Lemon and Orange Peels: Don’t throw them away

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Orange peel has many amazing health benefits

Orange peel has many amazing health benefits

If you’ve bought a lemon or two to make your own lemon meringue pie filling, or to use the juice some other way, don’t throw away the peel – it’s full of nutrition. The same goes for oranges, both the sweet ones we eat from the fruit bowl and the bitter ones used for marmalade.

OK. I understand that you might already use orange peel in your marmalade, if that’s why you bought the oranges. Personally I prefer mine shredless, but we’re all different. It may be, also, that you buy your lemons to slice up and put in drinks. Or you may just never buy either of these fruits, so you don’t have any peel that you can put to good use. No problem! You can buy dried lemon and orange peels in some health stores and herbalists.


I hope that you are careful about the oranges and lemons that you buy, particularly if you’re using the peel in cooking or adding it to drinks, because commercial citrus growers aren’t picky about using chemicals, many of which are extremely bad for you. Obviously, a lot of these end up on the skin. So as you are probably accustomed to me saying in every post, it’s important that the peel you use comes from organically grown oranges or lemons (or other citrus fruit).

So why should you go to the trouble of rescuing your citrus peels, or even buying them in? You’ll be amazed just how good for you these little bits of detritus actually are!


First off, there’s a lot more nutrition in lemon and orange peel than you might expect from something you would normally throw away. Here’s a breakdown:

Nutrition per 100g    
Nutrient Lemon Peel Orange Peel
Vitamin C 129mg 136mg
Thiamin 0.06mg 0.12mg
Riboflavin 0.08mg 0.09mg
Niacin 0.4mg 0.9mg
Vitamin B6 0.172mg 0.176mg
Folate 13µg 30µg
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin A 50IU 420IU
Vitamin E 0.25mg 0.25mg
Calcium 134mg 161mg
Iron 0.8mg 0.8mg
Magnesium 15mg 22mg
Phosphorus 12mg 21mg
Potassium 160mg 212mg
Sodium 6mg 3mg
Zinc 0.25mg 0.25mg
saturated fat 0.039g 0.024g
monounsaturated fat 0.011g 0.036g
polyunsaturated fat 0.089g 0.04g
trans fat 0g 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting you start eating orange peel by the bowlful. This is just to illustrate that it’s not rubbish, by any means.

Medicinal uses

But the nutrients are only half the story. There’s also evidence that components not listed in this table, for example bioflavonoids, have health benefits that have little to do with vitamin and mineral content (so far as we know). One of these interesting substances is d-limonene, found in all citrus peel, which is used to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). It also dissolves cholesterol – even when it’s formed into gallstones. Another property of limonene is as a preventive against colorectal, breast and some other cancers. Useful indeed!

Lemon peel also contains a flavonoid called naringin, a powerful antioxidant. Another flavonoid called hesperidin is found in the white pith of lemons, and this may be helpful for menopausal women by inhibiting bone loss (osteoporosis).

Recent research indicates that citrus peel may also help to prevent diabetes, obesity and heart disease by reducing TG and cholesterol.

Great! I hear you saying. But if I don’t have to eat it, how do I get these amazing benefits? Easy. Either stick it through a blender or juicer to get it really fine so you can add it to food, smoothies and so on or make an infusion, or both. You can also use it in larger size pieces (remove the pith to reduce bitterness) in recipes using grains and rice.

To make a standard infusion you would use about 15-30g fresh peel or a teaspoon or two of dried peel to each cup of boiling water. Leave it to brew for 5-15 minutes (the longer you leave it, the more beneficial the resulting tea). Sweeten to taste, and enjoy.

Where to get it

I offer lemon peel, powdered lemon peel, orange peel and powdered orange peel in my online shop.


Lemon, sweet and bitter orange are all used to make essential oil, extracted from the peel. Like all citrus oils, they are photo-sensitising, so you should avoid tanning beds and sunshine for 48 hours after use.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Final Notes

If you are lucky enough to live in an appropriate climate and have a large enough garden to grow your own lemons and oranges, please bear in mind that organic is best, because that way you know what you’re getting is pure and unadulterated with chemicals.

