Violet Simple Syrup & The Heart-Strengthening Medicine of Violet

It’s spring and Violet season is upon us. There’s lots to say about the medicinal properties of this herb- it’s a cool and moistening nutritive tonic, especially rich in vitamin C and A, and is especially well-known for it’s ability to move lymph, especially in the breasts. I love making a Violet Oil every year for this purpose. It’s a lovely alterative that gently supports all the eliminatory pathways in the body and soothes irritated skin (lovely in a salve), and the infusion is wonderful for a raw sore throat or dry cough. But today I want to focus on the heart-mending properties of Violet.

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One of the most amazing things about plants is that they work on us on both a physical and spiritual-emotional level. I’m so grateful every single day for these incredible herbal allies that support me and the people I love through heartbreak and grief. When thinking about the intersection of herbs and grief it’s important to recognize that the end goal isn’t about “getting over it” or moving-on. This is a capitalist influenced mind-set that values productivity over healing and has no place in the holistic model of plant medicine. What the herbs can help us with is navigating the painful, difficult, and often confusing terrain of heartache. They can help us access our grief if we feel frozen, they can calm and ground us if we’re feeling panicked, they can help us process and release, and they can help us move with more flow and ease through difficult times.

Violet has a long history of “strengthening the emotional heart,” as it’s written about in the old herbals. Used in ancient Greece to “comfort and strengthen the heart,” it’s associated with Aphrodite/Venus and was the symbol of ancient Athens.  In Macer's Herbal (tenth century) Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against 'wykked sperytis.'  Gerard, in his herbal dating back to the 15th century, says Violets “comforteth the heart.” Violets were a common funeral flower for the ancient Romans who used it to decorate their graves and it was said to represent remembrance. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, Blue Violet was a flower of love that symbolized faithfulness and devotion. Violets that grow by your doorstep are said to provide psychic protection and ease for your heart.  When you take a close look you’ll quickly notice the leaves are heart-shaped. Another special thing about Violet is that the first flowers you see in the spring- the classic Violet flower- are not at all for reproduction and don’t set seed. They are just for beauty. The plant produces a secret, hidden, and very inconspicuous flower in the fall that is self-fertilizing and in-fact doesn’t even open at all, called a cleistogamous flower in botany. To me, the fact that these gorgeous early spring flowers of Violet are purely for pleasure speaks volumes about beauty and pleasure medicine and the role that has to play in the mending of the emotional heart. There’s also something to me there about sexual sovereignty and it’s also perhaps important to note that Violet was one of the flowers Persephone was picking when she entered the Underworld. The earlier versions of this Greek and Roman myth (said to take place near Enna in Sicily) imply that she took this underworld journey of her own accord and wasn’t accosted by Hades, like most versions of this myth tell…and if processing grief isn’t synonymous with an underworld journey, I don’t know what it is!

I have strongly felt the support of Violet, especially in times of acute grief. Strengthening doesn’t equate with shutting-out though. It’s more like a bolstering when you think the weight of the grief might be more than you can bear. Violet also imparts a sense of calm and drop-doses of the tincture of the leaves and flowers are especially effective for this- try 1-3 drops a day. You can also work with Violet by putting the leaves in your salads, doing self-massage with the infused oil, and putting the leaves and flowers in your baths, taking the flower essence, and sitting with the plant. But perhaps my favorite way to work with Violet, particularly the flowers, is as a simple syrup, which I find particularly calming to the emotional heart. And, while I don’t generally use sugar in my medicine-making, this recipe and its effects are truly worth it.  It’s also a very old and traditional way of preparing violet flowers. Here’s my recipe.

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Violet Simple Syrup

Gather purple violet flowers (this time spent with Violet is part of the medicine!) and put them into a mason jar, gently packing them down. Just barely cover the flowers with boiling water and let them steep for 24 hours.  Strain into a non-metallic pan and add 1/2 part of turbinado sugar for every 1 part of your violet flower infusion (which will be a gorgeous purple color). For instance, if you have one cup of infusion then add ½ cup sugar. Next, gently warm (but do not boil) until the sugar dissolves. And that’s it! Totally optional, but you can add lemon juice to change the color of your syrup to a more pinkish-purple color, adding it little by little until you get your desired shade. Store in a glass bottle in the fridge where it will keep for several months if not longer. You can freeze it for future use too. Add 1-2 tbsp: cup of sparkling water and stir. Notice from your first sip how calm and open your heart space feels after drinking it. You can also use to sweeten your tea, on it’s own in drop doses, to sweeten an herbal formula to make it into a cordial, or use in the kitchen drizzles onto cookies or cakes or even cooked-down to make a glaze. However you choose to use it, I know you’ll find the deep and mysterious medicine of Violet supportive and transformative.

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And here are a few of my favorite ways to use the syrup:

Violet Spritzer

2 tbsp Violet Simple Syrup
1 cup sparking water or seltzer

Violet Lemonade

2 tbsp Violet Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice

Enjoy!


