Passionflower is cooling to the body, calming to the mind, and soothing to the spirit. It quells anxiety and quiets the ruminating mind. This plant is gentle yet profound. It can be administered as a soothing tea for children or the elderly and can help to induce a deep sleep in those that are overworked or stressed out.
P. incarnata, in the Passifloriaceae family is a perennial climbing vine with generally 3 lobed, palmate leaves sporting, according to the late herbalist Michael Moore, "complicated but comely flowers."2 Indeed, the flowers are quite striking, flamboyantly displaying 5 stamens and 3 stigmas which "protrude from the flower's center like the antennae of a spaceship" writes Steven Foster3. Further, there are 5 petals and sepals, and a collar of threadlike, frilly, lavender colored, coronal filaments. One begins to see where the "passion" came from…however, actually, the name has more virtuous origins. The story goes that in 1569, in Peru, a Spanish doctor, Nicolas Monardes 'discovered' this plant4. It eventually made it into the hands of Spanish missionaries who saw the flower as a physical representation of the crucifixion of Christ. The 3 stigmas represented the 'nails of crucifixion', the coronal filaments were the 'crown of thorns', the 5 stamens were the wounds, and the 10 sepals were representative of 10 of the disciples (Judas and Peter got left out due to their overall poor behavior). Thus, this flower was used as a teaching tool, to tell the story of Christ to the indigenous people.5,6 P. incarnata is native to the Southeast of the United States ranging south from Virginia to Florida and as far west as Texas7, Mexico and Central and South America.8 This vine grows in relatively poor sandy soil and prefers full sun and a trellis or fence to wrap itself around. It often grows in disturbed areas and, in spite of its majestic appearance and usefulness, considered a weed. There are a multitude of species, over 500 in fact, many of which are native to the Americas3. One such species P. edulis, is the tasty tropical "passion fruit" which is eaten as a fruit and made into juice in Mexico and south to its native stomping grounds in Brazil and neighboring countries. It is used as a common flavoring in the United States9. Several other species such as P. foetida, P. Mexicana, and P. tenuilobain the southwest of the United States2 and P. lutea in the southern U.S.10 have been used similarly to P. incarnata.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
P. incarnata is cultivated for the herbal industry in the United States, India, and the West Indies8 in a variety of countries in Europe, particularly Italy.11 It is easy to harvest, best done when flowering and fruiting8 (the flower can be used, and it is really beautiful to look at while you are working) and often flowers several times during the summer months in the southeast of the United States.
HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
Passiflora sp. has a rich history of traditional use dating back to pre-historic times. Seeds that were thousands of years old were found around Virginia, where the Algonkian Indians thrived12. Early European settlers have records of the Algonkian Indians eating the passionflower fruit.13 The Cherokee used P. incarnata root extensively for a variety of purposes including as a poultice for skin wounds and boils, as a blood tonic, and for weaning babies. Additionally, various parts of the plants, including the fruits, were made into a beverage, and the leaves and young tendrils were boiled or fried and eaten.14 Various indigenous groups were known to use the plant as a topical poultice. The Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula used P. feotida to treat skin abscess.15 P. incarnate has had documented uses in Europe going back to 1787. This plant was found to be useful for treating mental overwork, nervous irritability, general restlessness, and nerve and menstrual pain. Passionflower was indicated for use in calming the nervous system and for allaying spasmodic conditions.10 It is a go-to remedy for people who worry too much or for those that exhaust themselves because they don't know when to quit. In the spirit world, passionflower has been used as a magical charm to attract friendships and to bring peace, and the leaves can be placed in a house to illicit harmony and lessens discord.17
sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic
USES AND PREPARATIONS
Primarily the above ground parts (the entire vine including leaves, stems and flowers) are dried used as a tea or tincture or are powdered and encapsulated. Fresh or dried plant material may be made into a tincture.
Flavanoids such as apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, and kaempferol 18 and isovitexin. Simple indole alkaloids including harman (aka passiflorin), harmol, harmine, harmalol and harmaline19.20
This herb has been used extensively in Europe for insomnia and anxiety and is increasingly becoming more popular in the U.S. The German Commission E Monographs approve the use of P. incarnata for nervousness. It is a sedative and is useful in lowering blood pressure by dilating the arteries and lowering the pulse.2
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.