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Sweet Violet

  • Viola odorata L.
  • Violaceae
  • Violet family

Common Names

herbsCommon blue violet
herbsGarden violet
herbsHu-chin-ts'ao (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used

Dried leaves and flowers; fresh rootstock

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Garden violet is a small, European, perennial plant; the creeping rootstock sends out runners along the ground which also take root. The leaves are basal, petioled, and cordate. The spurred, violet, sometimes white or rose-colored, flowers grow on long peduncles, pale violet spurs at the back; from March to May. Fruits are rounded, hairy, three-part capsules.

Where Found

Commonly cultivated and also grows wild in damp woods, shady places, meadows, thickets, hedges, and along roadsides and the edges of woods. Native to Europe.

Medicinal Properties

Diaphoretic, emetic, expectorant, laxative, mucilaginous, antipyretic, alterative, antiseptic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory

Biochemical Information

Salicylic acid, volatile oil, mucilage, resin, sugar, an aromatic principle, flavonoids, a glucoside, saponins, an alkaloid called odoratine, rich in vitamins A and C. The flower also contains an aromatic compound called irone, and a blue pigment.

Legends, Myths and Stories

The violets have a large family tree; some 400 species, mostly perennial but a few annual herbs.

According to Greek legend, the violet originated from the tears of Io, a beautiful nymph whom Zeus loved. To hide Io from Hera, his jealous wife, Zeus changed her into a white heifer. When Io cried because the field grasses were coarse and bitter for her taste, Zeus transformed her tears into violets to provide her a more delicate food. In Greek burials it was the custom to cover the dead person with violets as a symbol of both the beauty and the transitory quality of life.

As far back as 500 BC, violet herbs were used in poultice form as a cure for surface cancer (skin cancer). Homer relates how the Athenians used violets to moderate anger. Pliny recommended wearing a garland of violets to prevent headaches and dizziness.

Because of his fondness for the flower, Napoleon was sometimes known as Corporal Violet. When he was exiled on Elba, the violet became his symbol for his supporters. Violets were strewn along the parade route when he returned to power in Paris, after escaping from the island.


Garden violet is primarily an herb for respiratory problems. A tea made from the leaves is excellent as a soothing gargle, for sore gums, canker sores, good for inflammations, relieves pain of cancerous growths, as well as used as a poultice to the back of the neck for headache. A blood purifier, good for treating gout, colds, asthma, sores, ulcers, scrofula, pleurisy, syphilis, and difficult breathing due to gas and morbid matter in the stomach and bowels. The flowers lower blood pressure. Has been used to treat blemished skin, psoriasis, eczema, acne, and infants' cradle cap. A decoction of the rootstock makes a good expectorant. For inflamed mucous tissue in the mouth, rinse with a tea made from the rootstock or the whole plant. A tea or syrup made from the plant, especially the rootstock and the flowers, is a soothing remedy for coughs and whooping cough. Use it also as a calming agent for insomnia and hysterical or nervous problems. The flowers and the seeds can be used as a mild laxative. In large doses, the rootstock is emetic. Particularly used to soften hard lumps and counteract cancer, swollen glands.

Violet leaves are used in puddings, jellies, and salads; flowers in salads or in candied form as a decorative garnish for desserts.

Formulas or Dosages

Collect the rootstock in the fall.

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. mixed plant parts in 1/2 cup water and strain.

Decoction: boil 1 tbsp. rootstock or plant parts in 1/2 cup water. Soaking for a few hours before boiling is said to strengthen the activity.

Syrup: pour 1 qt. boiling water over an equal volume of compressed flowers; let stand for 10 hours and strain. Heat the resulting liquid to simmering and pour over a new batch of flowers. Let stand and strain as before. Repeat the procedure several more times (the more the better). Heat the final liquid, let cool, and add honey until a syrupy consistency is obtained.

Nutrient Content

Rich in vitamins A and C.


Avoid very high doses, as they contain saponins, which may induce nausea and vomiting.

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