|HERBAL SIMPLES APPROVED FOR MODERN USES OF CURE
W. T. FERNIE, M.D.
Author of "Botanical Outlines," etc_
The Wild violet or Pansy (_Viola tricolor_) is found commonly
throughout Great Britain on banks and in hilly pastures, from
whence it has come to be cultivated in our gardens.
_Viola_, a corruption of "Ion," is a name extended by old writers to
several other different plants. But the true indigenous representative
of the Violet tribe is our Wild Pansy, or Paunce, or Pance, or Heart's
ease; called also "John of my Pink," "Gentleman John," "Meet her i'
th' entry; kiss her i' th' buttery" (the longest plant name in the
English language), and "Love in idleness."
"A little Western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it--'Love in idleness.'"
From its coquettishly half hiding its face, as well as from some
fancied picture in the throat of the corolla it has received various
other amatory designations, such as "cuddle me to you," "tittle my
fancy," "jump up and kiss me," and "garden gate": also it is called
"Flamy," because its colours are seen in the flame of burning wood,
and Flame Flower.
The term "heart's ease" has signified a cordial which is comforting
to the heart. But the fact is that Pansies, "pretty little Puritans,"
produce anything but heart's ease if eaten, and their roots provoke
sickness so speedily that these are sometimes employed as an
Dr. Johnson derived the word Pansy from Panacea,  as curing
all diseases; but this was a mistake, The true derivation is from the
French _pensée_, "thoughts," as Shakespeare knew, when making
Ophelia say: "There is pansies--that's for thoughts."
From its three colours it has been called the herb Trinity. A
medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the _Viola tricolor_ with spirit
of wine, using the entire plant. Hahnemann found that the Pansy
violet, when taken by provers, served to induce cutaneous eruptions,
or to aggravate them, and he reasoned out the curative action of the
plant in small diluted doses for the cure of these symptoms, when
occurring as disease.
"For milk crust and scald head," says Dr. Hughes (Brighton)--the
plague of children, "I have rarely needed any other medicine than
this _Viola tricolor_; and I have more than once given it in recent
impetigo (pustular eczema) for adults, with very satisfactory
effects." For the first of these maladies the tincture should be given
in doses of from three to six drops, to a child of from two to six or
eight years, three times a day in water.
Again, "for curing scalled (from _scall_, a shell) head in children, a
small handful of the fresh plant, or half a drachm of the dried herb,
boiled for two hours in milk, is to be taken each night and morning;
also a bread poultice made with this decoction should be applied to
the affected part.
"During the first eight days the eruption increases, and the urine,
when the medicine succeeds, has a nauseous odour like that of the
cat, which presently passes off; then, as the use of the plant is
continued, the scabs disappear, and the skin recovers its natural
The root of the _Viola tricolor_ has similar properties  to that
of Ipecacuanha, and is often used beneficially as a substitute by
country doctors. An infusion thereof is admirable for the dysentery
of young children. It loves a mixture of chalk in the soil where it
The Pansy contains an active chemical principle, "violin," resin,
mucilage, sugar, and the other ordinary constituents of plants. When
bruised the plant, and especially its root, smells like peach kernels,
or prussic acid. It acts as a slight laxative: and "the distilled
water of the flowers" says Gerard--"cureth the French disease."
The Germans style the Pansy _Stief-mutter_, because figuratively
the mother-in-law appears in the flower predominant in purple
velvet, and her own two daughters gay in purple and yellow, whilst
the two poor little Cinderellas, more soberly and scantily attired, are
squeezed in between. Again, another fable says, with respect to the
five petals and the five sepals of the Pansy, two of which petals are
plain in colour, whilst each has a single sepal, the three other petals
being gay of hue, one of these (the largest of all) having two sepals;
that the Pansy represents a family of husband, wife, and four
daughters, two of the latter being step-children of the wife.
The plain petals are the step-children, with only one chair; the two
small gay petals are the daughters, with a chair each; and the large
gay petal is the wife, with two chairs. To find the father, one must
strip away the petals until the stamens and pistils are bare. These
then bear a fanciful resemblance to an old man with a flannel
wrapper about his neck, having his shoulders upraised, and his feet
in a bath tub. The French also call the Pansy "The Step-mother."
The chemical principle, "violin," contained in the  flowering
Wild Pansy resembles emetin in action. If the dried plant is given
medicinally, from ten to sixty grains may be taken as a dose, in
The Sweet Violet (_Viola odorata_) is well known for its delicious
fragrance of perfume when growing in our woods, pastures, and
hedge banks. The odour of its petals is lost in drying, but a pleasant
syrup is made from the flowers which is a suitable laxative for
A conserve, called "violet sugar," prepared from the flowers, has
proved of excellent use in consumption. This conserve was made in
the time of Charles the Second, being named "Violet plate." Also,
the Sweet Violet is thought to possess admirable virtues as a
cosmetic. Lightfoot gives a translation from a Highland recipe in
Gaelic, for its use in this capacity, rendered thus: "Anoint thy face
with goat's milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not
a young prince upon earth who will not be charmed with thy
There is a legend that Mahomet once compared the excellence of
Violet perfume above all other sweet odours to himself above all the
rest of creation: it refreshes in summer by its coolness, and revives
in winter by its warmth.
The Syrup of Sweet Violets should be made as follows: To one
pound of sweet violet flowers freshly picked, add two-and-a-half
pints of boiling water: infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed
china vessel, then pour off the liquid, and strain it gently through
muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar,
and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil.
Violets are cultivated largely at Stratford-on-Avon for the purpose
of making the syrup, which when mixed with almond oil, is a
capital laxative for children,  and will help to soothe irritative
coughs, or to relieve a sore throat.
The flowers have been commended for the cure of epilepsy and
nervous disorders; they are laxative when eaten in a salad. The seeds
are diuretic, and will correct gravel. The Sweet Violet contains the
chemical principle "violin" in all its parts. A medicinal tincture (H.)
is made from the entire fresh plant with proof spirit. It acts usefully
for a spasmodic cough, with hard breathing; also for rheumatism of
the wrists especially the right one.
This Violet is highly esteemed likewise in Syria, chiefly because of
its being chosen for making the violet sugar used in sherbet. That
which is drunk by the Grand Signior himself is compounded of
sweet violets, and sugar.
From the flower may be pleasantly contrived a pretty miniature bird,
by carefully removing the calyx and corolla, leaving only the
stamens and pistil attached to the receptacle; then the stigma forms
the bead and neck, whilst the anthers make a golden breast, and their
tongues appear like a pair of green wings.
Mademoiselle Clarion, a noted French actress, had a nosegay of
violets sent her every morning of the season for thirty years; and to
enhance the value of the gift, she stripped off the petals every
evening, being passionately devoted to the flower, and took them in
an infusion as tea.
Pliny recommended a garland of sweet violets as a cure for
headache. The Romans made wine of the flowers; and Napoleon the
Great claimed the Violet as _par excellence_ his own, for which
reason he was often styled, _Le père du violette_. This floral
association took date from the time of his exile to Elba. The
Emperor's return was alluded to among his adherents by a pass
 word, "_Aimez vous la Violette? Eh, bien! reparaitra au
The scentless Dog Violet (_Viola canina_) is likewise mildly
laxative, and possesses the virtues of the _Viola odorata_ in a lesser
The Water Violet is "feather foil" (_Hottonia palustris_).