Passionflower, aka Maypop, or Passiflora incarnata, is a relatively common plant found growing wild in sunny fields and unkempt yards in the southern United States and up the Eastern Coast and surrounding states. Of course it can be found in other places if you look, whether it be at plant nurseries or elsewhere.
Passionflower is native to the Southern United States, from Texas, to Tennessee, and Virginia, all the way down to Central and South America. It is now extensively cultivated in Europe, especially Italy, as well.
The flowers, ripe fruit and juice, and leaves are all used both medicinally and/or for food. Flowers and leaves can be used raw, steeped in tea, or tinctured, and fruit can be used for preserves if found in abundance. Fruit can be found in late summer through fall until the first frost. Leaves are three-lobed and can be 5″ or more wide. The vine can grow up to 28 feet!
Passionflower is high in Vitamin A and Niacin.
Fruit is about 2″ and green when unripe. Fruit is ripe when it turns from “Kermit the Frog” green to light green to yellow-orange in color. They look like little melons growing in the wild to me. Or even like large cucamelons. Skin of ripe fruit will be slightly wrinkled. Unripe fruit has very firm skin. Eat it much like a pomegranate because of the many seeds inside, the likes of which are roasted and eaten in Puerto Rico as a delicacy. White pulp inside skin can be scooped out and eaten.
Vines produce a lot of fruit the year after a drought, but be careful not to over harvest. Passionflower will self-sow and come back year after year if allowed to.
Passionflower is quick to cover large areas once established, so picking leaves and stems for use can keep the plant in check. Don’t drink much more than 2-3 cups per week, but that is a good rule for most medicinal teas. The flowers can also be used for tea but they lack the sedative effect and you also lose the fruit from that flower.
Passionflower can be propagated by seed in spring and needs plenty of sun. Aerial parts are gathered when the plant is flowering or in fruit.
The Passionflower’s name comes from the flower, thought to represent Christ’s crucifixion–5 stamens for the 5 wounds, 3 styles for the 3 nails, and white and purple-blue colors for purity and royalty/heaven.
-There are about 400 Passiflora species, and mostly work the same way. P. quadrangularis has also been found to contain serotonin, one of the main chemical messengers in the brain.
Dried leaves and stems contain alkaloids with a sedative effect, and are sold over-the-counter in the United States as “sleepy time” tea.
Leaves are mainly used as a sedative, while flowers are used for calming anxiety.
Passionflower has been used as a sedative and tranquilizer in Central and North American herbal traditions for centuries, being taken in Mexico for insomnia, epilepsy, and hysteria. The Algonquin people of North American used it as a tranquilizer.
Widely acknowledged as a good treatment for anxiety, tension, irritability, and insomnia. Gentle sedative properties produce a relaxing effect, and reduces nervous activity and panic. It is a mild and nonaddictive herbal tranquilizer comparable in some ways to Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Along with sedative properties, it also has valuable painkilling properties good for toothache, menstrual pain, and headaches.
Passionflower has also been used to treat conditions as diverse as asthma, palpitations, high blood pressure and muscle cramps. All-in-all this is a great plant to have around, whether it be used for occasional sleeplessness or lingering anxiety and headaches.
–Tincture: 1 tsp with water daily for overactive mind.
–Infusion (tea): 2 cups in the evening for occasional sleeplessness.
–Pills can also be made or bought over-the-counter for insomnia and stress.
Do not take high doses during pregnancy.
A lot of this information can be found on foragingtexas.com. It is one of my favorite sites when it comes to wildcrafting. I know not everyone is in Texas, but the site also has maps that show you where in the United States plants may be found, alongside the by-county Texas map. I will add my own pictures of the passionflowers growing in my area at a later time, but you can find some great pictures on Foraging Texas until then.
I also used the Encyclopedia for Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, which I am in the process of reading cover-cover.
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