Sweet sweet Violet – medicinal and edible uses of Violets
Sweet sweet Violet – medicinal and edible uses of Violets
This is the season for sweet violets here on the Mornington Peninsula. I just love violets, the colour, the sweet aroma, the delicate way the flower sits there humbly on the drooping stem. It has a real personality, this flower – beautiful to no ends yet so humble….
And sweet violets are not only pretty, they are also a very handy and efficient plant to have in your garden as you can use the flowers, leaves and root for so many useful things, so it ticks the beauty box and it sure ticks the no wastage box! And as @milkwood_permaculture mentions, violets are fire retardants so they are a great addition to plant near your house.
When it comes to plants, I really like to learn about the plant. There is real beauty in planting and growing things, but also there is pure beauty in going and exploring your back yard or simply foraging in nature and discovering what is already there and learning about it….
I really enjoy getting in touch with the history of the plant.
There is real pleasure in knowing plants, and knowing where they came from. Knowing the historical context they have, I believe, makes the experience more holistic. There is a lot of reassurance and beauty in using things that people have used for thousands of years and be informed by ancient remedies that have stood the test of time. I rely on this knowledge when I formulate my products at Be Better Balms.
I also really enjoy observing the plant, so really taking it in with all my senses – looking at the flower with its heart shaped 5 petals (one of them is wider than the others), the texture, the sweet smell, the seeds that are usually transported by little ants. I highly encourage you to get to know your plant, get up and personal with it, get to know its past, its present and its future – how you are going to use it…or maybe not use it and just observe it and enjoy its beauty.
So here is some information about violets, and how you can use them around home.
Sweet violets in history:
Sweet violets (Viola Odorata) have been admired by the ancient Greeks who used to drink an infusion of Violet flowers to calm angry minds and promote sleep…They also used to place the violet flowers around their heads to prevent headaches and cure handovers…funny thing is that the Romans used to make a violet flavoured wine from the flowers – it was a big favourite with the romans so good to drink and good for recovery from drinking…
Later on, the Anglo-saxons used violets to scare off evil spirits…it was thought that if you dreamt of violets it was a sign of good luck.
Napoleon was obsessed with violets, he was nicknamed Caporal Violette and it is said he died wearing a locket of violets from Josephine’s grave.
How to use Sweet Violet:
Sweet Violet is the main medicinal and culinary species used in Europe.
Sweet violets in cosmetics –
The sweet violet flowers and leaves are used to extract essential oils that are often used to make perfumes and skin care products including skin brightening powders. The flowers are also used to make tinted skin lotions and eyeshadows.
There is a small village in France called Tourettes Sur Loup where every year around 100 tons of violet flowers are harvested as part of the Violet festival.
Sweet Violets in the kitchen –
You can add the flowers and leaves to salads, pesto and sandwiches. You can also make some lovely violet flower ice cubes or combine the flowers with vinegar for a lovely aroma and colour. It is not recommended to eat the root on a regular basis as it may cause nausea but some herbalists recommend chewing the root to help toothaches.
Home remedies with Sweet Violets –
Sweet violets are very high in Vitamin A and C and have antibacterial properties.
Violet Flowers Cough syrup –
This is a great syrup for coughs and general colds/flu, plus – it’s delicious!
2-3 Tsp Violet Flowers
1 Cup boiling water
½ cup raw honey or coconut nectar (if you are vegan)
How to prepare Violet flowers cough syrup:
1. Place the violet flowers in a cup and pour boiling water over the flowers
2. Cover the cup with a plate/lid and leave it to infuse for 5 minutes. You will notice the water turning into a beautiful blue shade
3. Strain the water. Use a spoon to mash down the flowers so all the goodness is squeezes into the water
4. Pour the infused water into a saucepan and add the honey/coconut nectar
5. Heat the mixture and bring to the boil. Stir occasionally.
6. Continue boiling on low heat for a further 5 minutes. Be careful not to boil for too long or you’ll end up with violet toffee….
7. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down
8. Stir the mixture and pour into a dark glass bottle with a cap (you can usually find these bottles in $2 shops or second hand shops)
9. Make sure to label the bottle
If not opened, the syrup should last for a few months in the fridge, but once opened use within 1-2 weeks. So having the syrup in a few small bottles might be handy.
Take 2 Tsp twice a day for coughs and colds/flu, or 1 Tsp a day for general health.
Aloe Violet Gel –
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) is a must have in every home! It is the perfect first aid for burns, bites, sunburn, sores and rashes. The sap inside the Aloe vera is what we are after and combined with violet flowers, it forms a lovely, soothing gel.
I use the Aloe gel I extract from our extensive Aloe Barbadensis succulents growing on our property on the Mornington Peninsula and use it to handmake our Be Better Balms Burn Balm. The burn balm combines the Aloe Vera with other cooling and healing botanicals such as Calendula, Lavender, Spearmint, Chamomile, Shea butter, Coconut oil, Arnica oil and more to help hydrate and cool the skin.
4-5 Fresh Aloe vera leaves
½ violet flowers
How to prepare Aloe Violet Gel -
1. Break the leaves off the Aloe vera plant, as close to the stem as possible. Give it a quick wash if needed
2. Place the leaves on a chopping board and cut off the spiny bits on the sides. You should see the gel strip between the two sides of the Aloe Vera’s skin
3. Slice off the top and bottom skins, so you are left with the clear gel strip – that’s the part you want!
4. Repeat this process with all the Aloe leaves and place the strips in a food processor
5. Add the violet flowers to the food processor
6. Blend the gel strips and the flowers for 1-2 minutes
7. Strain the gel. Use a spoon and mash the mixture to squeeze all the goodness
8. Store the gel in a dark glass jar
9. Make sure to label the jar
Store the gel in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Apply as needed on the skin.
Violet leaf infused oil –
This is a great oil to use on dry, sensitive and irritated skin. You can add the oil to a relaxing bath, baby bath, or apply as a rich moisturiser or as a massage oil.
You can either use fresh or dry leaves – the ratio is 2:1
50g of fresh violet leaves or 25g of dried and crumbled violet leaves
500ml Olive oil, Almond oil or canola oil – all these oils are suitable. They are not too heavy, and have Vitamin E in them which helps preserve the infused oil.
How to prepare Violet leaf infused oil:
1. Place the Violet leaf and oil in a pyrex bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan with cold water and slowly bring the water to boil. Heat gently (it’s important the oil doesn’t boil) for 2-3 hours. Make sure there is always some water in the saucepan.
2. Let the oil cool down and strain using a muslin sheet.
3. Store the infused oil in a labelled dark glass bottle.
I hope I inspired you to go out there and explore your backyard – you might find some sweet violets and enjoy all the benefits this super plant has to offer.
I would like to point out that there are many species in the Violet family and this blog is specific to the Sweet violet with the purple flowers. Make sure you identify your plant correctly as some species can be poisonous.
So go and explore your own back yard, and I would love to hear what you prepare with your violets in the comments below!