Planted in Alcohol

Making and Using Tinctures and Other Herbal Wonders

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

The house that I currently live in (I rent) was selected in large part because of the vast patches of violets growing on the mowed areas of the property. So when I moved in last year I was completely aware of the common blue violet (Viola sororia) I had surrounding me. It wasn't until this spring that I realized that I also have some pretty significant areas of sweet violet (V. odorata) growing in abandoned garden areas around my home. For me, this was a very exciting realization. I immediately tinctured some flowers.

The first surprise was the tincture's pale yellow-green color. I know that the color of violet preparations is based on their pH, and I also know that 151 proof everclear has a very high pH, which should favor a greenish color, but it was still a surprise. After a few weeks of maceration I had completely colorless flowers, and a delicately fragrant pale green yellow tincture that I wasn't entirely sure what to do with. So, of course, I started tasting it.

The most notable effect, of even the tiniest dose, of this tincture is the huge grin that appears on my face after taking it. This is followed by a happy sigh and a varying amount of time spent feeling very content and relaxed. Not the kind of content and relaxed that makes you sit and stare at the wall for three hours thinking there is nothing in the world that could possibly be more important than staring at the wall, but the kind that makes you consider the things you need to get done, select the thing that feels most appropriate at the time, and get some work done on it. No pressure.

I have also found that it helps me drift to sleep when my mind is racing, calms overwhelming negative emotions (especially anger), and helps me to function better in overstimulating environments. It also seems to have a gently regulating effect on the digestive system which makes it very helpful for people that get constipation due to stress. Violet also has a lot of traditional uses, such as in cancer treatment (though I believe that is more done with the leaf), and other lymphatic actions that I have not experimented with at all.

I was very excited about this tincture and I have given it to several people to taste. I have seen the same grin and eye sparkle on every person's face except for one, she said that all she could taste was the alcohol and that it was too strong. I think, however, that she was actually tasting the tingle imparted by the violet. I found that the very fresh tincture was actually harsher than the everclear itself. The harshness of the tincture has diminished somewhat now but it is still there and the feeling is hard to describe. I suppose it would be referred to as diffusive, but it is not quite like the other diffusive herbs I know, and it is very fleeting.

As I said this is only the first year I have made this tincture so I have only had about 4 months to play with it, but for some reason I felt like this was a tincture that I immediately knew what to do with. At least for me. It has very subtle flavors and properties, I don't think the tincture I have made will remain useful much longer - which kind of makes me feel like I am loosing a friend! Hopefully next year I will be able to figure out some method of tincturing that will allow it to last longer because I think that it would make a very useful winter companion for me. Maybe someone has some suggestions?

Oh yes, and please eat the leaf too. They're just so yummy, though for eating I prefer the common blue violet.

9 Comments:

At 12:26 PM PDT, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

How many violets did you have to pick to get enough to tincture?

 
At 3:14 PM PDT, Blogger Andrea said...

Hi Breena. Well, basically it depends on how much tincture you want. I don't have a very big patch of sweet violets, there is one that's about 2x2 feet with a few other smaller patches scattered about the yard, and of course the flowers don't all open at the same time, so this was a bit tricky for me. I took a four ounce jelly jar and filled it as full as I could with flowers when they first began to open. I don't know the exact number that I picked but I had the jar loosely full, if that makes sense, and then covered them with alcohol. The liquid weighed the flowers down leaving a lot of space left in the jar so, as they continued to open I continued to add blossoms. I pushed them into the alcohol I had already added to the jar until they reached the top of the liquid, and then started adding a bit more alcohol as I added more flowers. I ended up with about three ounces of tincture, which was enough to experiment with myself and share with a close friend of mine who is also an herbalist. I could have used fewer flowers and made less tincture. I think that even one ounce would have been worth the effort because it is really a lovely tincture. Smaller batches tend to require a bit more pressing to get all of the resulting tincture out though. I have been encouraging the violets this year though, and I hope to be able to make a few more ounces this year. Pretty much you just need enough flowers to make it so that the alcohol is full of flowers, you don't want to leave empty alcohol at the top of your macerating tincture. Some plants are strong enough to get away with that, but the violet is subtle and it seems to need to be well packed to impart its maximum impact on the tincture. Sorry I couldn't be more specific. Hope this helps. Andrea

 
At 3:17 PM PDT, Blogger Andrea said...

I meant that I hope to make a few more ounces next year. I won't see any more flowers this year. Thanks for the question.

Andrea

 
At 7:22 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a yahoo group that is called "natural perfumery" where we talk a lot about tinctures for fragrant use. I think you might enjoy being a member is you alredy arent.

 
At 5:47 AM PST, Blogger onelove said...

Dear Andrea,

I am delighted to have passed by your writings!

There is this bunch of artichoke leaves hung up to dry on my patio, as the plant from last season died out. Often I pass the bunch of leaves and pull out a piece, which I chew on. Each time I would think, "Mmmm, what a good liver tonic this would make.", so today I did a search and was eventually brought to your blog.

I am grateful for your clear writings and am inspired to try my hand at tinctures, which is something I always wanted to do. Just the other day, I had to brave odd looks at the local bottle store, because according to the lady there, I was the only cyclist to enter their store at 9am to ask for the strongest vodka!

I have sweet violets planted in the garden, but alas they have not flowered for over a year. Your experiment has once again inspired me to put more focus towards the violets!

Please do keep writing! I will make a note to visit here again.

Oceans of Love
Santhan Naidoo

 
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At 4:22 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,
About 3 years ago I picked all the fresh violets in my yard. I placed them in a jar and poured vodka over them. They have been sitting in the window all this time....do you think it is safe to taste? Or should I strain the flowers out? Thanks so much for yor help!

 
At 5:32 AM PDT, Blogger Andrea said...

I am sure that it is safe, but I have found that violet tincture really loses it's potency after about a year.

Straining is up to you. At this point you might get a bit more "violet essence" if you squeeze the tincture out of the flowers.

 
At 7:36 AM PDT, Anonymous Viagra Online said...

violets are my favorite flowers for several reasons: purple is my favorite color, they smell good and I have plenty in my backyard!

 

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