Foraging: Wild Violets
Violets make me extremely happy because they're one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring. They grow plentiful around our back yard, especially around the kids play area, which makes foraging for them rather easy and a fun family activity after being cooped up all winter long.
The Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)
This gorgeous perennial flowers March-July through most of eastern North America. You can find them in the woods, meadows, and back yard but they prefer somewhat moist areas. Violets grow low to the ground and their flowers range from white to purple with five petals. Their leaves are also easily recognized with a distinct heart shape and scalloped edges.
Health Benefits of Blue Violets
The leaves and flowers are edible and make a stunning addition to salads, syrups, and sweets. Dried leaves and blossoms can also be used to make a tea, which is said to be good for treating canker sores.
The violet flower is an important addition to your medicine cabinet during the cold and flu season. A syrup of the flowers can soothe an irritated and hot throat. It’s also a powerful lymphagogue that can relieve congestion and swollen lymph glands. Cooling and mucilaginous, violet can be used for a dry cough and for ear infections.
Violet leaves contain soluble fiber, and thus are helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is also helpful in restoring healthy populations of intestinal flora, as beneficial bacteria feed off of this type of fiber. The leaves are high in Vitamins A and C, and rutin. Rutin has been shown in animal and in vitro studies to be anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and blood thinning. Many foods that are high in rutin, such as buckwheat, are eaten traditionally as a remedy for hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Native American populations such as the Cherokee used blue violet to treat colds and headaches, while early botanists suggested it for coughs, sore throats, and constipation. A fresh violet poultice can be used externally for abscesses, acne, arthritis, minor skin irritations, sores, and swollen glands to name a few.
Topically, both the leaf and flower are used as a poultice, compress, infused oil and salve in the treatment of dry or chaffed skin, abrasions, insect bites, eczema, varicose veins and hemorrhoids just to name a few. It is cooling, soothing and anti-inflammatory.
Preserving Wild Violets
Viola can be put up fresh in vinegar, alcohol and oil. Being that it has a high water content, when making an infused-oil with this herb it is best to allow it to wither for a day or two to avoid mold growth. Check out my step-by-step tutorial for infusing herbs into oil. Follow the same steps, but use freshly foraged violets in place of the dandelion and calendula.
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