Violets: The Sweet Gift of Love
Every Spring I look forward to the violets blooming. Where I used to live in Baltimore County, they were plentiful! But did you know they are edible and medicinal? There are many different kinds of violet, but the violet we are talking about today is Viola Odorata or Sweet Violet. The leaves are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and salicylic acid and are especially useful in treating coughs and bronchitis as well as skin conditions such as eczema. They have expectorant, anti-inflammatory, alterative and diuretic properties. They also contain Cycloviolacin O2 (CyO2), a cyclotide that has antitumor effects and may be effective in helping to treat some forms of cancer! Herbalist Susan Weed uses violets internally as a tea and externally as a poultice to help heal fibrocystic breasts & breast cancer (you can also use the poultice for skin rashes). Violet has also been used in Native American and Chinese medicine for cancer and for shrinking tumors. The leaves and flowers are gathered in spring time and dried.
You can sprinkle violets on a salad or make a tea with the dried parts. To make Violet tea, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 tsp of the dried herb and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day hot or iced for your health! (You can make 1 infusion with 3 cups of water and 3 tsp. of herb.) *Note: If you are harvesting your own violets, make sure you are picking from a field that is not sprayed with pesticides or other lawn chemicals! If you do not have violets where you live, I recommend Jeans Greens on the East Coast (NY state) for buying the dried leaves (http://jeansgreens.com/).
I have made a wonderful cough syrup with violet infusion and honey. You can refrigerate this and it will last throughout cold and flu season! It's great for kids b/c they like the sweetness. To make Violet Leaf & Honey Cough Syrup, you will need: Fresh or dried Violet Leaves & flowers, water, and honey (raw is preferable, raw & local is ideal) The basic syrup formula is 1 part violet leaf infusion to 2 parts honey. Gather your violet leaves, or use dried, and place them in a jar. To make an infusion boil 1 cup of water per tsp of dried herb or cover and steep fresh violets in water overnight then bring to a boil and simmer this mixture for 15 minutes then strain the liquid from the leaves. You will have a strong greenish purple tea. Measure out a small amount of the liquid. You’ll want to add twice as much honey; so for 1/2 c violet tea, add 1 c of honey. Stir the honey and violet tea over very low heat until fully incorporated. Pour into a sterilized jar and cap tightly. Store in the refrigerator. Shelf life is at least 1 month. If using the mixture only for adults, you can add several tablespoons of vodka or brandy to help preserve the mixture much longer.
Dosing Information: Use 1 to 2 teaspoons for children, 1 tablespoon for adults up to five times per day, as needed. *Please note that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend honey for children under twelve months old.
*None of the information here is meant to be medical advice, please seek a diagnosis and treatment from a doctor if you are ill.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the beautiful purple, white and yellow Spring flowers are pseudo-flowers and the true seed-bearing flowers of the Violet are green and hidden and do not come until Fall!