violet: calm, cool & collected

A few weeks ago, right at the beginning of Spring, I felt downright angry and resentful. I couldn't put a finger on exactly what was stirring this fire. The more I tapped into the energy of the season I realized it was simply that, the winds of Spring stirring up emotion. In Chinese Medicine, Spring energy is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, and the mental-emotional characteristics can either lean toward creativity and compassion or anger and frustration. (Read more about that here.) I confirmed this with a few other people who were experiencing the same thing around the same time. 

I've been drawn to drinking roasted Chicory root tea since around that time, and my anger has subsided. In hindsight, another herbal ally that I could've turned to would be Violet. She's just started to bloom here in Brooklyn - I just love her gentle presence in the edges of the forest. Read on to find out how Violet can help relieve anger, headaches, and more....

Viola-sororia

 VIOLET (Viola spp.) 

Lesson: strength in grace & humility
Offering: compassion, soothing anger
Element & planetary affiliation: water, Venus
Energetics: bitter, sweet, moist, cool 

 

There are over 200 species of violet. The ones we’ll be referring to are mainly V. odorata, and V. sororia. 

When we are feeling frustrated, fatootsed, and just downright mad, violet can show us another way. Violet is a cool character, unassuming, humble, and compassionate. She shows us that forcefulness is not the way to solve our problems. Violet has a soothing, cooling, moist quality. She grows close to the ground and sends out delicate flowers of purple, blue, or white that do not produce fertile seeds. The flower is her gift of gentle beauty. 

All of violets reproductive action is done close to the ground. In the fall she sends out seeds in a small, hardly visible flower under the leaves. Violet also reproduces through runners underground. While violet doesn’t reproduce in a showy way, her visible parts are gently potent. 

The leaves and flowers of violet are an overall health tonic: she’s rich in vitamin A, C, beta-carotenes, bioflavonoids, calcium, and magnesium. 

Violet helps ease hot and dry conditions like constipation, dry coughs, and irritated skin. She helps move fluids through the body, and makes a lovely breast massage oil for hot, stuck conditions like mastitis. From Ancient Greece until today, she is said to cool us down in states of anger. Her heart shaped leaves show us that she’s beneficial for matters of the heart, specifically grief and heartache. Another common name for violet is Heartsease.

Violet is a humble warrior who brings us closer to the earth, right down there with her.

Viola-sororia

MORE ABOUT VIOLET

Constituents and Nutrients
vitamins A, C, bioflavonoids (rutin), calcium, beta-carotenes, magnesium, salicylates

Actions
alterative (blood purifying), anodyne (pain relieving), antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antitussive, demulcent, expectorant, mild laxative, lymphatic, mucilaginous, tonic, vulnerary (wound healing)

Conditions
breast swelling/cysts/tumors, bruising, constipation, coughs, cradle cap, cysts, eczema, headaches, hemorrhoids, irritation of mucous membranes and/or skin, mastitis, sore throat, swollen glands, urinary tract irritation, varicose veins

Distinguishing Features
Heart-shaped leaf that uncurls from the center, delicate violet-colored (sometimes white or white and blue) flower with 5 petals and 5 sepals that grows straight from the rhizome in early to mid spring.

Precautions
Not to be confused with African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) which is poisonous!

Use only the aerial parts, excepting the seeds, which along with the roots, are emetic (cause vomiting).  

 


RECIPES

Violet Leaf Infusion
Take a handful of dried herb (or at least twice as much fresh) and place it in a 1-quart jar. Pour boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let steep overnight (or at least 20 minutes). In the morning, strain the herbs and compost them. Use the leftover leaves as a poultice on tired eyes or irritated skin.

~~~

Violet Flower Honey
adapted from Brigitte Mars

2 cups violet flowers
1/2 cup honey
1 lemon, juiced

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until combined. Store in the freezer. Serve on crackers, baked goods, or straight off a spoon.

~~~

Violet Leaf Salad

2 cups violet leaves, washed
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
sea salt
handful violet flowers

In a medium-sized salad bowl, whisk together honey (or maple syrup), vinegar, and sea salt. Toss in violet leaves. Garnish with violet flowers.

 ~~~

Candied Violets
adapted from Leda Meredith, Northeast Foraging

Beat an egg white until frothy. Dip each flower in the egg white and then in granulated sugar. Set the candied violets on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry for 24 hours. Use to decorate cakes and other desserts.

 My sweet flower lover, kissing the Violets

My sweet flower lover, kissing the Violets


POETRY/SONGS/LORE

A Flower in a Letter
E. B. Browning

Deep violets, you liken to
The kindest eyes that look on you,
Without a thought disloyal.

~~~

from Sonnet 99
by William Shakespeare

(violets grow abundantly in Stratford-on-Avon, his hometown)

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? 

~~~

The Violet
by Goethe
(translated by Frederick Ricord)

A vi’let on the meadow grew,
That no one saw, that no one knew,
It was a modest flower.
A shepherdess pass’d by that way—
Light-footed, pretty and so gay;
That way she came,
Softly warbling forth her lay.

~~~

Violet Song

Written By: Jane Taylor (1783-1824)
Music Ascribed To: Dr. H. Harrington (1727-1816) 

Down in a green and shady bed,
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head
As if to hide from view.
And yet it was a lovely flow'r,
Its colors bright and fair,
It might have graced a rosy bow'r
Instead of hiding there.

Yet there it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there it spread its sweet perfume
Within the silent shade,
Then let me to the valley go,
This pretty flow'r to see,
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.

~~~

Blue Violets
by Dora Read Goodale

A blossom of returning light,
An April flower of sun and dew;

The earth and sky, the day and night
Are melted in her depth of blue!

~~~

Violet Legends
From Maud Grieve, A Modern Herbal

“Violets were mentioned frequently by Homer and Virgil. They were used by the Athenians 'to moderate anger,' to procure sleep and 'to comfort and strengthen the heart.' Pliny prescribes a liniment of Violet root and vinegar for gout and disorder of the spleen, and states that a garland or chaplet of Violets worn about the head will dispel the fumes of wine and prevent headache and dizziness. The ancient Britons used the flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats' milk to increase female beauty, and in the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended 'for new wounds and eke for old' and for 'hardness of the maw.’"


FURTHER READING

McDonald, Jim. Violet herb.
http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/violet-herb.html

Godino, Jessica. Violet. 
http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_wisewoman3e.htm

Yang, Paj Nra. Viola sororia.
http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2010/yang_paj/index.htm