Heartsease (Viola Tricolor)

Family: Violaceae

Part used: aerial parts

Viola tricolor L. is annual, biennial or perennial with a short or absent rhizome. Stems (up to 30 cm) bear alternate oval, toothed leaves with a rounded base and conspicuous deeply lobed, pinnate leaf-like stipules. Flowers (1-2.5 cm) across, occur in summer, vary in color and contain white, yellow and violet of varying tones. The petals are longer than the sepals which is a distinguishing feature. It has a weak fragrance.

Viola tricolor subsp. tricolor is an annual weed of cultivated soil. Viola tricolor subsp. curtisii is a perennial with rhizomes and mainly found in coastal dunes and heathland.

Heartsease: Quality

Heartsease is vulnerable to drying out in early summer as it has small roots so is vulnerable to changes of land use which introduce more aggressive plants. The garden pansy Viola x wittrockiana Hams is not used. The pansy was bred from Viola tricolor by nurserymen working in Britain in the early 19th century, and then crossed with other Viola species in Scotland to develop the show pansy. Pansies contain similar flavonoids to Viola tricolor, which have been shown to be antioxidant, but further research would be needed to confer any advantage, and as they are hybrids, there may be as yet unknown disadvantages.

Heartsease: A Later Discovery

Heartsease: Modern Applications


Acute and chronic skin conditions, internal and external.

Eczema and other exudative complaints – internal and external. Urinary conditions. Arthritic and rheumatic conditions. For avoiding convulsions in children with a high temperature. Dosage: the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends -4 g three times a day of dried herb.

Viola Tricolor Constituents


Total 10%, highest during flowering.


Recent studies have not confirmed the presence of triterpene saponins in violet and heartsease.



Phenolic acids

Total 0.3% (mean of 11 samples, repeated over 7 years, cultivated, Lithuania).


Up to 2%, mainly rutin, higher in flowers.

Flavonol diglycosides

Quercetin diglycosides, kaempferol diglycoside, isorhamnetin diglycoside (commercial, Hungary).

Quercetin and glycosides (wild, Hungary).

Flavone glycosides

Apigenin-C-diglycosides , luteolin-C-diglycosides, chryosoeriol-C-glycoside; apigenin-C.O-glycosides (commercial, Hungary).

Luteolin glycoside (wild, Hungary).


Total 3% (11 samples, mean of 8 years, cultivated, Lithuania).

Macrocyclic peptides, found in all Viola species so far investigated (wild, Sweden), see Viola odorata.

Recommendations On Safety

• Do not use in people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. G6PD deficiency is an inherited disorder which makes the person vulnerable to haemolytic anaemia in response to triggers such as certain drugs. It is most common in people of Mediterranean and African ancestry. An infant of 9 months was given half a cup of tea of heartsease. The child became ill within an hour and moderate haemolysis was treated in hospital and the child was well after 24 hours. Reading undertaken in the course of preparing this book suggests that in some countries herbal teas are given to infants with less caution than would be normal in Britain.

A study on the dried whole plant, including roots, of Viola yedoensis isolated two dicoumarins, dimeresculetin and euphobetin, and the coumarin esculetin. The in vitro study found that all three compounds showed anticoagulant activity using models which represent the intrinsic coagulation pathway, the extrinsic pathway and the transformation of fibrinogen into fibrin. This in vitro study was designed in the search for new pharmaceuticals. Whether the compounds are absorbed or absorbed at adequate concentration to have the same effect in vivo is not known.