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.

violet harvest.jpg

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.

violet simple syrup.jpeg

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.

violet spritzer.jpg

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!

























Beach Rose-Seaweed Mermaid Bath Salts

Summer in New England is fleeting and beautiful and- for me- is not complete without numerous visits to the ocean.  Maybe it’s because I’m a life-long New Englander, or because I grew-up going to the ocean every summer, or because I’m a water sign, or because the ocean never fails to put it all into perspective, and feel like a beyond nourishing and calming presence…but for me connecting with that ocean energy for just a few months a year never feels like enough! Hence the creation of Beach Rose-Seaweed Bath salts, which I affectionately call “mermaid bath salts.”  This is basically the ocean in a bottle!

 

These are so easy to make, and I really do encourage you all to make your own!  To make about about 1 quart of bath salts you'll need....

20-25 Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) blossoms
2 handfuls of seaweed
1 handful of shells of choice
1.25 lbs of sea salt

Start by gathering your Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) blossoms, but before you start picking take some time to sit with the plant. Engage with your senses- the smells, sounds, feelings, tastes (yes, taste the plant!) and sights. Try to align your energy with the roses. Simple tools for this include exchanging breath with rose (remembering we breathe in what they breath out, and vice versa!).  You can also sketch or photograph the plant, journal about your experience, nibble on a petal or leaf, meditate with it, or just take a little nap with it! These are all valid ways of engaging with the energy of a plant.  When you feel like you’ve tapped into rose’s energy, ask if you can harvest, and if you get a “yes” then go for it! It’s ok if you don’t get a clear voice in your head- just a feeling that it’s “right” is enough.   I prefer to harvest the whole flower, as opposed to just the petals, for this particular preparation. Next collect your seaweed- any kind will do. I prefer to take what has washed-up or is floating in the water as opposed to harvesting the living seaweed from the rocks as much as possible.  You can gather some special shells to add if you like- this year I added some of my beloved moon snails. And of course- as always- feel free to play around with this recipe and make it your own!

Once you’ve gathered your materials, you’re ready to make your bath salts!  The process is simple and takes 5 minutes. Start by adding about a 1 inch layer of sea salt to the bottom of your jar. You can use fine or coarse, Celtic, Himalayan, or any kind really. One of my current favorite sea salt brand is Redmond’s Real Salt, which comes from salt flats from ancient oceans in Utah! But in my wildest dreams I’m using my own homemade sea salt I’ve made myself by cooking down the seawater, but that time hasn’t come for me yet! Next add a ½- 1 inch layer of the roses, seaweed, and a sprinkling of shells if you’d like. Then add another layer of salt until the plant material is covered, then another rose/seaweed/shell layer, and so on, ending with a 1 inch layer of sea salt at the top! Cap and let sit at least a week before use. It will have the heady smell of seaweed and rose when it’s done.

Misty morning in Maine

Misty morning in Maine

When you’re ready to take your mermaid bath (I prefer to use mine in the dead of the New England winter when I need that summer and ocean connection, and the comforting feeling of the sea), add as much as you want to your bath. Be sure to add the roses and seaweed right into the bath too where they will re-hydrate for full mermaid effect!  (You can get little mesh screens that fit over your drain for easy clean-up.)  Sit in your bath and dream summer dreams and memories, and relax in the nourishment the beach and essence of summer has to give! And of course both rose and seaweed are emollients, and deeply nourishing and softening to the skin! 

Happy high summer to you all!


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!

Beach Rose Love

Beach Rose Love

Ashwagandha-Spiced Ghee

I was inspired to share this recipe after sharing it with a client this morning. This is my favorite way to take Ashwagandha and great for folks who are weary of taking tinctures, tablets and capsules.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a such a wonderful herb.  It comes to Western Herbalism by way of Ayurveda, where it is known as a Rasayana- a supreme tonic herb. It supports the nervous system and helps reduce stress and anxiety and, if taken over time, will promote restful sleep and good energy endurance during the days with fewer crashes and lows.   As an adaptogen, it also helps support an appropriate stress response, taking us from a chronic state of "flight or fight" into a state where we can better manage and roll with the day-to-day stresses of life.  It's a wonderful herb to add to your daily protocol for just about anyone living in the stress of our modern world! The addition of the spices in this recipe supports assimilation and digestion, and add a nice flavor too. It's so easy to make your own and can be a great part of a daily health routine.

Ashwagandha-Spiced Ghee

1 2/3rd cups ghee
1/2 cup Ashwagandha powder
2 tsp Ginger pwd
2 tsp cinnamon pwd
2 tsp cardamom pwd
2 tsp rose petal pwd
Raw honey to taste (optional)

1 2/3 cups ghee is the amount of ghee you will get from cooking down 1 lb of butter, and is also the same amount of ghee in the jar size it is commonly sold in. Combine the herbs and ghee in a pan. Put on low and mix the herbs into the ghee as it melts. Be careful not to burn the herbs. Heat gently for 4-5 minutes. Then pour into a heat-resistant jar, like a mason jar. Add raw honey to taste if desired. Stir occasionally as it cools to ensure that the herbs are evenly mixed into the ghee. A medicinal dose is 3 tsp/day. Eat straight, put on toast, add to warn grains, put in coffee or tea, or use for cooking.

Enjoy!


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!