Passionflower, sometimes called Maypop or Grenadilla, is a perennial, herbaceous vine in the Passifloraceae family native to the South Eastern United States, Texas, and Mexico, but over 400 variations of the plant are found throughout SouthEast Asia and South and Central America. The vine can grow up to 30 feet in length, climbing fences and other plants with it’s thin axillary tendrils. It has medium to large alternate palmately shaped leaves with 3 to 5 lobes, and showy, solitary flowers that bloom from May to July. They’re typically variations of white, blue, violet, purple, and or pink blossoms with five stamens and a pistil with three knob like stigmas. The delicious fruits are typically purple or yellow when ripe and can grow as large as chicken eggs; they are technically berries, full of many crunchy little seeds surrounded in a tasty jelly-like membrane. The Taiwanese call passion fruit bai xiang guo, or “hundred flavor fruit”, and rightfully so – the flavor is sweet, tart, and vibrantly hard to pin down. For herbal preparations, the foliage should be collected in the spring before the flowers bloom, or after the plant has finished fruiting. Passion flowers grow best in well drained, rich soil with neutral pH and cannot tolerate drought. Be sure to plant them somewhere they can get at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight a day with something nearby to climb. They can be propagated by seed, air layers, or through cuttings easily.
Dried or fresh aerials (leaves, tendrils). A occasional recipes call for fresh flowers.
Passionflower is a non-addictive, cooling nervine. It is a sedative, diuretic, hypnotic, anti-spasmodic, and anodyne herb, making it useful for insomnia, irritability, anxiety, or nervous tension that causes restlessness and poor sleep, without any symptoms of narcotic hangover. In fact, it is often reported that it induces a more restful sleep with a sense of refreshment upon awakening. It’s also useful for nerve pain, which can be experienced with neuralgia or viral infections such as shingles. It can also help with asthmatic lung spasms, digestive spasms associated with IBS, high blood pressure, and will slow a rapid heart beat. It is also effective as a mild pain reliever for menstrual cramps, headaches, and toothaches. Externally, it is useful for soothing burns and mild skin irritations.
The entire plant was used by the Algonquin people as a tranquilizer and to treat swollen and irritated eyes. The root was considered a general tonic herb. In early American folk medicine, it was commonly prescribed for female hysteria. When introduced to Europeans, the Catholics believed it to be a symbolic representation of the Passion of Christ because the number of stamens and pistils correspond with the mythology, depending on the story, either to the crucifixion, the halo, or the number of apostles and the holy trinity, hence the name “Passion Flower”.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Bitter, cooling, pungent
1 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of water, infused for 15 minutes, or 2-3ml of tincture. One cup should be taken before bed for sleeplessness, or twice daily and regularly for nerves and anxiety. For restless children, 3-10 drops of tincture in water every 30 minutes until desired results are obtained. Avoid high doses during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
For insomnia, combine with valerian, hops, and Jamaican dogwood.
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