Passionflower, or Passiflora incarnata, (not to be confused with the plant that produces the wrinkled purple passion fruit) grows wild in the southern United States, and through out Middle and South America, but can grow in latitudes as high as Boston. I feel lucky this wonderful plant grows wild here in Texas, it is pretty easy to get a hold of passionflower in general, or grow it yourself. The vine produces fruit, and while the fruit doesn’t have medicinal benefits it makes a great jam, is rather tasty eaten right off the vine, and is a good plant to add to your garden to draw wildlife, since they like the fruit too.
It is one of those great herbs when used in moderation, will give you all the muscle relaxation and alleviation of tension, even emotional stress/anxiety, without the suppression of bodily function or mental impairment. Currently, in Europe, passionflower is already included in a lot of sleep, anxiety, and pain aids, but not in the United States since there is no profit in things you can not patent.
You can also see where it gets it’s name from, the flowers were thought to be a vegetative reference to the crucifixion of Jesus by Spanish missionaries coming to the Americas for the first time and are thought to be part of the reason for its wide dispersal into Europe.
In history the Aztecs used passionflower to ease pain from spasms and sedate, and this is a great addition to any pain or sleep tea blend since it works on relaxing the body, and the mind. The Cherokee used it for religious ceremonies, and for pain and anxiety, but also to increase concentration and expand the mind. Archaeological evidence has turned up in sites showing the fruit and vine were of common use in cultures existing in its native regions. It was used as a blood and liver tonic for some, and like the Aztecs, for sedation and to induce sleep in others.
There has been a lot of medical studies done for passionflower, and all have found it to be an effective sedative, and mild analgesic for most people. It also had, albeit in lab mice no humans were tested, the effect of keeping sperm count stable despite usage of tetrahydrocannabinol. Which with the recent law changes in the US towards that is something that may be looked into further.
I personally find passion flower to be great for tension related headaches, migraines, and pain from muscle spasms, it is also a great tea to drink throughout the day (like holy basil), up to 4 times a day to reduce stress and anxiety.
Passionflower is like peppermint, fairly easy to obtain at most grocery and health food outlets. There are numerous pre-made teabags, of many brands. I suggest if you want to go this route, trying a few different brands to find the one that works best for you. There are as always, pre-made tincture, extract, and pre-made pills, again available at most herbal, health and grocery stores. These you should take as directed on the package. A rough guideline if they do not list any amounts is:
- 10-30 drops, 3 times a day for liquid extract
- 10-60 drops, 3 times a day for tinctures
- teas should be no more than 8 g of dried herb, and can be taken 3 times daily.
Personally I prefer to make my own blends, to boost the analgesic and antispasmodic properties. You can blend it with Valerian root, chamomile, lemon balm, skullcap, lavender, St John’s wort, holy basil, and many other relaxing or pain reducing herbs we have gone over, or will in the near future. But even without similar herbs, it is a very good tea just on its own, as long as you don’t steep it too long as I find it can become a bit bitter. This herb has helped me a lot with anxiety about procedures, pain, and restlessness when I am unable to sleep from pain or stress. It is a great addition to anyone’s life who suffers chronic pain or chronic anxiety.
Passion Flower Tea
- 1 teaspoon Dried passionflower
- 8 oz Boiling water
- 1 teaspoon of Chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, holy basil, any calming herb. This is optional, you can add all or just 1 of these herbs to the brew depending on what you need. Like more holy basil if stress is high, or chamomile for sleep, etc.
Steep for 5 minutes, or up to 10, in a covered tea cup and drink. You can have this 3-4 times a day to help with pain, anxiety or have a cup before bed time to help bring sleep. I find that I prefer it to steep no more than 5 minutes as the passionflower can take on a bitter unpleasant taste to me. Others don’t seem bothered by it and are fine steeping for 10 minutes. If you are starting out on the 4 times a day, reduce the amount every week and take a month off after frequent use. You can always add sweetener to it, honey is the best, but any will do.
If you want to make your own tincture, you can make one fairly easily.
Passion Flower Tincture
- Clean Mason jar
- Passionflower, dried, enough to fill jar
- Vodka or grain alcohol, enough to cover dried herb in jar
Fill the jar with the herb, not packed tightly but shaken down to allow the most herb in there but still have surface area exposed to the alcohol. Also make sure to leave a half inch at the top for expansion. Shake daily for a month, strain and use.
Sometimes we need a big kick in the pants to get those sleepy feelings going, especially with pain or extreme stress, or even psychological disorders. So if you need to “kick it up a notch” you should give the below tincture a try.
- Clean Mason jar
- Vodka or grain alcohol
Use equal parts of all listed herbs, use dried not fresh for all except hops (if you can get fresh definitely get fresh hops). If you are unfamiliar with part recipes this means that if you use say an ounce of chamomile, you will use an ounce of the rest. Fill the mason jar, leaving a half inch at the top for expansion and shake down but do not compact. Fill with alcohol and shake daily for a month, strain and use. You can add this to any liquid, tea or otherwise, or directly under the tongue. Dosage is anywhere from 10 drops to 2 teaspoons depending on how much of a kick you need.
And finally you can make your own capsules, you would make them the same way you would turmeric capsules, and do not take more than a 2 capsules, a gram of the dried herb, in a sitting and you can take it three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are the best times, mostly because it is easier to remember.
There is one additional use of passionflower that does not relate to pain or sleep, but for the skin. I have very dry skin and suffer from occasional outbreaks of eczema, while it isn’t contagious or anything it definitely isn’t cosmetically pretty or comfortable. You can use a strong infusion of passionflower and apply as a compress topically, or use the tincture or extract directly on the affected area.
Passionflower Compress for Dry Skin or Eczema
- 1 tablespoon Dried passionflower
- 8 oz Boiling water
- Towel or other absorbent cloth
Steep for 10 minutes, and allow to cool. Soak towel in liquid then wring out excess. Apply directly to the affected area and you can do this multiple times throughout the day.
Now, a lot of sites will say that passion flower is harmless, but this is incorrect. It is fairly safe to use in moderation, but if used over extended periods of time in large amounts it can become harmful. Be respectful of the plants, and do not treat any medicine, herbal or otherwise, carelessly. Like I always say, if it is powerful enough to work, it is powerful enough to be bad in large doses. Always use moderation. Do not use passionflower for extended periods of time, you may experience fatigue and some mental fogginess if you have used it too much or overdose. There are a few interactions that could occur with some medications so be sure to check for possible issues on sites like WebMD, and if you are in doubt in even the slightest amount, ask a professional!