Family • Violaceae - Viola odorata L. - SWEET-VIOLET - Xiang jin cai

Scientific names

Viola odorata L.
Viola stolinifera Rodr.
Viola wiedemannii Boiss.
Xiang jin cai (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ARABIC: Banafsaj, Albanafsaj alhelou
FRENCH: Violette des jardins.

Common names

Bayoleta (C. Bis.)
Violeta (Tag., Span.)
English violet (Engl.)
Garden violet (Engl.)
Violet (Engl.)
Scented violet (Engl.)
Sweet-violet (Engl.)

Gen info
Together with another Viola, V. tricolor (heartease), used medicinally since ancient times. Used by the Athenians to “moderate anger.” Violet garlands were worn to prevent headaches and dizziness. Heartease was once used in love potions.


Violeta is a low herb with stout rootstocks. Stems are short or lacking, with slender stolons. Leaves are crowded at the ends of the stems, orbicular to subreniform, 5 to 8 centimeters long, with heart-shaped base, round-tipped, and toothed margins. Flowers are fragrant, 1.5 to 1.8 centimeters. Sepals are green, about 1 cm long. Petals are violet with the throat marked with white spots or lines.


– Ornamental cultivation as border plants around houses. Thrives best in Baguio and the Benguet area; not well adapted to lower altitudes.
– Certainly introduced.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Viola odorata – L. / Sweet Violet : Plants For A Future

(2) Mechanism of action of cytotoxic cyclotides: cycloviolacin O2 disrupts lipid membranes. / J Nat Prod. 2007 Apr;70(4):643-7

(3) Cyclotides: A Novel Type of Cytotoxic Agents / Vol. 1, 365-369, April 2002 Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

(4) Antipyretic studies on some indigenous Pakistani medicinal plants / Sahib Gul Khattak et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology • Volume 14, Issue 1, September 1985, Pages 45-51doi:10.1016/0378-8741(85)90027-3

(5) Antibacterial activity of some Indian medicinal plants / Daljit Singh Arora et al / Journal of Natural Medicines • Volume 61, Number 3 / July, 2007 / 10.1007/s11418-007-0137-8

(6) Cyclotides: A Novel Type of Cytotoxic Agents / Petra Lindholm et al / Molecular Cancer Therapeutics • Vol. 1, 365–369, April 2002

(7) Anticancer and chemosensitizing abilities of cycloviolacin O2 from Viola odorata and psyle cyclotides from psychotria leptothyrsa / Samantha Gerlach, Ramesh Rathinakumar et al / / DOI: 10.1002/bip.21435 / Wiley OnLine Library / Article first published online: 4 AUG 2010

(8) Studies on the antihypertensive and antidyslipidemic activities of Viola odorata leaves extract / Hasan S Siddiqi, Malik H Mehmood, Najeeb U Rehman and Anwar H Gilani / Lipids in Health and Disease 2012, 11:6 doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-6

(9) Diuretic, Laxative and Toxicity Studies of Viola odorata Aerial Parts / A Vishala et al / Pharmacologyonline 1: 739-748 (2009) Vishal et al.

(10) Effect of Viola odorata extract on Pseudomonas aeruginosa produce β-lactamase enzyme / Thamer M. Jasim Ph.D., Suhad F. Hatem MSc., Ayad M. Raauf Ph.D., Rawaa Assad MSc. / Mustansiriya Medical Journa,l Vol 11, No 1, June 2012

(11) Studies on the antihypertensive and antidyslipidemic activities of Viola odorata leaves extract / Hasan S Siddiqi, Malik H Mehmood, Najeeb U Rehman, Anwar H Gilani / Lipids in Health and Disease
January 2012, 11:6,

(12) Evaluation of Sedative and Pre-Anesthetic Effects of Viola odorata Linn. Extract Compared With Diazepam in Rats / Alireza Monadi*, Ali Rezaie / Bull. Env. Pharmacol. Life Sci., Vol 2 (7) June 2013: 125-131 /

(13) Composition of essential oil and biological activity of extracts of Viola odorata L. from central Iran. / Natural product research / DOI:

– Plant yields saponins, salicylates, alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, phenolics, coumarins.
– The flowers contain a coloring matter and traces of a volatile oil, three acids (one red, another colorless, and a third salicylic acid), and an emetic principle called violin, probably identical with emetine, violaquercitrin, closely related but not identical with, quercitrin or rutin, and sugar. The violin is supposed to be found in all parts of the plant.
– The flowers contain a glucoside
and methyl salicylic ester.
– The seeds contain salicylic acid.
– Roots yield salicylic acid, viola-emetin, a glucoside.
– Leaves yield two crystalline bodies, one glucosidal and the other alkaloidal in character, and a dark green oil.

– Considered antiinflammatory, anticancer, demulcent, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, purgative.
– Seeds considered purgative and diuretic.
– Flowers considered diuretic, expectorant, purgative.

Parts used
Leaves, flowers, roots.

– Young leaves and flower buds, raw or cooked.
– Leaves make a good salad.
– Leaves and flowers for tea.
– Leaves are cooked, added to stews and soups.
– Flowers, both decorative and edible, for salads and deserts.

