Banfsha (Viola odorata) Information, benefits, Warnings and More

Viola odorata is one of the important herb in Ayurvedic medicine system. Learn what are it's health benefits and how you can use this to treat different diseases. Know about it's botanical description, medicinal properties and side-effects.

Banfsha or Sweet-Scented Violet or Viola odorata is native of Asia, North Africa and Europe. The plant is cultivated since ancient times for medicinal purpose and as a source of perfume and coloring matter. The rootstock of the plant are thick and produce dark green leaves. The plant is stemless and the leaves are Brahmi plant like in appearance. The flowers are violet and scented. The fruit is many seeded and present in unilocular capsule.


Viola odorata contains different types of chemical constituents including flavonoid, glycosides, alkaloids, steroids, terpenes, saponins and tannins. Banfsha is used in Unani medicine for treating respiratory ailments, bronchitis, whooping cough, fever, skin conditions, cystitis, throat infection and rheumatism due to its anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, antipyretic and laxative properties. As it contains salicylic acid which is used to make aspirin hence effective for the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia.

In Homeopathy, Viola odorata is used in case of ear disorders such as deafness, otorrhea since birth etc. as it has specific action on ears. Otorrhea is discharge from the ear and may originate from the ear canal or the middle ear and is often associated with hearing loss. The most characteristic symptom to indicate this remedy is tension in forehead, scalp and back and lower part of the skull.

General Information

Viola odorata is perennial evergreen plant. It reaches up to one or two feet at a fast rate.

  • Leaves: Ovate, with rounded apex, widely cordate at the base, pubescent.
  • Flowers: Solitary, fragrant, on long peduncles, lower petals saccate at the base, purple to violet.
  • Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Whole plant
  • Plant type / Growth Habit: Herb
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Distribution: Pakistan, India, Iran Afghanistan, Iraq, Mediterranean region
  • Habitat: Hedgerows and woodlands, especially on calcareous soils

Vernacular names / Synonyms

  • Scientific name: Viola odorata
  • Hindi: Banafsha, Banafsaj
  • English: Sweet Violet, English Violet, Garden Violet, Sweet Violet, Florist’s Violet

Scientific Classification

All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of the same plant.

The botanical name of Sweet Violet is Viola odorata. In Latin Viola means the violet and odorata sweet smelling. It belongs to plant family Violaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of the plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
  • Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
  • Subclass: Dilleniidae
  • Order:   Violales
  • Family: Violaceae – Violet family
  • Genus: Viola L.
  • Species: Viola odorata L.

Constituents of Viola odorata

Viola odorata is a rich source of sodium, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, chloride and iron.

Leaves of Viola odorata from Kashmir are reported to contain a triterpene ketone, probably friedelin (0.016%), Beta-sitosterol (0.033%), and a straight-chain alcohol.

An essential oil, alkaloid and a colouring matter is also present in leaves.

Important Medicinal Properties

Viola odorata is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.

Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  • Alterative: Alter favorably the course of an ailment.
  • Analgesic: Acting to relieve pain.
  • Antiasthmatic: Treat or prevent asthma attacks.
  • Antibacterial: Active against bacteria.
  • Anticatarrhal: Remove excess mucous from the body
  • Antiinflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
  • Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
  • Decongestant: Used to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Depurative: Purifying agent.
  • Diaphoretic: Promote sweating.
  • Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
  • Sedative: Promoting calm or inducing sleep.
  • Nervine sedative: Nerve tonic, calms nerves.

Ayurvedic Properties and Action

Viola odorata is known as Banafsa in Sanskrit. It is popular medicinal plant of Unani System of medicine and was not used in Ayurveda earlier. Now a day, it is added to Ayurvedic cough syrups and other medicines.

Banafsha is considered bitter, sweet and pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka).

  • Rasa (taste on the tongue): Madhura (Sweet), Tikta (Bitter), Katu (Pungent)
  • Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Snigdha (Unctuous)
  • Virya (Action): In Ayurveda, hot / In Unani, Cooling in first degree
  • Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)

It is a Katu Vipak herb. Vipak refers to post-digestive (effect after digestion/cooking of Rasa) effect of tastes after its mixing with digestive juices. It is the long-term effect of the herb.

