"The powers of violet are like the ocean: ancient, endless, and ever-creative, her healing gifts permeating into all aspects of one's being." -Judith Berger, Herbal Rituals
It's hard not to feel joy when in the presence of violets. Their shape and color and the fact that they grow so abundantly in yards and forests all over make them one of our most friendly and accessible medicines, easily approached and understood by children and beginners and folks with all levels of experience in herbal medicine.
I love how this photo of a violet leaf, taken by a friend, is a beautiful visual representation of violet's affinity for the lymphatic system (more on that below...)
The energetics of violet are cooling and moistening, properties you can experience firsthand by putting the plant in your mouth. The mucilaginous properties of the leaves are felt on the tongue within a few seconds of chewing, as a cooling and slippery mucilage coats the mouth. This is a key indication of the medicine, which coats mucus membranes along the digestive tract, soothing and nourishing as it goes.
Years ago I did a plant meditation for this first time. I was new to herbalism and was falling in love with the violets popping up all around my house. After my young daughter was in bed I laid down, closed my eyes, and imagined that I had shrunk way way down, entered a violet plant, and was traveling throughout its tissues. When I got to the flowers I got the message "Put me in your ears."
I was stunned. So far noting had "happened" in the meditation, and in general I am not prone to such experiences. But the message had been strong and clear. So even though I had never heard of using violet flowers in the ears, I gathered some the next day and steeped them in olive oil for a month.
I remember the day I strained the flowers out and bottled the oil, planning to put a few drops in each ear before bedtime so that I could relax and concentrate on what was happening. That evening I did just that, and then got in our rocking chair to nurse my daughter before bed. As we rocked back and forth I sang to her, as I always did.
Partway through this usual bedtime routine something in my ears seemed to pop open. Suddenly my face was very hot, tears were running down my cheeks, and I could hear my own voice as I had never heard it before as I continued to sing a lullaby. The way I was experiencing sound had changed, something had opened, and it'd happened in an instant. I knew something profound was happening and did my best to just keep singing so as to not interrupt the baby's falling asleep process.
I learned many years later that violet flowers are indeed used to help open the head- ears, sinuses, and the tubes connecting the two areas. They are also recommended in cases of tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears).
I don't know exactly what happened to me that night, but I will never forget it. It was my first experience of being open to communication from the intelligence of the plant realm, acting on the message I'd received, and having a healing experience as a result.
Violet flowers are such abundant and accessible medicine. Energetically and emotionally, I think of them as having a special affinity for women and girls, and for helping us to find strength deep within as we navigate the many life stages and rites-of-passage our bodies make necessary. (In fact, I made violet flower essence the main component of my Unto Herself medicine, alongside mammoth tusk and amber).
Plus, they taste amazing! Definitely my favorite flower flavor. I love to eat them straight off the plant, but they can also be added to salads or used as a garnish (and so much else...)
Filled with vitamins and minerals which bring deep nourishment to the body, the leaves are more commonly used for medicine than the flowers. They are famed for their ability to dissolve hardness in the body, especially in a woman's tissues- cysts, lumps, fibroids, tumors, and even cancers can be helped by violet's gentle strength. In 1931 herbalist Maude Grieve wrote of violet's effect on cancer that "Several reputed cures have been reported" and gives a specific instance of a man's colon cancer being cured by copious amounts of violet leaf tea.
Susan Weed writes, "Try Aunt Vi, along with your Wise Woman ways, when healing yourself or others with swollen glands, growths, tumors, and cancers of the stomach, lungs, breasts, tongue, mouth, skin, bladder, kidneys, colon, larynx, throat, or tonsils."
I made a violet-leaf infused castor oil this year and am currently using it to address my uterine fibroids. I have heard from a number of customers who have successfully used violet leaf infusions and/or oils to dissolve cysts and fibroids in their uterus, ovaries, and breasts. I do not personally know anyone who has used them to address cancer, but I think the long traditional use there speaks volumes about violet's ability to break down hardness in the body and send it on its way.
And how does the body dispose of these unwanted tissues once their sent on their way? Via the lymphatic system, another area of specialty for violet. Used long term, violet helps keep the lymph flowing freely, unblocking stagnation that may lead to serious health problems down the line.
Another area of the body where violet provides nourishment and the unblocking of energy is in the chest and lungs. It is used to support the bronchial tubes, soothe coughs and inflamed throat tissue, help bust through congestion, and address shortness of breath.
Many traditions (and the experiences of myself and countless people I've talked to) hold that grief and sadness are stored in the lungs. Think about it- when you're sad, you bend forward, protecting your chest and often stuffing the emotions down deep in there (contrariwise, when you're joyful or elated you puff your chest outward).
Blocked emotional energy can have a profound effect on the health of the body, and violet helps to gently open up those blockages in the chest, freeing up emotions and allowing movement and flow to bring healing. After losing my mom in a car accident in 2015, I've come to think of violet as a friend who helps to soften the jagged edges of living with trauma and loss.
As I was getting ready to publish this I read an extensive interview with "The Godmother of American Herbalism" Rosemary Gladstar in the amazing Herbaria newsletter (which is free and which you should *definitely* subscribe to). She was recounting the many companies and conferences and movements she's started in the last 40 years, all based on messages from dreams and deep within, and then she said-
These days, I hear something quite different: “slow down…slow down….slow down,” the violets are calling.
There is so, so, so much more I could say about the medicine of violet. I've touched on maybe 10% of the ailments she is commonly used for here. The quote that opened this post is absolutely accurate, and I encourage you to check out the books I've linked to here for some beautiful, in-depth writing about this and many other herbs that are probably growing outside your front door.
But for my final thought here, I want to echo what Rosemary said in the quote above. Violets remind us to slow down, that life is sweet when we can call upon friends (human, plant, and otherwise) to help soften the hard edges and the tense blockages we've come by. All of us, and especially us women and girls, have experienced trauma and have felt shame for inhabiting our bodies. We have gone through monumental changes and rites of passage with dread and fear instead of celebration and joy. We have learned to harden ourselves toward a world that hurts us. The sweet flowers and nourishing leaves of violet remind me every day to watch where I'm constricting and to soften around it, and to let my physical and emotional energy flow without fear.