Vitamin D Health Benefits: The Sunshine Vitamin

Sunbathing is a well known way of "taking" vitamin D - don't overdo it, though!

Sunbathing is a well known way of “taking” vitamin D – don’t overdo it, though!

Recent studies have found that vitamin D is an important aid in the prevention of colon cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Vitamin D has long been known to be essential for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth – a lack of vitamin D causes rickets in children and osteoporosis or osteomalacia in adults.


UK Government admits supplementation with vitamin D may be necessary

In a study performed at Osteoporosis Research Center, Creighton University, Omaha, published in June 2007, researchers found that adults will use 3,000 to 5,000 units of vitamin D per day, if it is available. This is between 7 and 12 times the recommended daily intake.

A study published in March, 2007 had already shown that 60% of British adults suffer from hypovitaminosis D, and 90% have below optimal levels in Winter and Spring. The British Government finally admitted that supplementation “may be necessary” to combat rising levels of rickets (caused by Vitamin D deficiency) in the general population.


Cochrane Research has found that taking 35-50mcg (1400-2000 IU) vitamin D a day reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring a hospital admission or a visit to A&E from 6% to 3%. The number of asthma attacks requiring steroid also dropped.

Another study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

In 2017 the TEDDY: The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young study found that low levels of vitamin D in childhood is associated with the development of Type I diabetes. The authors believe that supplementation from an early age may help to prevent Type I diabetes developing altogether.


Vitamin D may be called cholecalciferol or D3, which is found in foods of animal origin. Ergocalciferol (D2) is produced by the action of light on yeast. You may also find calcitriol (1-25 dihydroxy vitamin D, or ‘activated’ vitamin D). This form is made in the body from standard vitamin D by the liver and kidneys, so people with liver or kidney problems are not able to use vitamin D in the standard form, and would need to take this type instead (although it is likely that it will be prescribed by their doctors).

Recent research shows improved outcomes in patients taking vitamin D3. The same research showed that patients taking vitamin D2 (sourced from vegetables) actually had worse outcomes than patients who took no vitamin D supplement at all.

Sources of vitamin D

The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so until recently the medical profession has been of the opinion that it is not necessary to supplement in most cases. Unfortunately, in areas where the weather is cool, many people do not get sufficient sunlight on the skin to provide a decent level of vitamin D in the system, at least for the most part.

“It’s not possible to make up for 50 weeks without vitamin D by taking two weeks holiday in the sun,” a nutritionist told me. “And even if it was possible, vitamin D is only stored for 60 days, meaning almost 300 days without sufficient vitamin D available.”

The problem is made worse because most city dwellers rarely see the sun during the winter months at all, while people in areas where outdoor life is the norm have taken to covering up to avoid skin cancer.

Apart from sunlight, which produces 10 micrograms (400IU) in 3 hours shining on the face during the summer (only a tenth as much in winter), other sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, kippers, mackerel, tinned salmon, sardines, tuna, eggs and milk.

What does it do?

  • lowers blood pressure
  • controls levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body
  • regulates the immune system
  • maintains healthy lung tissue
  • also used in the breasts, sex organs, the stomach, pancreas, skin, hair follicles, brain and prostate gland (each of these organs has a vitamin D receptor).

Vitamin D is also needed to make calcium and phosphates from food available to the body. The calcium is used for:

  • formation and maintenance of bones and teeth
  • regulating heart rhythm
  • strengthening muscles
  • lowering insulin resistance (one of the major factors leading to heart disease)
  • regulating cell production (and protecting against uncontrolled growth, ie. cancer)
  • by the parathyroids to regulate blood pressure by controlling calcium levels

Professor Michael Holick of Boston University School of Medicine believes that the skin’s ability to make vitamin D from sunlight was evolution’s response to the move from the calcium-rich environment of the sea onto the land, because so many systems in the body use it.

How much do you need? More than you might think

The RDA for vitamin D in Europe is 5 mcg, in the US it is 400IU, and in the UK, there is no RDA at all. 1 mcg is equal to 40IU, so the European RDA is half that of the US. However, neither comes close to the recommendations by Professor Cedric Garland and his team after their exhaustive review into studies of vitamin D between 1966 and 2004.

