Heartsease

Heartsease

Viola tricolor

Family:  Violaceae
Genus:   Viola
Species:  tricolor

Synonyms and Common names: Wild Pansy. Love-Lies-Bleeding. Love-in-Idleness. Live-in-Idleness. Loving Idol. Love Idol. Cull Me. Cuddle Me. Call-me-to-you. Jackjump-up-and-kiss-me. Meet-me-in-the-Entry. Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery. Three-Faces-under-a-Hood. Kit-run-in-the-Fields. Pink-o'-the-Eye. Kit-run-about. Godfathers and Godmothers. Stepmother. Herb Trinitatis. Herb Constancy. Pink-eyed-John. Bouncing Bet. Flower o'luce. Bird's Eye. Bullweed.  Banwort, Banewort.

Description and Habitat: Heartsease is an a perennial herb common on disturbed, sandy soils in Britain and Western Europe and which grows up to 40 cm in height, it is a woodland plant, requiring shade to be at its best.   It has a semi-creeping or ascending stem, usually richly branched, growing from a spindle-shaped simple root. The alternate, stalked leaves have large stipules, deeply lobed and with an oval terminating section. The lower leaves are almost round, the upper ones oval and coarsely to sparsely toothed at the edges.

The bisexual symmetrical flowers, 1-2.5cm across, grow individually from the leaf axils on long stalks which bend into a hook at the top with a small stipule. The five tapering and pointed sepals have a round or oval appendix at the base. The corolla is light yellow and the upper petal and spur usually purplish. The five stamens have short filaments. The superior ovary matures into an oval capsule with light brown seeds.

This pretty, low-growing annual plant is generally considered a weed, although the cultivated varieties produce a wide range of colours in the ornamental garden. The wild variety, called wild pansy, love-lies-bleeding and herb trinitatis in different parts of the British Isles, is the one you want for medicinal purposes, and as usual with herbs for healing go with the Latin name for identification. Pansies perform best in cooler weather, and are therefore usually planted in spring or autumn, to give themselves a chance to settle in before hot weather arrives. They like rich, well-drained soil high in organic matter, and full sun or partial shade – in very hot sun they cease to produce flowers, so if you are growing them medicinally, aim to have some shade in the day. Pansies will flower even more profusely and longer if spent flower heads are removed. The wild variety can be purchased from mail order catalogues either as seed or plug plants.

Parts used: The dried flowering plants are used entire, with or without roots as you please.

Harvesting: They are best harvested when in full flower and dried as swiftly as possible in airy shade.

Constituents: Flavonoids (including violanthin, rutin), salicylic acid and salicylates, saponins, unidentified alkaloid, tannins, mucilage, gums, resin.

Actions: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-allergic, expectorant, alterative, capillary tonic, laxative, diuretic, vulnerary, anti-acne, anti-rheumatic

Indications:  Specific for eczema and skin eruptions with serous exudates (especially with rheumatic symptoms).  Can be used both internally and topically for any skin disorder with purulent discharge (psoriasis, acne), and also for autoimmune diseases and ‘edema’ or swelling.

Topical use for cradle cap, nappy rash, weeping sores, itchy skin, varicose ulcers and ringworm.

As a diuretic can be used for dysuria associated with cystitis and as well as STIs with discharge. Will also be of benefit in capillary fragility, easy bruising and atheroslcerosis. Additionally will act as an expectorant for phlegm in the lungs, bronchitis and whooping cough.  Acute bronchitis, cystitis, polyuria and dysuria, capillary fragility. cutaneous affections. Specifically indicated in eczema and skin eruptions with serous exudate, particularly when associated with rheumatic symptoms.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Viola tricolor can be used both internally and as a compress or ointment in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and acne and it is a suitable remedy for clearing cradle-cap in babies. It is also to treat gout and rheumatoid arthritis, where the salicylates and rutin exert an anti-inflammatory action.

It can be used to treat a variety of respiratory disorders such as catarrhal bronchitis. The saponins account for its mild expectorant action and the mucilage is soothing to the respiratory tract. The herb is also diuretic and can be used as part of a treatment for polyuria and dysuria. It is reputed to be of benefit in nocturnal enuresis in children.

The flowers contain a high concentration of rutin which helps prevent bruising and heals broken capillaries. It also reduces fluid build-up in the tissues and helps prevent atherosclerosis, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Contraindications: Heartsease should not be used in excessive amounts (many times the recommended dosage) nor for prolonged periods of time, as large doses may cause skin irritations, nausea and vomiting (as the root and seeds can have emetic and purgative properties).  Heartsease should not be used in conjunction with prescription diuretics nor medications for asthma.

Preparation and Dosage:

Infusion prepared from the dried plant.   Make an Infusion and drink 3-4 times daily.

For use on the skin  – Use the Infusion as above and use as a Poultice  or make into a Cream or an Ointment.

Additional Comments & Folklore: An infusion of the plant was said to help mend a broken heart, hence its common name Heartsease. The flowers have also been used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes.

Long before the cultivated ‘Pansy’ flowers were developed, Heartsease was associated with thought in the "language of flowers", often by its alternative name of pansy (from the French "pensée" - thought): hence Ophelia's often quoted line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts". What Shakespeare had in mind was Heartsease, not a modern garden pansy.

The flowers can be eaten in a salad or used for ‘dressing the plate’, they have a peppery taste and a very pleasant on the taste buds.

King Arthur was reputed to be a famous pansy enthusiast. His knights plucked petals to look for tell-tale signs of the future. If the petal has 4 veins, it meant they could afford to hope; if the lines were thick and leaned to the left, trouble was afoot, and so on. The tradition carried on through the Victorian age.

While Pansy is its most popular name, which derived from the French word pensee, meaning thought, this long-loved flower has acquired dozens of common names throughout history. A very abridged of them, which usually revolve around youthful infatuation, is Call-Me-To-You, Heartsease, Jump-Up-and-Kiss-Me, English Violet, Cuddle Me, Three-Faces-Under-a-Hood, Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery, and Love-in-Idleness.

If that last name sounds familiar, it comes from Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the mischievous Puck dripped the juice from Love-in-Idleness on Lysander’s eyes (instead of the intended Demetrius and Elizabethan hilarity ensures).

Certainly a flower for young love and a flower of the spring.

In Roman mythology, violets were white until Cupid’s stray arrow pierced it, staining its white with the purple of love-sick desire.