Botanical and Common Names
- Family Violaceae
- Viola tricolor (Heartsease, European Wild Pansy, Love In Idleness, Three Hooded Faces, Johnny-Jump-Up, Johnny-Jump-Me-Up, Johnny-Jump-Up-Me, Field Pansy)
- Viola odorata (Sweet Violet, Garden Violet)
- Viola yedoensis (Zi Hua Di Ding)
- Avoid high doses as the saponins can induce nausea and vomiting.
- Avoid if allergic to aspirin.
The Violas are a large genus of perennials widely distributed throughout the temperate zones of the world. Heartease is native to Europe, North Africa, and temperate regions of Asia, and has become naturalized in the Americas. It is an annual, biennial, or perennial plant, growing to about fifteen inches with lobed, oval leaves and handsome violet, yellow, and white pansy-type flowers. Sweet violets are native to much of Europe and Asia and can be found along roadsides and in woodland areas. The plant thrives in many habitats from grassy mountainous areas to coastal regions, and are often cultivated as a popular garden plant.
It is a creeping perennial growing to about six inches, producing toothed, oval leaves and very attractive flowers of varying colours, including deep purple and yellow. The flowers are arranged in an unmistakeable 5-petalled corolla. The flowers and leaves are collected in the spring while the root is dug up in the fall.
The plants have been used medicinally since ancient times; but, in classical myths, it was associated with death.
Homer relates how the Athenians used violets to moderate anger.
Pliny recommended wearing a garland of violets to prevent headaches and dizziness.
Heartease was so named because it was once used in love potions.
In the 1930s, sweet violet was widely used to treat breast and lung cancer and still figures in alternative cancer therapies, especially after surgery, to prevent the development of secondary tumors.
The flowers were once popular in syrups, which were used for a wide variety of complaints.
The plant has long been cultivated for its perfume, as well as being added to cosmetics, drinks, sweets, and syrups, and long thought of as the plant of ancient goddesses.
The sweet violet was a symbol of fertility for the Greeks, while the Romans just enjoyed wine made from it. For Napoleon, it was the emblem of the Imperial party.
During Victorian England, it was the most popular scent. The last Empress Dowager of China imported bottles of “Violetta Regia” from Berlin.
In K’Eogh’s 1735 Irish Herbal, heartease was thought to cure convulsions in children, clear the lungs and breast, good for fevers, internal inflammations, and wounds.
- stabalizes capillary membranes
(b) Sweet violet
- anti-tumour remedy
- stimulating expectorant
- saponins (myrosin and violin)
- alkaloids (odoratine)
- volatile oil
- Aerial parts, whole plant (V. Yedoensis)
- Infusions are taken for chronic skin disorders and as a gentle circulatory and immune system stimulant.
- Tinctures are used for lung and digestive disorders, capillary fragility, and urinary problems.
- Poultices are made and applied to skin sores and ulcers.
- Creams are used for skin rashes and irritant eczema.
- Washes are used on diaper rashes, cradle cap, weeping sores, insect bites, and varicose veins.
(b) Sweet Violet
- Syrups are made from infusions and used to treat coughs.
- Mouthwashes are also made from infusions and used for mouth and throat infections.
- Decoctions from the flowers are used as an eyebath and mouthwash. They are also crystallized and added to desserts.
Heartease is used for a wide variety of skin disorders from diaper rash to varicose veins and eczema, but it also makes a good cough expectorant. It has a depressant effect on the nervous system, and also dilates the bronchi, which helps relieve symptoms of asthma.
Heartease is also used in the treatment of blood disorders, but its actions on the circulatory system are not known. Its detergent and antiseptic qualities may assist in the removal of antigens from the blood.
Heartease is mildly diuretic, and has been used in the treatment of epileptic disorders and similar ailments.
The related dog violet (V. canina) has the same uses as the sweet violet.
The Chinese variety is used mainly to treat infectious skin conditions including boils. It is also used to treat snakebites and taken internally for lymphatic inflammations and breast abscesses.
The aerial parts of the sweet violet are used for coughs, bronchitis, and phlegm.