Heartsease, or Pansy are beloved decorative plants and their hybrid relations are frequently used to excess in landscape gardening, to prettify our concrete jungles. The wild variety, which is closely related to violets, is a delicate and beautiful herb, which once played a much greater role in herbal medicine than it does today. Its Latin name ‘Viola’ is derived from ‘iona’ or ‘Io’, alluding to one of the many nymphs that Zeus had set his lusty eyes on. In order to conceal his pursuits from Hera, his jealous wife, he changed Io into a cow. Thus she was condemned to wander the earth as a bovine for many a year. Zeus felt a bit bad about that and tried ease her heart by giving her Heartsease to forage.
Despite its daintiness Heartsease is quite potent and should not be underestimated. It has a powerful eliminative action on the kidneys and intestines. Its cleansing power is not just quantitative, but qualitative as well. In traditional folk medicine it was used for blood cleansing, especially when treating gout and rheumatism. It was also considered specific for ‘the twitching fits children’ - or what is now better known as childhood epilepsy. It was also valued as an expectorant and was used to treat bronchitis and whooping cough. However, it is a bit rough on the stomach and should not be used excessively. Used externally as a wash it may soothe skin conditions, such as dry eczema, nappy rash and milk crust.
As its name suggests, this herb can ease the heart and dispel persistent, negative or worrying thoughts.