Herb of the Month: Passionflower

The first time I saw Passionflower, I was infatuated with the flower's beauty, striking me like a violin playing a romantic tune like something out of a Jane Austen novel. Its many layers, like a beautiful Monet painting; its geometric shapes, like Picasso; its silhouette mimicking a sketch in Galileo’s notebook. Truth be told, much of this plant's medicine begins far before consumption. Holding a Passionflower in bloom brings upon a moment of admiration for Earthly beauty and encourages us to slow down and tune into our senses.

The medicine of this plant is so energetic to me and goes far beyond what specific compounds or “benefits” it acts upon internally. The unkempt beauty of this flower sends one into a meditation that engages all senses. From its array of color and shape-bending light in your iris to the diverse texture across your fingertip, all the way to the bitter taste in your mouth when you chew it and ending with the silent peace that Passionflower speaks to you from within. This plant is an all-encompassing experience to be had. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be human thousands of years ago and find this extraterrestrial-looking flower growing along your foraging path? Then realizing it could be used for medicine? Honestly, this is how I felt when I first met this enchanting beauty. 

Let’s dive in, shall we? 

Passionflower, or Passiflora incarnata, is a vine native to the southeastern US and South America. Its use dates back to early indigenous North and South American tribes and was semi-domesticated in Incan civilization. Passiflora incarnata prefers living in hot climates with well-drained soils. Outside of gardens, it grows on the edges of fields and roads, although it also does wonderfully in a cultivated garden! After the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 1600s, this plant was brought to Spain and Europe where its beauty became an inspiration to the Christian faith, and soon a symbol representing Jesus Christ’s passion. I would agree that this flower certainly has a holy presence! 

Passionflowers grow on a thick vine and bloom primarily between June and October. The vine is hearty, and produces an edible fruit called (you guessed it) passionfruit! Usually, the fruit will follow suit of the flowers and reach peak ripeness 2-3 months after their decorative counterpart. A common nickname for this plant is “maypop” because the fruit makes a popping noise when stepped on. The fruit of Passiflora incarnata helps with digestion, blood circulation and bone health. It is also a great source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and more! 

Slightly bitter in taste, this plant has the ability to dry and cool the body in a gentle way that is safe for children and during pregnancy. It is a nervine, hypnotic, antidepressant and anti-spasmodic, making it a great choice for anyone who experiences anxiety, depression, or has trouble sleeping. This sedative flower also helps to lower blood pressure and reduce pain. Passionflower can be used as an ally for an array of symptoms such as headaches, menstrual cramps, insomnia, overstimulation, emotional hardship, muscle spasms, racing thoughts and an upset stomach. Underneath the gentle nourishment of the physical body, Passionflower creeps its way into the closed-off corners of your heart, dusts off the shelves and opens the windows. Ever so slowly, you begin to remember what it feels like to relax, soften, and just…be. 

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