“We now have proof that the incidence of colon, breast and ovarian cancer can be reduced dramatically by increasing the public’s intake of vitamin D,” Professor Garland said.

He recommends a daily dose of 25mcg (1000IU). “A glass of milk, for example, has only 100IU. Other foods, such as orange juice, yoghurt and cheese are now beginning to be fortified, but you have to work fairly hard to reach 1000IU a day,” he added. “The easiest and most reliable way of getting the appropriate amount is from food and a daily supplement.”

I will refer to the study mentioned above as “the Garland study”. It was published in the December 2005 Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The authors are well respected: Cedric F. Garland, Edward D. Gorham, Sharif B. Mohr and Frank C. Garland, affiliated with the Moores Cancer Center and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine; Martin Lipkin of Strang Cancer Prevention Center, New York; Harold L. Newmark, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey; and Michael F. Holick, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine.

Reclassifying cancer, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis as deficiency diseases?

It seems that clinicians have been underestimating the body’s true requirement for vitamin D to an enormous extent, and that many disorders, including cancers, are in fact deficiency diseases. They may take a lot longer to manifest than the ‘classic’ deficiency disorders discovered around the 1900s, but this only highlights the importance of good nutrient levels throughout life, even when there are no obvious immediate benefits.

More than just your bones and teeth


  • The Garland study showed a massive reduction in the incidence of breast, ovarian and colon cancer in test participants who took 1000IU (25mcg) of vitamin D daily.
  • Professor Johan Moan of the Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo found that diagnoses of cancer made in the summer (when blood levels of vitamin D are highest) have a 50% higher survival rate when compared with winter diagnoses.
  • In a 2005 report by Oliver Gillie of Britain’s Health Research Forum (“the Gillie report”), a lack of vitamin D was linked with sixteen different cancers,
  • Studies published in the Journal of Molecular Biology in January-March 2001 and in the Journal of Andrology in January-February 2002 show a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer.
  • Two studies in 2000 and two in 2001 showed a link between vitamin D deficiency and colorectal cancer.

Other disorders:

  • High rates of heart disease in Scotland may be caused as much by the weak sunlight and short summers in the north, which lead to low levels of vitamin D, as by diet.
  • Peter N. Black and Robert Scragg of the University of Auckland have published a report stating that getting ample vitamin D helps people to breathe easier and more deeply. The study, published in December 2005 shows that high levels of vitamin D help to prevent COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. “We were taken aback at how large the effect was,” Professor Black said.
  • Research by Professor Michael Holick of Boston shows that topical vitamin D in the form of calcitriol can be used to treat psoriasis.
  • Studies in 2000 and 2001 show a link between vitamin D deficiency and obesity. Another, in August 2001 showed that vitamin D lowers leptin production (which is a hormone produced by fat deposits in the body).
  • Disorders which involve the immune system, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease and probably others are improved by supplements of vitamin D (but not so much by eating food containing vitamin D, surprisingly). This study was carried out at the University of Alabama, Birmingham USA and published in late 2003.
  • The Gillie report found links between vitamin D deficiency and diabetes, polycystic ovary disease and dental decay.

As if all this weren’t enough, there’s more:

Nervous system:

  • The Gillie report also showed deficiency may be a contributory factor in several diseases of the nervous system including schizophrenia, as well as multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.
  • Professor Rebecca Mason of Sydney University has discovered that vitamin D deficiency can lead to a lack of co-ordination and balance – so that an elderly person deficient in vitamin D is more likely to fall over, and as their bones will also be brittle (because vitamin D deficiency causes bone loss), they are also more likely to suffer a broken bone as a result.
  • In 2002, the New Scientist published research which suggests that lack of sunlight (and hence vitamin D) during pregnancy greatly increases the child’s risk of developing schizophrenia in later life. This research was endorsed by the Queensland Centre of Schizophrenia Research, Brisbane, Australia.
  • A 1999 study by Alam W. Hollis showed that vitamin D supplementation was a better treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder than light boxes.
  • The November 2000 edition of the Proceeds of the Nutrition Society contains a study by CE Hayes showing that Vitamin D is a natural inhibitor of multiple sclerosis. Another study, published by Kassandra Munger of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in 2004, confirms this link.