Katu Viapk herb, increases dryness in the body. Such foods reduce fertility and Kapha. Excess intake of such foods aggravates Vata and gas in the body.

Ayurvedic Action / Karma

  • Anulomna: Anulomna means one which promotes excretions and favour discharge.
  • Bhedana: Causes excretion of accmulated faeces and Doshas.
  • Kaphahara: Pacifies Kapha Dosha
  • Kasahara: Removes cough.
  • Kasa-shvashar: Gives relief in cough and Asthma.
  • Pratishyayhar: Gives relief in coryza.
  • Raktashodhak: Purifies the blood.
  • Sheetjvaraghna: Gives relief in fever due to cough.
  • Shothagna: Reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • Shothahar: Removes inflammation.
  • VataPittashamak: Pacifies Vata and Pitta dosha.

Benefits of Banafsha

  1. It cleanses blood, the liver, kidney and lungs.
  2. It loosens the phlegm.
  3. It reduces heat inside the body.
  4. It gives relief in congestion of lungs, cold, cough, difficult breathing, fever, bronchitis and other cough related respiratory ailment.
  5. It helps in sore throat and swollen glands.
  6. It dissolves tumors and abnormal growths.
  7. It is given in case of ear discharge since birth.
  8. It reduces nervous tension, stress and insomnia.

Medicinal Uses of Viola odorata

Viola odorata has anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative action. It is especially used in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough. As it contains salicylic acid, it gives relief in stress, headaches, migraine and insomnia.

It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract.

The flowers are anodyne, expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, purgative and emollient and used in the treatment of respiratory ailments.

The seeds are used in the treatment of the urinary complaints due to diuretic and purgative action.

Syrup of the flowers is used for cough and hoarseness.

A tea prepared from the flowers and leaves reduces headache. It calms nervous system and relaxes mind. The tea is prepared by taking 1/4 cup of flowers and leaves in one cup. Boiling water is poured on it and steeped for 5-10 minutes. This is filtered and taken. This tea loosens the mucous and help to expel it through the nose chest and lungs and thus giving relief in cold, cough, whooping cough, blocked sinus, throat infection etc.

Leaves are emetic, purgative, expectorant, emollient and diaphoretic. The leaves are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are chewed as anticancer. Chewing of leaves also helps in headache.

It is also used externally in skin diseases, inflammation and to treat mouth and throat infections. Poultice or compress of fresh leaves is applied.  The leaf paste is applied on burns.

The roots are emetic (in excess) and purgative.

The essential oils obtained by hydro distillation–solvent extraction method, from the flowers and leaves of Viola odorata is used in perfumes and for aromatherapy. It is now difficult to find true extract of the violet flower.  Viola odorata essential oils exhibited strong antifungal activity.

In Homeopathy, the Mother Tincture of Viola odorata (VIOLA ODORATA MT) is prepared from Whole plant. It is given in case of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist. It is beneficial in right sided rheumatic affections, specially affecting the deltoid muscle, carpal ad metacarpal joints.

Viola odorata has a specific action on the ear. There are many cases on record of treating obstinate otorrhea and deafness that after resisting every sort of treatment, had at last to give in to Viola odorata.

In Homeopathy, the remedy is given for sensation of tension everywhere, specially forehead, occiput and scalp. In such cases the skin is felt stretched and tight.

The Dosage of Viola odorata

  1. The flower infusion is taken in a dose of 30-60ml.
  2. The flowers are taken in a dose of 1/2- 5 grams.
  3. The root infusion is taken in a dose of 15-30ml twice a day.
  4. 5-6 leaves can be chewed.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Viola odorata

  1. Safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been established. In the absence of sufficient data, the use during pregnancy and lactation is not recommended.
  2. The roots and seeds are poisonous in large doses.
  3. Roots are emetic in large doses.
  4. The oil must not be used internally.
  5. Real Violet Perfume is rare and is very difficult to found in market.
  6. It may cause photosensitization when applied externally.

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