Sweet Violet/ Martsviol
Viola odorata has many pretty names like Apple leaf, Blue violet,
English violet, Garden violet, Heart's ease, Russian violet, Bairnviolet, but the most used name is Sweet violet. The sweet scent of a Viola odorata is unique. The Danish name is Martsviol because it arrives in the month of March. The sweet scent of its flowers is used in the production of cosmetics and perfumes.
Sweet violet has got heart-shaped leaves and darkviolet, sweet smelling flowers. It was not originally a
wildgrowing plant, but common at inhabited places below hedges and on wickets, banks of ditches and in glades.
Three other violets:
Viola canina, Heath-Dog violet or Heath Violet (Danish: Markviol): with pale blue flowers and without scent is native to Europe and common in thicket, on dry fields and hills.
Viola silvatica ( reichenbachiana) Wood violet, (Danish: Skovviol) grows in hardwoods and thicket.
Viola palustris: Marsh Violet or Alpine Marsh Violet (Danish: Engviol) inhabits moist meadows, marshes, and streambanks in Europe, Asia and North America. It is used as the food plant for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the Small Pearl-bordered fritillary.
The violet has often been plant in gardens below trees or wicket or along the fence. A street in Copenhagen with present name Fiolstræde was until 1570 called Violstræde. It had achieved its flowername from many gardens with an abundance of violets. Sweet violet is the most loved boutquet flower in spring. The first spring's violets were until ab. 1875 plucked on the banks of Copenhagen and gathered in bouquets or put in little cones and sold for a skilling. At Copenhagen's market square were in spring 1967 sold ab. 26.300 bouquets with ab. 10 flowers each. The violets were much used by children for garlands. If the petals are plucked, a figure is seen - it's interpreted as Virgin Mary with Jesus.
Henrik Harpestreng ab. 1300-1400s: was used in burns; it was crushed as a compress for headcache which came from drink or food; the scent from a violet garland upon the head protected against vipers; crushed roots cooked with myrrh to put on inflamed eyes; crushed violet leaves mixed with honey to rub on head boils; mixed with vinegar this would heal all outer damage; crushed and put on blisters; the plant sap taken with water against lung diseases and soft ribs; for headache rub head with violet water and fennel juice - or put crushed violets into wine or vinegar on the head; the crushed plant mixed with wine put on wounds, ease pains, the juice drives out pus and prevents "dead flesh."
violet- and rose oil: helped children's cough, put into an aching and buzzing ear, cools body and gives sleep; to rub against roundworms and against head scales.
1533: vinegar-decoct of sweet violet as a drink in spleen diseases.
Henrik Smid 1546: Violets pickled with vinegar and sugar used for children's epilepsy and malaria; violet flowers pressed into a juice and cooked with water and sugar into a syrup, which stops "the burning cold disease" (malaria); violet-oil and violet-vinegar as a compress on the temples stops headache, also as a compress for "the hot liver"; violet-oil stops "the evil heat and sharpness" of the throat, chest and lungs.
Simon Paulli 1648: from the juice of the flowers are in spring prepared a syrup good for "the heated flood of the breast". People used to put a little bag with dried violet flowers upon the chest " for they have got noble forces to refresh the heart". The herb was often used by physicians in an enema "to soften the belly" (against constipation). The seeds were used against bladder stones.
1700s: Violet- and rose-oil mixed with wax into an ointment on children's gums to ease the teething. Viola odorata helps against cough, ease pains, the herb gives a softening compress , the seeds are vaguely diuretic, the root gives vomiting and diarrhea. The flowers and seeds were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772.
Violet syrup in snaps was used for gargling to help "the temper of the tongue"! Decoct from the leaves was used for bathing shinbone wounds and excoriation; violet syrup in a cough syrup for children; decoct of the whole plant used as a skin tonic for dry skin.
1806: Sweet violets which stand all night in a closed room are harmful for the health.
Other use, Symbolic:
In chemical experiments the flowers of sweet violet were used to show acids and salt; their juice mixed with copper gives a green paint; a violet-essence from wine-alcohol can be used to perfume liqueur. If you rub your hands with sweet violets or with the mercury plant, you can put them in boiling water without being scalded !! Violet flowers were sprinkled on the floors to give a fine scent in the house.
In H.C. Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" a silken quilt is stuffed with violets.
The violet flower symbolizes innocence, timidity, grace.
The French have been using candied violets to decorate cakes and pastries for several hundred years.
Source: V.J. Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, bd. 2, Dansk Etnobotanik, Rosenkilde og Bagger 1979