Herb: Sweet Violet
Latin name: Viola odorata
Family: Violaceae (Violet Family)
Medicinal use of Sweet Violet:Sweet violet has a long and proven history of folk use, especially in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough. It also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin. It is therefore effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia. The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract. Externally, it is used to treat mouth and throat infections. The plant can either be used fresh, or harvested when it comes into flower and then be dried for later use. The flowers are demulcent and emollient. They are used in the treatment of biliousness and lung troubles. The petals are made into a syrup and used in the treatment of infantile disorders. The roots is a much stronger expectorant than other parts of the plant but they also contain the alkaloid violine which at higher doses is strongly emetic and purgative. They are gathered in the autumn and dried for later use. The seeds are diuretic and purgative. They have been used in the treatment of urinary complaints are considered to be a good remedy for gravel. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant. It is considered useful in the treatment of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist. An essential oil from the flowers is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of bronchial complaints, exhaustion and skin complaints.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Fields, hedgerows and woodlands, especially on calcareous soils.
Edible parts of Sweet Violet:Young leaves and flower buds - raw or cooked. Usually available all through the winter. The leaves have a very mild flavour, though they soon become quite tough as they grow older. They make a very good salad, their mild flavour enabling them to be used in bulk whilst other stronger-tasting leaves can then be added to give more flavour. When added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra. Also used as a flavouring in puddings etc. A tea can be made from the leaves. Flowers - raw. Used to decorate salads and desserts. A sweet mild flavour with a delicate perfume, the flowers are an especially welcome decoration for the salad bowl since they are available in late winter. The flowers are also used fresh to flavour and colour confectionery. A soothing tea can be made from the leaves and flowers. A leaf extract is used to flavour sweets, baked goods and ice cream.
Other uses of the herb:An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used in perfumery. 1000kg of leaves produces about 300 - 400g absolute. The flowers are used to flavour breath fresheners. A pigment extracted from the flowers is used as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines. Plants can be grown as a ground cover when spaced about 30cm apart each way. They make an effective weed-excluding cover.
Propagation of Sweet Violet:Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. The seed requires a period of cold stratification and the germination of stored seed can be erratic. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in the autumn or just after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.
Cultivation of the herb:Fields, hedgerows and woodlands, especially on calcareous soils.
Known hazards of Viola odorata:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.