During a trip to Brazil I was taken to one of Rio’s fabulous restaurants. When my host learned I hadn’t had tasted maracuja (you may know it in Spanish as maracuya?) he ordered one of the best tasting desserts I had that trip. Actually, like the vine that it is, it climbed right up there with the best evers. I knew it went by the romantic-sounding English name of Passionflower. Hmmmm. Yummm. What I was savoring was the delicious fruit-o-the-vine. 

Passionflower Passiflora incarnata And as you can see, the flower is a real knockout as well. Makes you want to suck on it. Don’t do that though.

As to the romantic English name … sadly the passion refers to that of Christ. Some religious conquistadores (aka missionaries) thought it resembled something from that torture-murder.  Sigh.

The penny that didn’t drop was to connect it all with the passion flower I knew to be a super effective herbal remedy for sleeplessness, nervousness, and anxiety. It’s in just about every herbal sleep formula. Go figure.

The Pflower is no shrinking violet and can reach 10 meters in its native tropical to semi-tropical habitat. Which by the way extends throughout South and into N America — and includes a mere 200 varieties! What a helpful, successful species.  What we use are the vines, leaves and stems, actually mostly leaves. The most prevalent species in the Amazon are Passiflora edulis and P. incarnata. The pic is incarnata.

 For the wonks amongst us, the following is courtesy Rainforest Inc’s awesome plant data base. Which in turn was taken from  The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005

Main Uses:

  1. for mood disorders (depression, anxiety, stress)
  2. for insomnia and sleep disorders
  3. for headaches, migraines and general pain
  4. for stomach problems (colic, nervous stomach, indigestion, etc.)
  5. to relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
analgesic (pain-reliever), anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cough suppressant, aphrodisiac, cough suppressant, central nervous system depressant, diuretic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), sedative

Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
anticonvulsant, antidepressant, astringent, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), disinfectant, nervine (balances/calms nerves), neurasthenic (reduces nerve pain), tranquilizer, vermifuge (expels worms)


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