Sweet Violets: Edible Flowers, Medicinal Plants

Sweet violets are edible flowers that can be used in a variety of medicinal and culinary ways, includes sweet violet syrup and infusion recipes.

| March/April 1984

  • Sweet violets are edible flowers that can also be used for medicinal purposes. Find sweet violets in moist, shaded locations with deep, slightly sandy soil.
    Sweet violets are edible flowers that can also be used for medicinal purposes. Find sweet violets in moist, shaded locations with deep, slightly sandy soil.
    Illustration by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • Sweet violets are edible flowers that can also be used for medicinal purposes. Find sweet violets in moist, shaded locations with deep, slightly sandy soil.

Sweet violets are edible flowers, these common plants can also can be used in medicinal ways.

Sweet Violet Recipes

Violet Leaf Infusion Recipe
Syrup of Sweet Violets Recipe

Sweet Violets: Edible Flowers, Medicinal Plants

Lately, more and more people have begun to understand just how limited, in both variety and nutritional value, our "modern" diets have become. This realization has sparked a new and widespread interest in the culinary and therapeutic uses of herbs — those plants which, although not well-known today, were honored "guests" on the dinner tables and in the medicine chests of our grandparents' homes. In this regular feature, Herb Garden, we'll examine the availability, cultivation and benefits of our "forgotten" vegetable foods, edible flowers and remedies — and, we hope, help prevent the loss of yet another bit of ancestral lore.

There is considerably more to the common sweet violet (Viola odorata) than meets the eye, although this hardy little perennial with exquisite flowers and broad, heart-shaped leaves is certainly attractive — be it in the woods or in a shaded garden. However, sweet violets have also been used through the ages in medicinal preparations, culinary concoctions, perfumes, dyes and cosmetics.



The symbol of ancient Athens, the violet was believed to moderate anger, strengthen and comfort the heart, and promote refreshing sleep. Garlands of its blossoms worn around the heads of revelers were supposed to dispel wine fumes and prevent dizziness and headaches (chemical analysis of the plant reveals the presence of salicylic acid — the "raw material" for aspirin — and thus shows that the Greeks may have known whereof they spoke). The leaves, which have antiseptic properties, can be used in ointments or as poultices for bruises and, when made into a tea or syrup, have been taken for internal inflammations and coughs.

There are even reports of violet-leaf infusions having helped to allay the pain of throat cancer, and several actual cures have been claimed.






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