Absolutely incredible stuff, which has led many scientists to state that vitamin D is more than just a vitamin, it’s a hormone. Thankfully, you can still get it without prescription.

Who needs it?

These people are most likely to be vitamin D deficient (though it isn’t an exhaustive list):

Who Why
vegetarians, especially vegans almost all good dietary sources are animal products
the elderly the body’s ability to metabolise vitamin D is much reduced
people with kidney or liver problems both organs are needed to make the form used by the body, calcitriol
obese patients vitamin D may be trapped (because it is fat-soluble), rather than being available for use
anyone who doesn’t spend much time in the sun, or who wears sunscreen or covers up whenever they’re outdoors screening the skin from UV light prevents vitamin D production by the body
dark-skinned people the skin pigment reduces vitamin D production in a similar way to sunscreen
anyone taking steroids on a regular basis steroids inhibit the calcium metabolism
anybody who lives in countries North of latitude 35ºN or South of latitude 35ºS – and during the Winter months, anybody who lives in countries North of latitude 50ºN (this includes the whole of the UK) or South of latitude 50ºS sunlight levels are too weak

It’s important to prevent deficiency in pregnant and nursing mothers

  • As mentioned above, low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are linked with a much increased risk of schizophrenia in the child.
  • Breast milk often contains less vitamin D than bottle feeding milk (perhaps the only nutritional advantage of bottle feeding).

“1000IU dose is safe,” says UK Food Standards Agency

Although the dose recommended in the Garland study (25mcg or 1000IU) may seem high, the UK Food Standards Agency has said that taking a vitamin D supplement of 1,000IU a day is “unlikely to cause harm”.

Clinicians recommend that the daily dose should not exceed 5,000IU (125 mcg). That’s five times the quantity recommended here. Even so, you should know that exceeding this dosage for an extended length of time can lead to thirst, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness and abdominal pain.

Where can I get it?

I offer vitamin D3 1,000iu (this is the type of vitamin D which is most easily absorbed by the body) in my online shop.

Vanilla health benefits: anti-cancer and antioxidant

Vanilla is an orchid, and also a vine

Vanilla is an orchid, and also a vine

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Vanilla is extracted from the beans produced by the orchid Vanilla planifolia (syn. Myrobroma fragrans, Vanilla fragrans). This is an unusual plant, because as well as being an orchid, it’s also a vine! The vanilla orchid also has other names, including Bourbon vanilla, flat-leaved vanilla, Tahitian vanilla and West Indian vanilla (the latter name is shared with Vanilla pompona). It requires a minimum temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) day and night to survive, so in temperate regions must be grown in a greenhouse or in a pot indoors for at least part of the year. Although it does require support for the vine, it can be grown successfully in a large pot in a similar way to the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), see picture below.

Vanilla can be grown successfully in a pot with supportIt will take up to 5 years for the first flowers to be produced, and if you want to get any crop, you will have to perform the actions of a Mexican bee and pollinate the flowers (which only open for a single day) by transferring the pollen grains from the male part of the flower onto the female part. You can use a good quality artist’s paintbrush to do this. If you manage to get your plant to produce some beans, you need to harvest them when they are light yellow and about 12-20cm (5-8″) long, blanch them briefly in boiling water, dry them and put them in a sunny position, turning now and then until they go dark brown and wrinkly.

Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices, almost as expensive as saffron. For this reason, the vanilla you buy as essence may well be fake, so is not suitable for use as a remedy, although you can buy genuine vanilla pods from upmarket grocers and some of the larger supermarkets. This is probably a more practical way of obtaining supplies for use in remedies. You can also get some benefit by using genuine vanilla in recipes. The old way to make custard, for example, involved boiling a vanilla pod in the milk to flavor it (you could also use vanilla sugar, made by storing your vanilla pods in the sugar for several weeks). Vanilla pods were often used over and over again, simply rinsing, drying and storing to be used again next time. A vanilla pod will keep its flavor for at least 3 years.

Vanilla should be avoided by anyone suffering from Gilbert’s syndrome (chronic fatigue syndrome/CFS, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome/CFIDS or myalgic encephalomyelitis/ME).

