A climbing vine native to South American tropical regions, passion flowers are found on fertile and moist soil, in ditches and along the edges of open fields. A prized treat for gardeners and botanical curators alike, an incredible variety of species exist under the passion flower genus, with over four hundred catalogued throughout the world.
Generally grown in in tropical regions and warm temperate climates, many species of Passiflora grow in tropical Africa, Australia and Asia.
- For this page we will focus specifically on the medicinal properties of passion flowers (passion fruit benefits are quite different).
Since all the species of Passiflora have different chemical profiles, and thus different medicinal properties, we will address only characteristics attributed to Passiflora incarnata, also called purple passion flower or maypop. This species is native to the United States, and stands out from other species in that in winter, it is hardy and survives the cold (even though its leaves fall off).
We’re not yet quite sure how it happens, but this plant with many names might inhibit the activity of certain enzymes in the brain.
Well, what are this plant’s health benefits and therapeutic properties? How should it be used? Did you know that the agri-food industry and medical field have shown interest in the plant?
Here is what you need to know…
- Read also: How to grow passion flowers
Purple passion flower: a short story
Where does the name “passion flower” come from?
According to ancient writings, the story of Passiflora has the makings of a legend…
This flower is described as follows:
- strands at the center that represent the Passion of Christ. Indeed, numbering 72, these strands represent the crown of thorns and more specifically the number of thorns on the Crown of Christ.
- the pistil shape represents the 3 nails that were used for the crucifixion.
- the 5 stamens with their red base represent the 5 wounds of Christ.
- and finally, the sharp oval leaves of the passion flower vine represent the lance that the soldier used to pierce the heart of Christ.
Hence, the name Passiflora is inspired from the story that the Italian monk Jacomo Bosio was introduced to the flower (unknown at the time in Europe) through the Mexican monk Emmanuel de Villegas who was visiting in Rome.
Surprised and full of wonder, this Italian monk devoted his life to “bringing to all the absolute proof of the existence of Christ and of his Passion” through this incredible plant!
Passion flower: health benefits and therapeutic properties
The Passiflora genus is known under many names: passion flower, passion fruit, grenadille, maracuya, and many species within this genus have soothing properties that help reduce anxiety and sleeping disorders.
Indeed, several chemical compounds in the passion flower have appeasing effects on specific portions of the brain similar to those of GABA neurotransmitters. From there, it has been explained why passion flower can soothe the nervous system, allowing it to relax and enter into peaceful sleep.
Since passion flowers contain various flavonoids (which are well-known antioxidants concentrated in plant leaves), they may also have anxiolytic properties.
Uses of passion flower
In the world of gastronomy, the fruit of Passiflora edulis (or grenadille) is very much appreciated for its sweet and tart taste. It is used to prepare exotic fruit juices, syrups and even sherbert ice cream.
Still others consider the vine an ornamental plant: in this case Passiflora caerulea or blue passion flower is preferred, and is mostly grown in temperate climates.
Therapeutic uses of passion flower
- poultices were prepared by American Indians using passion flower leaves to treat bruises and wounds.
- fruit juice was rubbed in by American Indians to alleviate eye pain.
- additionally, they crushed the “maracuya” leaves and spread the paste to soothe skin rashes, burns and even hemorrhoids.
Passion flower is often recommended for patients who suffer of neurasthenia, insomnia, cerebral over-excitation and even a panel of nervous state symptoms such as hysteria, anxiety and heart palpitations.
With properties that are antispasmodic, passion flower is also used to treat menopausal disturbances, neuralgia, epilepsy and even spasmodic asthma.
Recently, further studies have demonstrated its cough suppressant properties, which support folkloric use regarding asthma.
Various galenic forms and doses for passion flower use
To do away with anxiety and insomnia, it is recommended to absorb passion flower in the following forms:
- Infusion – To prepare it, boil ½ quart (½ liter) water. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried powdered passion flower (without roots). Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Filter. As for dosage, to benefit from its anxiolytic and soothing properties, one glass 3 times a day before sleeping is recommended.
According to other sources, a great anti-stress infusion can be prepared with ¼ cup lavender buds, 1 cup dried chamomile, ¼ cup dried lemon verbena, ¼ cup rose hip (fruits from the dog rose plant) and ¼ cup dried passion flower. Mix all of the above. Add one table spoon of this mix per mug to prepare the herbal tea. Pour boiling water on it and let steep for five minutes. Filter, sweeten to taste and drink.
- Tincture – often used together with lemon balm or hops, ingesting 1 to 2 ml once, twice, or thrice a day.
- Tabs and capsules, one or two 350mg-doses, once or twice a day.
Good to know about passion flower
Passion flower can lead to drowsiness and vertigo for some persons.
It may increase:
- effectiveness or interactions between multiple sedative medicines,
- effectiveness of other herbs,
- effectiveness of anticoagulants.
Practical tips about passion flower
Passion flower seems to help treat:
- lack of libido, azoospermia or infertility that smokers and alcohol consumers tend to suffer from,
- extreme anxiety connected to withdrawal from alcohol, opium-based drugs and even marijuana.
Ingesting this plant is strongly not recommended to pregnant women.
In any case, it is always important to consult your family physician or any specialist (pharmacist, herbal medicine practitioner or phytotherapist) before following any plant-based treatment.
- Read also: How to grow passion flower