Viola tricolor, a European native that flourished after it was introduced to North America, is often viewed as a pretty but troublesome little weed in American lawns and gardens. V. tricolor’s common traditional name—pansy—is mirrored in its domesticated and widely popular namesake.
But Johnny-jump-ups represent more than a source of irritation for gardeners or filler material for bouquets built by preschoolers hoping to win parental approval. They are agents of healing, the repositories of various medicinal substances that are useful to humankind
One of the viola’s popular names, heartsease, attests to the belief that its flowers are good for sicknesses of the heart—both physical and emotional.
Important Medicinal Constituents of Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor)
Violine (similar to emetin; exhibits emetic and cathartic actions at high doses)
Salicylic acid (similar to aspirin)
Cyclotides (an important family of cyclic peptide molecules, including kalata B1 and kalata B2, that have potentially wide-ranging uses in medicine and agriculture) (Craik D, et al. The cyclotides and related macrocyclic peptides as scaffolds in drug design.Curr Opin Drug Discov Devel 2006;9 (2): 251–60)
Saponins (soap-like molecules that act as emollients, expectorants, and surfactants)
Phenolic glycosides (molecules composed of sugars bound to phenol residues; often act as antimicrobials)
Flavonoids (e.g., rutin, arbutin; known for their antioxidant and membrane stabilizing effects)
Medicinal Uses of Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor)
James Duke, PhD, author of “The Green Pharmacy” (St. Martin’s Press, 1997, pg 395) endorses the use of wild pansies in the treatment of various skin conditions: “…modern research supports using this herb as a treatment for skin problems. Germany’s Commission E…approves of using pansy tea as a skin treatment.”
Skin ailments that have been treated with pansy include:
Other potential uses, both putative and evidence-based, for Viola species include:
Anti-tumor: used by Chinese healers to soften tumors, particularly those of breast, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers (Treating Cancer with Herbs. Michael Tierra. Lotus Press, 2003:113;244)
Labor-inducing: pansy’s ability to strengthen uterine contractions led to the discovery of the cyclotide kalata B1
Antitussive: traditionally used for bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, etc.
Demulcent: soothing to inflamed membranes, such as sore throats
Expectorant: loosens and helps to eliminate mucous
Arthritis and rheumatism remedy: salicylates act as an anti-inflammatory
Treatment for bruises or broken capillaries: rutin stabilizes the walls of small vessels
Reduces painful urination in cystitis (e.g., bladder infection)
Reduces tissue fluid, thus lowering blood pressure and helping with congestive heart failure
How to Prepare Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) for Medicinal Use
To make an infusion (tea) of wild pansies, pour one cup of boiling water over 1 – 2 teaspoons dried herb (the whole, flowering plant can be used); steep for 10 minutes. Apply topically or drink one cup three to four times daily.
Use 1 – 3 ml (30 – 90 drops) of a tincture in warm water three to four times daily.
Although they don’t hold a prominent position in the herbal pharmacopoeia, violets have long occupied a place on the shelves of traditional herbalists. And even if they aren’t used as much as more familiar herbs for treating medical conditions, these attractive little blossoms make a wonderful addition to salads and spring tonics
(Johnny jump up). Old English favorite with charming lavender, white and yellow flowers. Once a potent symbol of romance for courting couples. Widely used in England, this is a very attractive garden plant with slightly fragrant lavender, yellow and purple flowers. Used for love potions and medicinally for dropsy, respiratory and eye problems, skin eruptions.