– Decoction of root is a strong emetic; in large doses, the roots and seeds are poisonous.
– Poultice or compress of fresh leaves for inflammation and pruritic skin diseases.
– Fresh leaves have been used internally and externally in the treatment of cancer. Decoction of leaves, 4 to 5 glasses daily; poultice of leaves externally, infusion of leaves, syrup made from petals, or a liquid extract of fresh leaves used for cancer of the throat and tongue. In other countries, used for breast and lung cancer.
– Fresh leaves prepared as compress for local applications.
– Flowers, used dry, valued as diuretic and expectorant, and as purgative in bilious disorders. Also used as antipyretic and diaphoretic.
– In Sind, flowers used as anodyne.
– Decoction of dried flowers for fever.
– Syrup of the violet is used for cough and hoarseness.
– Seeds are purgative and diuretic.
– Plant poultice also used for headaches, coughs, colds, bronchitis, nervousness and general debility.
– In South Africa, leaves chewed as anticancer.

• Essential oil from flowers used in perfumery.
• Pigment extract from flowers used for litmus testing strips.
• Makes excellent ground cover.

Study Findings
• Cyclotides / Cycloviolacin / Cytotoxic Activity: Study isolated cyclotide cycloviolacin O2 from Viola odorata, Cyclotides belong to the largest family of naturally cyclized proteins with potent cytotoxic activity. Study showed disintegration of cell membranes of exposed human lymphoma cell lines.
• Cyclotides / Novel Cytotoxic Agent: Study isolated three naturally occurring macrocyclic peptides (cyclotides) from two violets – V arvensis and V odorata. All three cyclotides exhibited strong dose-dependent cytotoxic activities. With its chemical and biologic stability, they present a potential pharmacologic tool as antitumor agents.
• Antitumor: Study evaluated the cytotoxic activities of three naturally occurring macrocyclic peptides (cyclotides) – varv A, varv F and cycloviolacin O2 – from two violets, V arvensis and V odorata. With a new mode of action, the cyclotides present a novel pharmacologic tool and potential antitumor agent.
• Antipyretic: Study showed significant oral antipyretic activity in rabbits with the various extracts of plants, including V odorata. More prominent activity was found in the hexane-soluble portion of the plants tested.
• Antibacterial: In a study of aqueous extracts of ten medicinal plants tested for antibacterial potential against strains of human pathogenic bacteria, Viola odorata was found to be the most effective antibacterial.
• Elemental Composition: Flowers contained an odorous principle, blue coloring matter and a glucoside. Salicylic acid, a natural aspirin, was found in the plant. Violine, an alkaloid, was found in roots, leaves, flowers and seeds. Elemental analysis showed C, O, An, M.G., Al, Si, Claw, K, Ca, Fe in different parts of the plant.
• Anticancer / Chemosensitizing / Cycloviolacin O2: Cycloviolacin, a cyclotide from Viola odorata has antitumor effects and causes cell death by membrane permeabilization. The study documents several cyclotides with robust cytotoxicity that may be promising chemosensitizing agents against drug resistant breast cancer.
• Antihypertensive / Antidyslipidemic: Extract of leaves caused a dose-dependent decrease in mean arterial blood pressure in anesthetized rats. The vasodilator effect of the extract is presumed mediated through multiple pathways like inhibition of Ca++ influx via membranous Ca++ channels, release from intracellular stores and NO-mediated pathways. Extract also exhibited an antidyslipidemic effect possibly through inhibition of synthesis and absorption of lipids and antioxidant activities.
• Diuretic / Laxative: Aqueous extract of aerial parts showed significant diuretic activity. Butanolic and aqueous extracts showed good laxative effect in rats.
• Antibacterial Activity on Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Study showed Viola odorata extract exhibited antibacterial activity against resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
• Use in Hypertension and Dyslipidemia: Study evaluated the use of V. odorata in hypertension and dyslipidemia using in vivo and in vitro assays. Leaves extract yielded alkaloids, saponins, tannins, phenolics, coumarins, flavonoids. Results showed a hypotensive effect via a vasodilator effect mediated through multiple pathways like inhibition of Ca++ influx via membranous Ca++ channels, release from intracellular stores and NO-mediated pathways. Plant also showed an antidyslipidemic effect possibly due to inhibition of synthesis and absorption of lipids and antioxidant activities.
• Sedative and Pre-Anesthetic Effects / Comparison to Diazepam: Study evaluated the sedative and pre-anesthetic effects of V. odorata extract compared to diazepam in rats. Results showed Viola odorata exhibited better sedation and pre-anesthetic effects than diazepam, with dose-dependent effects.
• Analgesic / Aerial Parts: Study evaluated the analgesic effect of various extracts of aerial parts. The aqueous and methanolic extracts showed significant dose-dependent analgesic effect in the peripheral and central models of pain (tail immersion and hot plate method).
• Essential Oil / Leaves: Study evaluating leaf essential oil composition yielded 25 compounds, representing 92.77% of the oil. The two main components were butyl-2-ethylhexylphthalate (30.10%) and 5,6,7,7a-tetrahydro-4,4,7a-trimethyl-2(4H)-benzofuranone (12.03%). Antioxidant and antibacterial activities were evaluated.