Traditionally, vanilla was used to treat insomnia and stomach ulcers and as an aphrodisiac. Vanillin, the active ingredient in vanilla, has been shown to prevent DNA mutations that lead to cancer and inhibit growth of cancer cells. A study in mice showed that it prevents metastasis of breast cancer cells.

Vanillin is antioxidant and research shows that it may reduce the occurrence of damage in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; studies are still ongoing. If you have 100% natural vanilla essence, a few drops in soda or milk will calm an upset stomach. Another way, if you only have the pods, is to warm some milk with a vanilla pod in it and drink. Rinse off, dry and return the vanilla pod to its storage jar after use.

If you’re growing it yourself, remember to follow organic methods to avoid contaminating the vanilla, although because it’s an orchid, you probably wouldn’t get it to grow any other way anyway.

The essential oil is used in aromatherapy for anxiety, depression, insomnia and also as an aphrodisiac.

As with all essential oils, vanilla essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Turmeric health benefits: a treasure chest of healing

Turmeric is related to ginger

Turmeric is related to ginger

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Strictly speaking, turmeric is a spice rather than a herb, as is ginger which is in the same family. However, when it comes to its value as a remedy, turmeric is a star, and I’ve therefore given it honorary herbal status!

Turmeric is also known as haldi and has also been called Indian saffron (though it is not related to any other plant that bears the name saffron), because it gives a yellow color to food, and is/was used as a cheap saffron alternative. The latin name is Curcuma longa (sometimes Curcuma domestica).

Turmeric requires a temperature of 20-30º C to do well, and to be kept moist, which is a difficult thing to achieve unless you live in the tropics. However, it is possible to grow it in pots. Plants are available from specialist nurseries or you can plant a few fresh rhizomes obtained from an Asian grocer.

Choose rhizomes that look juicy (as ones that are dried out probably won’t grow) with a bud on one side. Plant them in a tray with the bud facing upwards in very gritty compost (mix horticultural or undyed aquarium grit with ordinary potting compost), just covered. Water and put inside a plastic bag out of direct sunlight, preferably with bottom heat. They need a minimum temperature of 20 degrees, as already stated.

Once shoots emerge, you can remove the bag, but make sure you keep the temperature up and the compost moist. At around 6″ (15cm) you can pot them on into individual pots (as rhizomes grow, you will probably need to pot on to allow room for them to develop). Put them on a tray full of pebbles or shingle, and keep the tray topped up with water (but not high enough so that the pot is sitting in it), to keep the atmosphere around the plant moist. Make sure the compost in the pot doesn’t dry out completely between waterings.

Although I’ve given instructions for growing, it’s not really practical to convert the resulting crop into the turmeric powder we are familiar with, because it’s a long process involving boiling them for several hours, drying them in an oven, and then grinding to a powder. Turmeric is cheap enough (especially in Asian stores) to make all this effort seem a bit of a waste – although do be careful that what you’re buying isn’t too cheap, as there have been cases of cheap (and sometimes dangerous) fillers being substituted for some of the yellow powder that is sold. The leaves can be used in Indonesian cooking, in particular beef rendang, the plant and the flowers are attractive, and it’s unusual enough to provoke comments from visitors, so you may agree with me that it’s probably worth growing just as an ornamental.

As you no doubt know, turmeric powder is used extensively in Asian cooking and also apparently to make tea in Okinawa! It’s also used by food processors in the West to color many food products where you would not expect to find it, from cheese, butter and margarine to salad dressings, mustard and chicken broth, amongst other things.

Turning to its medicinal value, there are a couple of contra-indications. Do not use in medicinal amounts if you have gallstones or any gallbladder or bile duct disorder. Turmeric is also not suitable for use as a herbal remedy during pregnancy, although it’s safe enough in the levels found in food.

Apparently, taking turmeric in combination with black pepper (more correctly piperine, which is a component of black pepper) increases its effects 20-fold, so if you’re making a meal which includes turmeric, adding 20g of black pepper (or long pepper, Piper retrofractum, a close relative) would turn it into a remedy!

Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use across Asia. In China, it is prescribed as an anti-depressant, but mostly its uses relate to its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar regulating, glucose metabolism stimulating, cholesterol-lowering and liver detox/tonic effects. It is effective in reducing the pain of rheumatoid arthritis – more so than many proprietary anti-inflammatory drugs – and also has a reputation for preventing metastasis in a variety of cancers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer, preventing the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, and preventing melanoma from increasing. Though it seems incredible, it has also been found to be a natural anti-venom effective for bites of the King Cobra. Finally, research seems to indicate that it can both put off and possibly repair damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. And this is just a quick overview. It’s truly a treasure chest of healing in a single spice.


A woman with myeloma who had not responded well to conventional treatment reached a point where there was little left that could be done. She started treating herself with 5-8g (5.000-8.000mg) a day of turmeric and the myeloma went into remission. It is still under control. Source

Chronic low level inflammation is a major component of almost all Western chronic diseases. This may be why turmeric, a very potent anti-inflammatory with few side effects, is beneficial for so many conditions. Turmeric is the subject of numerous research studies, which find that it is almost a miracle spice, effective for many conditions including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It has even been shown to help regenerate the liver.

Drink a teaspoon of turmeric mixed with a cup of yogurt, milk or fruit juice to treat indigestion and bloating, to normalize blood glucose and reduce insulin resistance in diabetics and to strengthen the immune system. Add a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper to combat colds and respiratory infections.

A condition called Hidradenitis suppurativa or Acne inversa, a very unsightly type of acne, has responded well (even in patients who have suffered from the condition for many years) to a dose of 1 teaspoon of turmeric mixed with 60ml (1/4 US cup, 2 fl oz) warm water, taken three times a day. To treat any of the other conditions given, try starting off with a dose about half as strong as this, increasing if necessary. However, if you or your patient are suffering from a serious illness, do not neglect to take and follow medical advice as well.

Cuts, burns and bruises can be treated with a paste made by mixing turmeric powder with water and applying on a bandage to the affected area (or without a bandage, if this is feasible – however, turmeric will stain any fabric it comes into contact with permanently, so the bandage is probably a useful precaution).

I offer various turmeric products in my online shop.

I doubt you will be growing turmeric at home for medicinal use, however, if you do wish to, it should be grown organically to ensure that its properties are not masked or completely eliminated by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Violet health benefits: for kidney stones, cancer and bronchitis

Violets make great Mothers Day posies

Violets make great Mothers Day posies

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The violet or sweet violet, Viola odorata, is also known as the garden violet (a name which is also sometimes used for heartsease, to which it’s closely related), English violet and common violet.

When I was a child, a basket or posy* of violets was a traditional Mother’s Day gift, but nowadays they’ve been overtaken by more commercial gift ideas.
*This is a term which, according to the dictionary, means a small bunch of flowers. I’ve only ever heard it applied to violets, and the posies I remember were trimmed with a stiff paper collar and ribbons, so that they appeared much more than a simple bunch of flowers.

The violet is a very small evergreen perennial, almost unnoticeable when not in flower in its natural woodland habitat. It reaches a height of 4-6 inches (10-15cm) and is happy in any well drained soil, in full sun or semi-shade. A native of Europe and Asia, it is naturalized in the USA and Australia. Although the flowers are usually a deep shade of violet (or blue), white and rose-colored forms also exist.

Violet is not suitable for use by anyone who cannot take aspirin and other salicylates.

Violet is a remedy with a long history, which is particularly valued for its ability to dissolve stones and to treat cancers of the breast, lung and digestive tract. It is also used to treat bronchitis and congestion of the lung, and as a pain killer (it contains salicylic acid), useful for headache.

Make a standard infusion using 2 teaspoonfuls of chopped leaves and flowers to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) boiling water and allow to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours before straining for use. The maximum dose for internal use is one cup a day, which should be split into 3 separate doses of one third of a cup.

The standard infusion can also be used as a gargle or mouthwash to relieve soreness of mouth and throat.

A poultice made from fresh leaves mashed up in a little hot water and wrapped in a piece of muslin or other closely woven material can be used to treat boils and other excrescences of the skin.

All herbs grown for use as herbal remedies need to be grown organically, so that their properties are not altered or entirely removed by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic violets visit the Gardenzone.