Violets are neat little flowers that are sometimes considered a weed. Violets are also called Pansies. There are over 500 different species of violet and pansies in the genus Viola. 60 species are native to North America but a lot of what we find today are from Europe.
Since 500 B.C. violets have been used for medicinal purposes as well as for flavorings.
Syrup made from the flowers were used as laxatives for children and used as an expectorant for upper respiratory issues. The flowers can also be infused in oil to be used in salves and lip balms as well as infusing in honey for violet flavored honey. The flowers are completely edible so they are sometimes left in the honey.
The leaves are often dried and used in tea. They are high in vitamin C and A.
There are so many species of violets that they are usually used interchangeably.
Common Name: Violets, Pansy
Scientific Name: Viola spp.
Flower-Purple to Blue to Yellow to White, often have 5 petals
Leaves-Oval to Heart shape
Flower Stem-Slightly hairy to smooth
Growing Time: Spring-Summer
Harvest Time: Early Spring & Summer
Parts Edible: Flowers and Leaves
Found: Throughout North America, Europe, parts of Africa. Will start in shady spots and spread into sunnier areas, some species are found in wooded areas.
-Early Europeans used a syrup made of violet blossoms as a laxative for infants and children
-Violets used to be the preferred choice of treatment for coughs and chest colds in children
-Native Americans used violets to treat cancer
-Leaves and blossoms are eaten in salads
-Leaves are dried and used in tea
-Used in perfumes as well as flavoring
Vitamins, Minerals, & More
-Leaves contain 2x amount of vitamin C as an orange of the same weight
-Leaves contain 2x amount of vitamin A gram for gram compared to spinach
-Leaves & Blossoms are an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory
– The Blossoms, Leaves, and Roots are a laxative with the roots being the most potent
-Leaves & Blossoms have been known to have a relaxing effect
-Leaves contain salicylic acid (a pain reliever & reduces fevers)
-Violets also have antiseptic properties
-Blossoms are a slight laxative
-Leaves are dried for tea
-Fresh blossoms are infused in honey and oil
-Fresh leaves and blossoms used in salads
-Syrup is made from blossoms
-A poultice is made from blossoms for bruises and topical pain
Leaves contain saponins (soap-like compounds) which can cause digestive issues if eaten in large quantities. Do not eat more than a handful of leaves at a time.
-Harvest leaves in the spring for high amounts of vitamin A and C
-Harvest blossoms throughout Spring and Autumn
-Harvest blossoms in the morning and up until the afternoon while the flowers are still open
Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting
- Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
- Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
- Do not harvest on private property without permission
- Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
- Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
- Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)
–How to Identify the White Violets of the Mid Atlantic Region
–Varieties Of Violets: Different Types Of Violets
–THE VIRTUES OF VIOLETS – HEALTH BENEFITS OF VIOLETS
-Bruton-Seal, Julie, Matthew Seal, and John Parkinson. The Herbalist’s Bible: John Parkinson’s Lost Classic Rediscovered: Theatrum Botanicum (1640). N.p.: n.p., n.d. 222-25. Print.
-Foster, Steven, and James A. Duke. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Disclaimer: All information provided is for education purposes only. I am not a doctor. If you wish to have advice on medical problems, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes.
Photos © Morgan Pencek, all rights reserved