Passionflower

Botanical Name

  • Family Passifloraceae
  • Passiflora incarnata

Common Names

  • Passion Flower, Granadilla/Granadita, Maypop, Passion Vine, Passiflora, Passionaria, Crown of Thorns
  • Spanish: Maracuja/Maracuya
  • Nahuatl: Coanenepilli
  • Maya: Poochil, Kansel-ak

Cautions

 Since passionflower appears to act on the CNS (central nervous system), it may interact with other depressants and may also be a uterine stimulant. Therefore, it should not be taken by those on antidepressants or who are pregnant.

Description

 Native to the southern US through Central America and into Brazil and Argentina, the passionflower is now extensively cultivated in Europe, especially Italy, and in North America. The plant is a perennial climbing vine, growing to about thirty feet with three-lobed leaves, ornate flowers, and egg-shaped fruits. The aerial parts are gathered when the plant is flowering or in fruit. There are about 400 species, with many being popular garden plants.

History

 The name is derived from its beautiful flowers thought to represent the crucifixion – five stamens for the five wounds, three styles for the three nails, and white and purple-blue for purity and heaven.

The Aztecs called the plant "snake tongue" and used it in remedies for snakebite, fevers, and other ailments. The herb has long been used by Native Central and North Americans for medicinal purposes.

The fruit was called "granadilla" because of its resemblance to "granadas" or pomegranates.

The Cherokee drank a root infusion to treat liver problems, while the Housma used a tea as a blood tonic. The Cherokee used the plant topically to treat boils, wounds, and earaches. They also used it as a food.

In 1978, the FDA removed the plant from the list of herbs generally considered safe because it was not a proven effective as a sleep aid. However, in Europe, it is considered safe, and extensively used in treating nervous restlessness.

Key Actions

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antispasmodic
  • sedative
  • tranquilizing

Key Components

  • flavonoids (including apigenin)
  • maltol
  • cyanogenic glycosides (gynocardin)
  • indole alkaloids (harman)

Medicinal Parts

  • Aerial parts, flowers

Traditional Uses

 Passionflower has long been used for insomnia, epilepsy, nervousness, stomach or menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, headache, and hysteria. It is also sometimes used to treat the mild pain of a toothache. Tinctures are used as a sedative to calm an overactive mind. Tablets are a common over-the-counter remedy for insomnia and stress.

The plant has been used in the treatment of neuralgia and migraine headaches. It is stated that one patient suffered terribly from both and found no relief from acupuncture or osteopathy. She turned to an herbalist who prescribed passionflower in tablet form. After four days, she was relieved of the pain, which never returned.

Its tranquilizing effects help reduce anxiety and is helpful in such conditions as asthma, palpitations, high blood pressure, and muscle cramps where anxiety is a major cause.

In Mexico, passionflower tea is a much loved sedative taken at bedtime to promote sleep and relaxation.

A related species, P. quadrangularis, has been found to contain serotonin, one of the main chemical messangers within the brain. It is comparable in some ways to Valerian.

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