Tag Archives: natural remedies

The Love and Lore of Violets


An excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles:

“Who are the violets now
That strew the lap of the new-come spring?” ~ Shakespeare: Richard II

SweetViolets008

Violet (Viola Odorata). Part Used: Flowers (dried). The leaves and whole plant (fresh).

Sweet violets grow at the edge of forests and clearings and can be detected by their scent. Sometimes they appear as unwanted guests in yards and gardens, but we like violets and encourage them here. Violets have a long history reaching deep into the misty past. There are over two hundred species in the world; five are native to Great Britain. Sweet violets are usually dark purple, but may be white. The flowers are full of honey and appealing to bees, but usually bloom before bees are really out from as early as late February into April.

Viola OdorataViolets imbue liquids with their color and fragrance and make a divine perfume. A medicinal syrup of violets is given as a laxative considered mild enough for children, and for a variety of other ailments. Old herbalists recommended the syrup for ague (acute fever), inflammation of the eyes, insomnia, pleurisy, jaundice, and many other illnesses. They had great faith in its healing attributes. Among other components, violets contain salicylic acid which is used to make aspirin.

As with primroses, violets have been associated with death, particularly of the young. This is referred to by the poets, including Shakespeare in Hamlet. Ancient Britons used violet flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats’ milk to increase female beauty. In the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended ‘for new wounds and eke for old’ and for ‘hardness of the maw.’ In Macer’s Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against ‘wykked sperytis.’  (A Modern Herbal)

Gar Flower Web Blue Violet

Askham’s Herbal Violet Recipe for Insomnia: “For the that may not slepe for sickness seeth this herb in water and at even let him soke well hys feete in the water to the ancles, wha he goeth to bed, bind of this herbe to his temples.”

spray of beautiful dark blue violets

To Make Syrup of Violets: Tale 1 lb. of Sweet Violet flowers freshly picked, add 2 ½ pints of boiling water, infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed china vessel, then pour off the liquid and strain it gently through muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil. (A Modern Herbal)

“Viola Odorata is an ancient heirloom, which the Greeks used in love potions, and beloved by our grandmothers and their grandmothers because of its sweet perfume, delicate purple to deep bluish purple flower and heart-shaped leaves.” ~ Quote from Cherry Gal, an interesting website that sells heirloom violet seeds, amongst other offerings.

violet“I know a bank, where the wild thyme blows Where ox-lips, and the nodding violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you.” ~Edward Payson Rod

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

Age-Old Herbs Heal the Body & Lift the Spirit


“Man is ill because he is never still.” ~Paracelsus

“Every simple plant remedy is blessed and gifted by GOD and its Handmaiden nature to such an extent, that according to it’s own nature and way, it has the power to heal, strengthen, allay pain, cool, warm up, purge, and sweat.” ~Heironymus Bock, Kreuterbuch

*Image of St. John’s Wort~

“And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.” ~Francis Bacon, 1625.

“My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.” ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

“When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight.” ~William Shakespeare, 1595.

“Everyone in town and country had a garden, but all the more hardy plants grew in the field in rows, amidst the hills, as they were called, of Indian corn.” ~Anne Grant, 1700.

*Image of Lavender~

“Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun, And with him rises weeping…” ~William Shakespeare, 1611.

“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me.” ~ Danaher, 1756.

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.” ~Hippocrates, Greek father of natural medicine

“GOD made the earth yield healing herbs, which the prudent man should not neglect.” ~Ecclesiastes 38:4

“A man may esteem himself happy when that which is his food is also his medicine.” ~Henry David Thoreau

*Shirley poppies in the forefront~

*Images of our garden taken by daughter Elise, summer 2011.  We shall see what delights 2012’s garden holds. Image below of favorite heirloom flower cleome.  Though not an herb, cleome is fragrant in a hot summery sort of way, and attracts fairy-like hummingbird moths at dusk.