Have you ever heard the "Roses are red, Violets are blue" poem? Chances are, you've heard some variation of it before, but I bet you haven't heard my version! It goes like this:
"Roses are red Violets are Blue Both flowers are lovely And healthy for you!"
What a fun way to introduce our next two posts! Violets come in several varieties, but I want to focus the Common Blue Violet, which are the violets that you will most likely find in the yard. They are characterized by their dark blue/purple blooms and heart-shaped leaves. Violets have been used as a medicinal and culinary herb for centuries. Hippocrates classified it as a “moist” plant and said it was good for curing liver problems and bad tempers. The English of the 16th century used a syrup of the violets as a laxative. Nicholas Culpeper, a renowned Herbalist, had this to say about the Violets:
“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 drachm weight of the dried leaves or flower of Violets, but the leaves more strongly, doth purge the body of choleric humours, and assuages the heat, 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 sharpness 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 the 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 and 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.” (The Complete Herbal, 1653)
This, plus other sources, tell us that Violets are good for: Both the leaves and blossoms of the Violets can be used, and a tea is just one of the many ways that you can add Violets into your diet. They are also great in: To make a simple Violet tea:
Place one tablespoon of chopped leaves (dried or fresh) in a jar or pot and cover with about 16 oz of boiling water. Let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain out the leaves and enjoy!
Nothing to it! To learn more about these delicate yet hardy plants, or for more recipes, visit The Herbal Academy, Susunweed, Knoji, Gardens Ablaze, and Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. The photos are my own.