The leaves and flowers of Sweet Violet possess mild expectorant as well as demulcent properties. Phytochemicals present in this herb help to break up chest congestion by thinning mucous and making it easier to cough up.
The flowers are high in vitamin C, mucilage and other compounds which contribute to the reduction of pulmonary inflammation, making it easier to breathe and easing dry coughs. Its anti-cough feature is suitable for asthmatic patients by easing respiration.
Sweet violet contains significant amounts of rutin and salicylic acid which act similarly to aspirin and are useful in alleviating pain, body aches and inflammation, making this herb useful to manage flu symptoms. It is a known diaphoretic (promotes sweating), which can help to bring down a fever.
As well as being said to soothe the emotional heart, Sweet Violet is good for the physical heart too. High in the aforementioned bioflavonoid rutin, this compound has been shown to aid in blood circulation and to strengthen and increase flexibility in blood vessels. Research also shows that rutin can help to prevent blood clots, thus lowering the chances of heart attacks and strokes.
The alkaloids found in Sweet Violet have vasolidating effects, causing blood vessels to relax, allowing the blood to flow easier. This helps to decrease blood pressure, which is another well known contributory factor to heart disease.
The salicylic acid in Sweet Violet acts as a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory, similar to the active ingredient in aspirin. This is helpful in reducing painful inflammation of the joints and effective against rheumatic pain.
Folklore and history
The Ancient Greeks were obsessed with violets. They wore crowns of violets to relieve headaches, cure insomnia, promote sleep and serenity, and stimulate pleasant dreams.
In Greek mythology Zeus had a lover named Io. In a fit of jealousy, his wife Hera turned her into a white heifer and Zeus created violets to give her something lovely to graze upon.
In a sweet story that alludes to the romantic reputation of this wildflower, Josephine threw her lover Napolean Bonaparte a posy of Sweet Violets when they first met. After he was defeated at Waterloo he was permitted to visit her grave one last time before he was sent to St Helena. There he found Sweet Violets growing and picked a few which he kept with him for the rest of his life. Upon his death the flowers were found in a locket around his neck.
There is a legend that you can only smell violet flowers once - whilst not strictly true, it has its basis in a quirk of evolution. Ionine, one of the chemicals that makes up the Sweet Violet’s scent, has the power to deaden the smell receptors once its been sniffed.
Sweet Violet has a long and romantic history in European folklore. This sweetly scented flower was used by the ancient Greeks to make perfume, where it was so beloved it became the symbol of Athens. The Romans used it to make wine and ancient Celts blended the flowers with goat’s milk to produce cosmetics, whilst mediaeval French troubadours used it to represent constancy in their tales of courtly love.
Traditional uses of this plant were many, also known as “hearts-ease”, it was said to “comfort and strengthen the heart” and was often prescribed for emotional upset. Its most famous use was as a cough syrup, with early European recipes describing how cough medicine was made from the blossoms. It was also used as an infant laxative and a sedative.
Sweet Violet Tea: Use 1-2 teaspoon of the leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. Infuse for 10 minutes then strain.
Sweet Violet Tincture: Traditionally Taken 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Mucilages, cyclotides, malic and ferulic acid, saponins, phytosterols (β-sitosterol), salicylic acid (traces), anthocyanosides, flavonoids (quercetine, violaquercitrin, violarutin or rutoside), coumarins (scopoletin), carotenoid pigments, alkaloids and essential oil ((-)-zingiberene, (+)-curcumene, dihydro-β-ionone, 2,6-nonadien-1-
al, undecan-2-one, isoborneol).
Sweet Violet is considered a safe herb with no contraindications.