And for any of you wanting to learn more about our locally abundant medicinal plants, our bioregional herbalism series, From the Roots Up, is open for registration! We’re currently enrolling for our summer and fall sessions, which meet 1 sunday/month in the Amherst/Northampton, MA area.

Learn More & Register For Class!


Looking for online herbal learning? Or just want to say “thanks” and help support this blog? In addition to our in-person classes, we also offer online learning through our Patreon Community! Membership starts at just $5/month and there are offerings like monthly online classes, monthly herbal study groups, and more. And if you’ve got enough content in your life it’s also just a great way to say “thanks” if you enjoy the blog!

























Violet Oil

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Violet Oil is one of the first herbal infused oils I ever made...my first apprenticeship was with Tonya Lemos at Blazing Star Herb School dove deep into this herb. Violet was a big player in my formative years of herbalism and the infused oil is one that I would never want to be without!

Here's how to make your own...

 

 

Violet Oil

Fresh Violet (Viola spp) Lvs, Stem, Flowers (it's ok to omit the flowers if they've already gone by)
Oil of choice- Olive, Almond, Grapeseed, and Jojoba are nice choices. My favorite is extra virgin olive oil.

Finely chop your plant material. Make sure both the violet and your jar are completely free of any moisture- the enemy that can lead to moldy oils! Of course, there is the water content present in the plant to contend with (which is why fresh oils shouldn't be steeped for much longer than a week), but what I mean here is make sure the leaves aren't wet from dew, recent rain, etc, and that your jar is dry.  Find a glass jar that fits it, so that the jar is completely filled-up to the top with the chopped-up violet. Loosely, yet firmly pack your jar.  I like to gently tap the jar on the counter while I do this part, so the plant material settles itself in.

Next, add your oil of choice. Pour until it comes right up to the very top if your jar. Stir it with a wooden chopstick to remove air bubbles, and add more oil if necessary.  Place the lid on it, label, and then place it out of direct light in a place with stable temperatures. Be sure to vigorously shake your oil several times a day- this agitation will both help the extraction and also help inhibit mold growth. I also like to put a washcloth beneath it since, with this method, some oil may seep out of the jar. But this is the point! Mold is aerobic and needs oxygen to thrive, so reducing the airspace in your jar greatly diminishes your chances of your oil going moldy.

Strain in about 1 week. Store in the fridge to promote a long shelf-life. Otherwise it will last about 6 months to a year un-refrigerated.


Violet leaves and flowers in a Wild Salad- a great way to get Violet into your diet.

Violet leaves and flowers in a Wild Salad- a great way to get Violet into your diet.

Uses

Cold-infused Oil such as this can be used as a base for many herbal products- Salves, Creams, Bath Salts & Body Scrubs, to name a few.  They are for topical use only.

Medicinally, Violet is famous for its ability to stimulate and move lymph. The lymphatic system is an important part of our immune system, and exciting brand-new research has now found lymphatic vessels linking the lymphatic system and the central nervous system!  It runs parallel to the circulatory system but, unlike the circulatory system, the lymph system has no pump (the heart!).  So anything we can do to help move the lymphatic system along is a big help.  Some areas particularly full or lymph nodes and prone to stagnation are the breasts, the under-arms, and the groin. Lots of movement and exercise helps greatly, as well as taking lymphatic herbs internally, and applying lymphatic oils externally- which is how I'll use my violet oil, probably in the form of a salt scrub. Violet leaves, stems, and flowers and also edible and can be enjoyed in a "Wild Salad"- 1/2 Salad Greens, and 1/2 Wild Greens!


It's so important to support our Lymphatic System, here's why....

Some responsibilities of the lymph system include:

The Human Lymphatic System

The Human Lymphatic System

  • clearing the body of metabolic and cellular waste (commonly called "toxins", but I don't much like the term- your body is not toxic!)

  • circulating white blood cells, part of the immune system, which fight infection.

  • transporting hormones through the body

  • absorbing nutrients, particularly fats and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A,D, E & K) from the digestive system and transporting them to the blood

  • helping maintain a healthy immune system

 

Violet is an incredibly abundant wild weed here in our northeast bioregion. Take the time to get to know her and use her in your medicine and in the kitchen- you won't be disappointed with the results!

 

 

 

 

References:

"Missing link found between brain, immune system-with major disease implications"
http://www.neuroscientistnews.com/research-news/missing-link-found-between-brain-immune-system-major-disease-implications

Encyclopedia of Science-The Lymphatic System
http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/L/lymphatic_system.html


Looking for online herbal learning? Or just want to say “thanks” and help support this blog? In addition to our in-person classes, we also offer online learning through our Patreon Community! Membership starts at just $5/month and there are offerings like monthly online classes, monthly herbal study groups, and more. And if you’ve got enough content in your life it’s also just a great way to say “thanks” if you enjoy the blog!