passionflower large Passionflower

Passionflower| Passiflora incarnata

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include passionflower, maypop, purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild passion vine, wild apricot. The name passionflower is thought to come from Spanish missionaries - the three stamens of the flower represent the wounds of Christ, the 12 petals represent the 12 apostles and the corona of the plant symbolic of the crown of thorns.

Passionflower is a sprawling climbing vine with searching and wrapping tendrils, native to the southeastern states of America and much of South America but now grows throughout Europe. It is a member of the Passifloraceae family and is one of the hardiest passifloras but is not frost hardy.

It has large and beautiful purple flowers which appear in mid summer, followed by fruits which are edible but don't often ripen in the UK. The flowers are hermaphrodite (both male and female) and are pollinated by bees. It prefers to grow in full sun and this variety does not tolerate shade well and may not produce flowers.

The fruits of incarnata are not the same as the commercially available passionfruit, these are from the closely related Passiflora edulis, a native of South America.



Organic passionflower dried plant and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The leaves are the parts mainly used by herbalists today. The flowers and stems can also be included but there is some dispute as to whether the leaves are more effective for anxiety than the 'whole plant' (including flowers etc). Most commercial herb suppliers sell passionflower as the dried leaf but plenty of positive research has been done on extracts from the whole plant so they do have some potency.

Ideally, harvest the leaves in May-June, just before the flowers bloom. Lay on a tray and dry slowly and thoroughly before storing in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. Some people harvest flowers and leaves when the plant is in full bloom.

The roots have been used traditionally by some native Americans, boiled and used as a poultice in boils, inflammation and wounds.

Organic passionflower dried herb and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

The following medicinal actions are attributed to Passiflora inacarnata specifically and other varieties and cultivars of passionflower may not be safe to use.

Passionflower is perhaps best known as a remedy for insomnia and sleep disturbances. It is a classic herbal hynoptic or sleep inducer now backed up with data and research trials. It calms the mind, helps to lull into sleep, stay asleep for a good amount of time and has no drowsiness associated with its use in the morning or on waking.

It contains harmine, an alkaloid which enhances the life of certain neurotransmitters and hormones related to feelings of happiness and good mood and is known to have anti-depressant effects.

It reduces anxiety and stress, panic attacks, PTSD, restlessless and nervous tension, and calms the nerves without causing depression or low mood. It is effective at reducing sympathetic nervous system excess, and contains significant amounts of GABA (a neurotransmitter).

Because of its ability to calm without overly sedating, passionflower is a great herb for those that suffer from alternating bouts of both anxiety and depression and nervous exhaustion.

Passionflower can be helpful to calm the mind and emotions in cases of hyperactivity, ADHD, the manic phases of bi-polar disorder, over-thinking and an 'overactive' brain. The plant has a particular affinity for the medulla oblongata which controls sleep, stress related blood pressure swings and also the vagus nerve which is a major player in calming the flight or fight  response to stress. The vagus nerve is in control of the 'rest and digest' phase after the adrenal release of 'flight or fight' hormones in response to stressful situations. This in turn means that passionflower can help with all the effects of stress including muscle tension, rapid shallow breathing, rapid heart beat, adrenal fatigue/burnout and so on.

The herb can have a calming effect on anxiety related heart arrhythmias and palpitations, it reduces the heart rate and eases stress or anxiety induced or related hypertension as it also dilates blood vessels.

Passionflower is an anti-spasmodic so can be useful where muscles are tense and contracted or prone to spasms and cramps, especially when stress related and for teeth grinding at night (when caused by tension etc). Tension headaches can be soothed as well as digestive distress such as spasms and pain form irritable bowel syndrome or constipation.

Spasmodic coughs, spasmodic/nervous asthma and whooping cough can also be eased, even prolonged bouts of hiccups/hiccoughs.

Some herbalists use it for high blood pressure during * pregnancy, 15 drops of tincture  up to 3 times daily for a few weeks. *See cautions.

Passionflower also has pain relieving properties and can be used for nerve pain/neuralgia, earache, menstrual pain, teething in infants, to ease the pain of shingles. Link.

It can be helpful in managing degenerative symptoms in cases of Parkinsons disease such as muscle stiffness and tremors, anxiety, depression and insomnia yet also provides protection to the brain and nerves form further damage. It may also be of benefit in Alzheimers. Link.

It can also be helpful in seizures, epilepsy (if taken the moment the warning signs of a seizure appear) and convulsions. Link.

A classic herb for 'hysteria' (a word relating to the womb), calming any nervous and anxious feelings and emotions connected and related to the womb - nervous and jittery feelings associated with PMT, menstruation and menopausal emotional upheaval.

Passionflower can be soothing and provide some relief from grief, crying, raging emotions and circular thinking or the 'chronic worrier' where one is trapped in a cycle of  negative thoughts.

Can be helpful in assisting with calming anxiety, muscle spasms and pain when withdrawing from opiates, alcohol and other addictive substances.

Link to an informative article on all things Passiflora from the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.


Here is an excellent little video showing passionflower opening in time lapse.


dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions


*  Passionflower is generally considered by herbalists to be a safe and well tolerated herb. I personally would not prescribe it at full medicinal dose for longer than a month or so at a time.

*  Passionflower should not be used with hexobarbital, pentobarbital, SSRIs & MAO inhibitor mediciations.

*  Caution is advised during pregnancy as it can stimulate the uterus. Susun Weed however suggests 15 drops of tincture up to 3 times daily during pregnancy for hypertension. Use discernment. Perhaps it is safer in the last trimester rather than in early pregnancy. Certainly if seems fine to use in labour for anxiety or for mild pain relief.

*  Avoid with bradycardia (slow heart rhythm).



Tincture: 2-4 ml up to 3 times daily.

               15-40 drops in a small glass of water before bed fto induce sleep.

Dried herb in tea form: 1/4 - 1/2  a teaspoon (2g) of dried herb per cup, up to 3 times daily.


* Passionflower combines well with other herbs like lemon balm, valerian and skullcap for anxiety or sleep inducement. Also combines well with St Johns wort and skullcap for pain and depression.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
* Certain sources state to avoid in children under 4 years old as it is reputed to cause more excitement, not less. I must say that I often included it iin formulas to help my young children sleep better so this warning is possibly over cautious and may be based on larger doses?. It also has a long history of use for teething infants.



Child watering plants




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