Since 1995, the International Herb Society selects one herb to recognize as the Herb of the Year. Candidates must stand out in two of three categories: culinary, medicinal, and decorative. The 2022 herb, Viola, ranks at the top in all three. The genus Viola includes violets, viola, heartsease, Johnny Jump Up, and pansy.
In South Carolina, pansies and violas appear in garden centers in fall as bedding plants. The southeastern native wood violet, V. sororia, blooms in spring. Centuries before violas appeared as garden plants, they were valued for medicinal properties. Dioscorides’s De materia medica of the 1st century A.D. noted violets had a “cooling” effect on inflammation of the stomach and the eyes. The 16th century English physician, John Gerard, described more than a dozen medicines made from leaves or flowers including violets. Cherokee used common wood violets to treat colds and headaches. Even today herbalists rely on violets to treat coughs, colds, and mucus, skin problems like eczema and psoriasis, urinary tract infections, and arthritis and rheumatism— all inflammatory conditions.