Violet, Sweet Viola odorata L. (Dog Violet: Violariviana)
Sweet violets were used as a mild laxative, and to help support respiratory disorders, hot swellings, coughs, colds, mouth and throat infections, catarrh, headaches, insomnia, quinsy, pleurisy and many other ailments. Gerard said "the leaves of violets are used in cooling plasters, oils, and comfortable cataplasms, or poultices; and are of greater efficacy among other herbs, as Mercury, Mallows, and such like."
Violet petals were added to salads, crystallized for cake and pudding decorations, and made into a sweet syrup for flavouring custards and omelettes. They were also used to flavour wine.
A native of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, sweet violets have been cultivated for their perfume and rejuvenating properties for over 2,000 years. Pliny said that "placed on the head in chaplets, or even smelt, they disperse the after-effects of drinking and its headaches." The ancient Greeks held the flower in such high esteem that they made it the emblem of Athens. It was also the flower of Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love, and as such was often included in love potions. As a symbol of purity and humility, it was associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The plant was known to the Anglo-Saxons, and listed by Aelfric. Folklore says that violets blooming in autumn foretell the arrival of some kind of epidemic in the following year. Although there are about nine British violets, most country folk recognized only two: the sweet violet (the only one to have scented flowers) and the dog violet (the prefix being a derogatory term for a plant that was in some way inferior to its relative - that is, it had no perfume). Gerard highly praised violets, "for they admonish and stir up a man to that which is comely and honest; for flowers through their beauty, variety of colour, and exquisite form, do bring to a liberal and gentlemanly mind, the remembrance of honesty, comeliness, and all kinds of virtues." Violets yield a purple dye. The flowers were used in perfumes, floral waters and pot-pourri.
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Stir 1/4 of a teaspoon into a glass of water and consume 3 times daily, with meals.
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