Herb of the Month: Violet

Viola odorata. Sweet, sweet violet. I can’t think of a better plant to represent February. Becoming more and more obsessed with the language of flowers, violets speak of delicate love, affection, modesty, faith, nobility, intuition and dignity – perfectly fitting in with the overwhelming theme of February – Valentines. It’s heart-shaped leaves seem to add to that mysticism.

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Violets have such beautiful symbolism. History has depicted violets as plants representing deep spiritual insights and were revered by monks and religions throughout time. During the middle ages they were called a “herb of the Holy Trinity” being associated with beginning life, death as well as resurrection.

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Traditionally violets were used by healers to treat heart conditions. Oh the irony. Sold by almost all apothecaries, herbalists have used violet to treat inflammation, varicose veins, eczema, as a lymphatic stimulant, blood cleanser and all-round cardiotonic. Nobody says it better than Culpepper himself…

‘It is a fine pleasing plant of Venus, of a mild nature and no way hurtful. All the Violets are cold and moist, while they are fresh and green, and are used to cool any heat or distemperature of the body, either inwardly or outwardly, as the inflammation in the eyes, to drink the decoction of the leaves and flowers made with water or wine, or to apply them poultice wise to the grieved places; it likewise easeth pains in the head caused through want of sleep, or any pains arising of heat if applied in the same manner or with oil of Roses. A drachm weight of the dried leaves or flowers of Violets, but the leaves more strongly, doth purge the body of choleric humours and assuageth the heat if taken in a draught of wine or other drink; the powder of the purple leaves of the flowers only picked and dried and drank in water helps the quinsy and the falling sickness in children, especially at the beginning of the disease. It is also good for jaundice. The flowers of the Violets ripen and dissolve swellings. The herbs or flowers while they are fresh or the flowers that are dry are effectual in the pleurisy and all diseases of the lungs. The green leaves are used with other herbs to make plasters and poultices for inflammation and swellings and to ease all pains whatsoever arising of heat and for piles, being fried with yoke of egg and applied thereto.’

Give your loved one something beautifully symbolic this Valentines. A devoted love? Blue violet is best. Wanting to take a gamble on love? White is the winner.

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Starting the year with a flower?

At the start of the new year there is always a rage about “new beginnings”. Out with the old. In with the new. But last week I was listening to the radio and the presenter was asking, not about what new things you would like to start in 2017, but what good things started in 2016 you would like to carry over into the new year. It was a lovely thought. We often think that we need to rid ourselves of everything that has happened during the year and start fresh, but if we keep just starting fresh, how do we develop and grow if we aren’t continuing to do something good?

It got me thinking about which initiatives I had started in 2016 and not carried on with. The “new beginnings” which turned into “meh”. And one of my favourite things about 2016 was starting my “herb of the week” posts on instagram. Eventually I faded them out though. I told myself they were laborious to put together and the overload of work from university got the better of me. But in essence I loved putting them together and I loved the response I received from the Instagram community.

So here I am, sitting at my computer, deciding that I will be carrying over the “herb of the week” posts from 2016 and making them the “herb of the month” blog posts. And with that declaration, January’s herb of the month is the Carnation.

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Carnations are the birth flower for January and are thought to be one of the oldest cultivated flowers in the world. With such a long history, there’s no wonders to the many legends, uses and symbolism.

My favourite legend related to carnations is a Korean one. They believed that carnations could tell the fortune of young girls. After placing three freshly cut carnations in her hair, the young girl is charged with observing which of the three will die first. If the top flower dies off first, it indicates that the latter years of the girl’s life will be filled with strife. If the middle flower fades first, it indicates she will experience turmoil during her youth. If the lower flower dies and fades first, it indicates that the young woman will face great challenges throughout her lifetime.

Medicinally, carnations aren’t very commonly used. However, they have been used in teas as an aromatic, stimulant herb to treat fevers, stress, insomnia as well as female hormonal imbalances. The flowers are considered to be antispasmodic, cardiotonic, diaphoretic & nervine. The ancient Aztec’s even used carnation tea as a diuretic & to treat chest congestion.

 

Lastly, one thing I have learnt over my studies and interactions with herbs and flowers is that every plant has a meaning. Also, I’m reading a wonderful book called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and it makes my heart incredibly happy! Each different colour carnation has it’s own meaning.

Pink – says “I’ll always be there for you.”

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Red – says “My heart aches for you”

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Purple – symbolises unpredictability and means that something is about to change

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White – symbolises sweetness, innocence & pure love

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Yellow – symbolises friendship

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Striped – a symbol of refusal, “I’m sorry I can’t be with you”

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