Violet flowers and leaves serve a variety of human needs quite well. They're rich in vitamin C and loaded with salicylic acid. I especially love working with the flowers because it's such a beautifully gentle process and, for me, deeply rooting as well. They figure prominently in a great many of my childhood memories. They're also my original home state's official flower and that pleased me a great deal.
[am including this link for a far more comprehensive overview of Violet's healing and nutritional versatility. Today I'd much rather spend most of my time outside rather than re-inventing any word-based wheels on this or any other subject. Additionally here's a video of some herbalists (including Matt Wood) discussing violet medicine. Plus here's the irrepressable Susun Weed demonstrating how to make violet infused honey ]
The picture above was taken a few years back following a friend's request for "a healing agent of some kind". As someone with very little breast mass she suffered a great deal from what's euphemistically called discomfort associated with mammograms. We spoke of this while sitting by the frog pond. Its northern side has a very large colony of violets. I pointed them out and shared the fact that I sometimes used an oil infusion of these flowers to make a cream I incorporated into breast self-exams. I praised the plant's lymphagogue properties and offered to prepare them in a very light easily absorbed carrier oil. Had automatically assumed that would be grapeseed oil but she'd read an article that spoke of apricot oil's affinity for the thinner skin that aging brings.
I didn't have any but she'd bought some at the health food store in the next town where she'd picked up some sandwiches and fruit salad for our lunch.
"I saw it and bought it just because it felt very important to have it - right now, today." She said as much in the lightly ponderous tone of somebody who follows intuitive cues even when they don't know why. Because she did she was able to gather flowers and make the oil herself right there in my kitchen. She now makes it on the regular for herself and her two younger sisters who share her tender breast situation enough to actively wince at the mere of thought of having The Girls squeezed with imperious finality between the two plexiglass plates.
Together we sat at the table preparing two separate infusion endeavors while talking about a lot of other things we might not have discussed as a continuous stream of femalecentric herbal wisdom. I worked on a white vinegar infusion to be used in sitz baths. We also spoke of flower essences which she considered 'weird and possibly hokum'. I laughed and said something along the lines of wow I've never heard that before - not even once let alone fifty million times. She laughed as well.
And so we spoke of flower essences in some degree of detail. I hadn't been planning any such thing and neither had she. We both laughed a lot more about that fact with a very gentle lilt to it. She asked hesitantly if all the violet flowers we'd worked with might have something to do with our ability to break new ground together. I shared my belief that all flowers have the ability to facilitate formerly 'impossible' conversations whether or not the topic of essence work was included. We're still talking about that back and forth as we both discover more about flowers' capabilities as well as our own shared affinity for growing OUT of who we already are into that which we're actively becoming.
The basket above shows flowers and leaves that I gathered this morning. On this occasion I wanted both for the purpose of co-creating an oil I can turn into a cream that I use in place of Aspercreme. Its roll-on form came into my life about five months ago when my single arthritic knuckle became bothersome enough to eclipse my awareness of all the other knuckles that don't bother me at all. I ate a few flowers as I did my gathering - moving from one colony of violets to the next so I was also moving from the evolving sanctuary garden to the frog pond and out into the field for a total of seven gathering locations.
Surface area is a key factor in making successful herbal remedies. Ongoing wisdom makes clear that the potency and longevity of a remedy is directly relational to the degree of surface area. This is why most remedies are macerated old school with a mortar and pestle or zip-zapped in a blender along with the oil or alcohol carrier. I continue to do a fair amount of both but, when it comes to violets, I simply collect more flowers so I don't have to cut them apart. In keeping with this ally's gentle and sensitive nature I chiffonade the leaves - sometimes cutting the results at perpendicular angles to create more surface areas. Today I let it go with simply creating the ribbons with a serrated blade.
I have a dedicated enamelware double boiler I use for herbal infusions. Unless I've planned ahead enough to have a particular carrier on hand I work with one of those large tins of olive oil you find in the grocery store. During our last week of formerly normal behavior J picked up two of those tins for me. Because I wanted enough to last me until the next violet harvesting season I wound up with roughly twice as much plant matter as I'd normally include. Adding oil enough to cover the botanicals brought the infusion's contents about an inch short of overflowing.
Upon my most recent check-in the brew was morphing into its intended iteration. The flowers are drained of color and their stems are also white and roughly half their original size. The leaves currently look like the canned soup version of leafy greens. I removed the lid and will soon place the top/oil-filled pan on a trivet to cool a bit before I commence straining.
note: I don't personally use violet tincture any more because I've found it's a little rough on my upper digestive tract - yielding heartburn and a stomach ache. If I've time and the weather holds (snow is predicted. sigh...) I'll put up a half pint of white vinegar infusion. It's really nice to have on hand for anyone suffering from hemorrhoids - especially those whose bodies don't respond well to epsom salts. just add a teaspoon or so of the infusion to the sitz bath water and swirl it around to insure it's well integrated.
The year J contracted Lyme (and struggled with ongoing very active symptoms for the better part of two years) I put up a few half pints of the oil as a cold infusion due to the delicacy of the flowers. I thought he'd like it for his joints but instead he used it close to constantly for headaches - which had rarely troubled him previously. Once we were obliged to replace our stove I embraced the warming burner as the best combination of both options.
Also - you did realize I wasn't gonna not mention this other application of the flower medicine - violet flower essence is really awesome for quiet reclusive types who also need to learn how to get up and out and shake their tail feathers from time to time in order to feel truly complete. As an example, Molly Sheehan used to tell a wonderful story about a customer who worked with the essence and 'suddenly' began to attend and participate in poetry slams with cumulatively life changing results.