A longtime staple of traditional herbal medicine, preparations made from the leaves or flowers have been used to soothe coughs and congestion, ease headaches, and promote sleep, according to the International Herb Association, whose “Herb of the Year” for 2022 is viola.
Medicinal Uses for Viola
These popular, edible members of the botanical genus Viola have come to the attention of medical researchers. Scientists are studying the antibacterial, anticancer, and other properties of viola. Here’s a sampling of the research to date.
The growing concern over antibiotics’ waning efficacy against pathogens and the lack of new medications have led to “the exploration of alternative sources of antimicrobial therapeutics,” according to the authors of a study into species of viola including V. inconspicua. They looked at viola’s cyclotides, stable peptides that exhibit bioactivity.
Specifically, the researchers found “potent bioactivities against strains of the gram-negative bacteria E. coli and the highly virulent and multidrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae.”
Another species, V. betonicifolia, is known in traditional medicine circles for its pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and antidepressant.
Komal Rizwan and colleagues found “a good profile of micro- and macronutrients,” including vitamin C, in various parts of the plant. Calling for clinical studies, the authors said their review “suggests that V. betonicifolia is a promising source of pharmaceutical agents.”
A laboratory study of an extract of V. odorata against breast cancer cell lines and stem cells showed “anti-migratory, anti-invasion and anti-colony formation activity.” The researchers noted breast cancer cell death and decrease in the size and volume of tumors.
Except in cases of high concentration, the authors said, their data “suggest that Viola odorata extract mostly targets cancerous cells, not normal cells.” These studies suggest that viola is worthy of further examination as a potential addition to the human arsenal against disease.