Passiflora incarnata, known by the common name passionflower, is a perennial vine that grows in Central America and throughout the southern United States. The vine produces large, fragrant flowers of purple, yellow, and white, and then produces an edible green fruit. As a home herbal remedy, passiflora incarnata is used throughout the world to control anxiety and insomnia, lower blood pressure, and ease neuralgia. Recent scientific studies have also isolated several chemicals in the herb which may help fight cancer, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, HIV, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The leaves and stems of the plant have been used for centuries as a natural calming medicine. Certain alkaloids and flavonoids in passiflora incarnata can provide relief from anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness, restlessness, hysteria, and hyperactivity. This non-addictive herbal remedy also slightly lowers arterial pressure and increases respiration, which can reduce tension and nervousness. Native people have used this herb’s calming effects to help people overcome the stress and physical discomfort of overcoming addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Passiflora incarnata can calm over-stimulated nerves, especially the spinal cord motor nerves, making the herb an excellent remedy for back pain and the nerve pain caused by shingles and herpes. It also acts as an antispasmodic, reducing smooth muscle spasms. This makes it an ideal homeopathic medicine to relieve premenstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, and pain from overworked muscles. Scientists are researching the plant’s anticonvulsant action for use in treating epilepsy and bipolar disorders.
A tea made from one or two tablespoons (15-30 ml) of dried leaves, flowers, and stems is a soothing tonic for nerves and pain. The tea can be strained and bottled for later use. One-half cup (120 ml) of dried herb can also be simmered in one cup (240 ml) of flaxseed or safflower oil, strained, and taken one or two tablespoonfuls (15-30 ml) at a time. An extract from the whole plant is used to make a pill supplement; a common dose is 200 mg per day, as needed.
There are few side effects from the use of passiflora incarnata, but pregnant women should check with a doctor before adding the supplement to their diets. The plant may aggravate certain medical conditions related to high testosterone, such as excess hair growth, aggression, and prostate problems. Most people, however, will find it a relaxing, gentle home herbal remedy.