Herbal Spotlight: Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) A gentle giant and guardian
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
The violet is a gentle giant when it comes to herbs and I adore her. She has a moist and cooling effect on the body and are as beautiful, delicate as she is hardy. She is a spring flower that is up and gone before you can look for them. Violets are also very cold hardy and don't mind a bit of late spring snow. She grows wildly and will grow in pretty much any light profile or soil although I've noticed she blooms better with a bit of shade. I just love seeing her flourish in unexpected spots.
You can eat the leaves and flowers in early spring or make medicine, infuse oils and make balms for the skin and add them to salads or even make candied violets, syrups, tinctures, vinegars or honey with the flowers.
Speaking of the flowers, they flower in two ways; one by the leaves that reach for the sun and are pollenated by early emerging bees. The other flower is a pale green flower found in the shade by the roots. Depending on the species the flowers may be blue-ish -purple-ish all the way to yellow and a very light green. The green flower is a petal-less cleistogamous flower that looks like capsules and are self-pollinated. “Cleisto-”comes from the Greek word for “closed”. The fully developed aerial violet flowers that require pollination are called chasmogamous flowers. Chasmogamy’s Greek root is the word for “wide opening”, chásm(a).
Note: The roots of most violet species should not be consumed. They may cause vomiting.
This double flowering action always reminds me of the benefit of doubling-down and not always putting all your eggs in one basket. It's a gentle reminder to me that spring is unpredictable. I may need to start seeds for more than one type of plant or that winter is not quite over and I should keep my options open.
As you can imagine this duality has myths inspired great poets and writers to associate myths to them. Those myths are around beauty, rebirth and resurrection. This early blooming flower comes right out the death of winter and shows up as one of the first signs nature is waking up. But that dual flower, one below the sun, one so happy and reaching out to the butterfly's and bees is so symbolic that we are both our shadow-self and are light-self. Both can be beneficial, both the light and the dark, they are a part of us. Sometimes embracing the darkest parts of ourselves makes us more resilient and honestly more beautiful. The broken pieces are often what makes us special. I always honor that with using violets.
Violet Medicinal Benefits:
Violets are a friend to the lymph system and help move lymph through the body. Using this herb for breast or pectoral rubs is wonderful. They are full of vitamins A and C and can be paired with other virus fighting herbs to help with colds, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and flu. They act as an expectorant and help to eliminate phlegm. They offer antimicrobial and antibacterial actions and gently support the immune system.
Violets have an emotional benefit to them as well as they work with the heart, (heart shaped leaves). They are said to strengthen the emotional heart. They are a gentle mover and with that movement they can be helpful for love lost, grief and other heavy losses to calm and sooth while the person takes their time to move through the loss. You're never really over the loss, just moving with it and this herb supports that process.
Here are a few ways to use Wild Violets in some fun recipes. We offer this plant in some of our teas and dried herbs. Take a look at our shop for more information.
Wild Violet Vinegar
1 cup violet flowers and leaves (tops)
Apple Cider Vinegar - enough to fill the jar and cover the flowers
1.) Place in a clean jar and cover with Apple Cider Vinegar leaving a 1/4 head space. (Use a plastic lid as metal will react with the vinegar.)
2.) Store in a cool dark place for 1-5 weeks.
3.) Strain and compost plant matter.
4.) Store in a clean jar.
Use for vinaigrettes or as a PH balancing conditioner for your hair. (Food really is medicine)
Wild Violet Syrup
1 cup violet flowers (tops)
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
Combine violets and hot water.
Let sit for the day between 2-24 hours
Once the color you desire, strain flowers and reserve water - Compost the flowers.
Add the sweet violet mix to a double boiler. Heat gently and stir well. Don't boil. Just dissolve the sweetener.
Add to an air tight container.
Add as a sweetener to breakfast items or teas Or for kids who hate cough medicine.