the respiratory system, especially in regard to the following anomalies:
- Bronchitis: The properties of the violet are very suitable in case of bronchitis to help the body expel secretions, reduce inflammation and soothe coughing . (Three tablespoons of dried roots per liter of water for 20 minutes. Take 4 tablespoons a day.) (Decoction for a couple of minutes of 1 tablespoon of dried flowers per cup of water. 2 cups a day) (Decoction of 50 g dried root per liter of water for about 10 minutes. Take three cups a day, sweetened with honey)
- Cough: The bechic properties of violet make it well suited to combat coughs, either dry or productive cough. (Infusion of a half teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water. A couple of cups a day)
- Fever: The flowers of this plant used in tea help reduce fever. (Infusion of a spoonful of dry flowers per liter of water. (Drink 2 to 4 cups daily)
- Cold: For colds violet infusions with lemon juice helps lessen symptoms. (Infusion of a spoonful of dried flowers per cup of water. Drinking three cups a day with a little lemon juice)
- Influenza: The previous treatment can help make the flu more bearable, especially when the patient presents with thirst attacks or when fever is very high.
- Asthma: the ability of common violet to reduce swollen mucous membranes and their antitussive properties are very interesting for asthma sufferers. Quercetin and scopoletin have anti-asthmatic properties. The preparations from this plant can decrease coughing and unswell inflamed airways, which facilitates better breathing for those affected by asthma. (40 drops of tincture daily spread over three daily doses. Tincture of common violet can be obtained from pharmacies or herbalists')
- Digestive tract : demulcent or soothing properties of mucilage are suitable for the treatment of some digestive tract abnormalities, such as:
- Gastritis: A tea from dried flowers can help reduce inflammation of gastric mucosa (infusion of one teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water. Drink two cups a day)
- Constipation: Malic acid exerts a mild laxative function, effective for the treatment of constipation. (Infusion of a spoonful of dried flowers per cup of water. Drink two cups a day)
Increasing the dose, a slightly laxative effect is obtained when needed for a more drastic treatment of constipation.
- Vomiting: Violet can be used for combat vomiting (antivomitive) or to to induce vomit (vomitive= emetic). In the first case, we take advantage of the demulcent properties of the mucilage. Saponins, on the contrary, are responsible to cause vomiting when the plant preparations are taken in higher quantities.
(Used to induce vomiting, we will make a decoction for 10 minutes of a tablespoon of crushed dried root per cup of water. Once it has boiled all this time, what will approximately evaporate half of water content we will add one tablespoon of sugar. It must be drank little by little with a teaspoon while hot)
(To avoid vomiting , we'll make a decoction of a teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water for about 3 minutes. We will take a couple of cups a day to settle the stomach and remove vomit.)
- Metabolism: cleansing and diuretic properties of violet have been used to increase urination and facilitate the cure of diseases where it is desirable a higher urine production and the elimination of toxins. According to this, it has been mainly used for the treatment of:
- Cystitis: For inflammation in the bladder and urinary tract, the use of this plant can help reduce it and expel microorganisms causing the infection. (Infusion of a half teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water. Drink a cup a day)
- Nephritis: For kidneys inflammation , the previous treatment has similar properties (Infusion of half teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water. Drink a cup a day)
- Hypertension: By means of increasing diuresis, it favors the elimination of liquids, being suitable for the treatment of hypertension. Moreover, the alkaloids contained in this plant possess hypotensive properties. (Infusion of a half teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of water. Drink a cup a day)
Violet external use herbal preparations
- Pharyngitis: Its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve discomfort and irritation of the throat in case of pharyngitis. (Make gargles with the infusion of a spoonful of dried flowers per cup of water)
- Sore throat and tonsilitis: Gargles with the same preparation help reduce swollen tonsils and sore throat.
- Arthritis: Common violet contains many anti-inflammatory and analgesic principles (salicylic acid, methyl salicylate, eugenol, beta-sitosterol, quercetin, rutin, etc.) which can be very effective in the treatment of arthritis or osteoarthritis.
Used internally, a useful treatment can be made with the dried root decoctions, but it is more interesting when applied externally to sore joints (decoction of two tablespoons of shredded dried root per liter of water for 15 minutes. Wet a towel with the resulting liquid and apply on the painful area) (Pour the liquid of this decoction into the water of the bath)
Equally interesting is the violet ointment made with lard and violet leaves. (For more information on ointment for pain)
Other uses of common violet
- Mixed tisanes: Common violet is widely used in herbal medicine with other medicinal plants for adding flavor and color to many herbal preparations.
- Edible Plant: Some authors consider the leaves of the violets as food, especially when young and tender during the winter. You can add them raw to salads or use them to flavor soups.
Most flowers of violets including common violet are used as edible flowers. They be added fresh to salads to flavor and provide an exotic touch to them. In some places they are prepared candied with sugar.
Violet flowers are very rich in quercetin and rutin, two flavonoids with many properties.
- Perfume industry : The flowers and leaves of violets are used to extract essential oil used in perfumery.
- Food industry : From the leaves of the violet a flavoring extract is obtained. Food industry uses it to flavor their products, particularly in the manufacture of ice cream, confectionery or bakery.
Toxicity and contraindications of common violet
Used in proper doses no toxicity or contraindications are observed . When taken in higher doses, it presents an emetic effect.
Collecting and conservation of violet flowers and roots
Flowers are harvested in early spring and roots in early autumn . All of them should be dried in the shade and stored in a dry and dark place inside bags or glass jars.