“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.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Heart’s Ease, Johnny Jump Ups, violets, viola, or pansies–whatever you choose to call them–pansies are the early heralds of spring. Their bright faces smile up with delight through the snow as soon as the sun starts to warm the ground. A gentle, yet strong flower, they can withstand trampling and heavy frosts. I’ve even had a few bloom in pots through the entire winter in a protected area. Besides providing a simple beauty, violets offer quite the array of medicinal benefits. But I’m jumping ahead.
Violets were the food of Greek gods…well, Io specifically. Zeus, fearing the wrath of his jealous wife Hera, turned his lover, Io, into a heifer and gave her a pasture of violets to eat. Oh, thanks. I’m certain that had I been in Io’s place I would have had a few choice words for him. At least they have a pleasing flavor. Napoleon later chose the violet as his symbol and Pliny the Elder, used violets to treat bronchitis and to nourish the Spleen. Throughout all of Europe, violets were featured in spring festivals as decorations and in foods and wines. Yes, violets are one of thousands of flowers that are edible.
Western nutritional highlights
From a western nutritional perspective, pansies blossoms contain vitamin A and C. The leaves are abundant in chlorophyll–and they have some energetic, let’s say, magic.
Viola’s Eastern nutritional energetics and highlights
Viola (Zi hua di ding) has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. The herb is pungent, sweet and salty. It decongests, dissolves masses, stimulates and astringes to drain unwanted moisture and accumulations. Violets enter the Lungs, Bladder, Kidney and Heart channels. It benefits the skin, nerves, fluids and joints.
Clears heat, toxic heat and inflammation–Viola is used in Chinese medicine formulas to clear out strong heat patterns like chronic infections and lymphatic conditions. It is also currently being used as adjunct therapy in the treatment of many cancers, with promising results.
Promotes sweating and treats respiratory disorders–Viola can be used to help induce sweating to treat the onset of a cold or flu. Pansies help to expectorate toxic phlegm making them useful in bronchial problems from colds, allergies and asthma.
Calms the nervous system, relieves fatigue and nourishes the Heart–Called Heartsease in many texts, violas were also use to settle the emotions and nervous tension. Use violets to help with chronic fatigue and nervous disorders including heart palpitations and nervous bladder.
Benefits the Bladder and urinary system–Viola helps to relieve incontinence, scanty or dripping urination and bladder infections.
Heals and repairs the skin, relieves itching–Use it internally and/or externally, viola is useful for eczema, ulcers, sprains, stings, red irritated skin and wounds.
Ways to use violets
Drink violets– add blossoms to tea or lemonade. I often mix mine with other flavors–last night raspberry leaf, nettle, and rose. On a hot day, consider dropping in a few frozen raspberries.
Toss the greens and blossoms into salads–The greens have a pleasing little zip to them which compliments mellow salad greens like iceberg and leaf lettuces delightfully. Dash them over cakes or berries.
Use as violet water or violet oil–use the water to flavor teas or as a refreshing facial rinse. Drop oil into a calming bath or use as an essential oil…a few drops a day under the tongue can go a long way. Steep the leaves and blossom in water until fragrant.
Make up a vinegar–use for everything from sun burns and bug bites to an unusual salad dressing.