Passiflora or passion flowers as popularly known are flowering plants with over 500 species across globe. Mostly vines, they bear quite symbolic flowers. Passiflora incarnata / Maypop and Passiflora edulis / Purple Passionfruit are two popular species of passiflora. Maypop is more popular in North America and Europe while Purple passionfruit is more prevalent in Latin America. Maracujá, yellow flavicarpa, Granadilla, Water lemon, sweet calabash, banana passion fruits, as available in market today, are fruits of some species of passion flowers.
Passiflora incarnata is also known as purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot or wild passion vine. Maypop flowers are distinct and large with five bluish white petals and fine symbolic structure between petals and stamens. Passion flower with cross shaped or clock dial shaped stamen have been symbolic to passion of Jesus in Christian theology. Early Spanish Christian missionaries discovered the flower in 15th century in Latin America have been obsessed with this symbolism. It is known as clock flower (שעונית) in Israel or clock plant – tokeisō (時計草) in Japan. Indians symbolize passionflower with Krishna and Pandavs as in Hindu epic – Mahabharata. Turkish people call it Çarkıfelek as it represents medieval Wheel of Fortune or Rota Fortunae. Maypop is oval yellow fleshy fruit. The gelatinous pulp inside can be eaten raw by hand or mixed with other drinks or can be used to make jam or jellies.
Nutrition Facts of passiflora incarnata
Most active phytochemcials in Passiflora incarnata can e grouped in three main categories – alkaloids, glycosides and flavonoids.
- It contains serotonin and maltol which helps inducing sleep.
- It contains indole alkaloids like harman, harmin, harmalin, harmol, and harmalol which have anti depressant properties. Concentration is more in leaves and roots and exhibit mind altering properties reduce spasms and blood pressure.
- Passiflora contains a flavonoid named chrysin which helps reduce anxiety and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Another chemical apigenin is belived to reduce anxiety without impairing memory or muscles. Luteolin quercetin and kaempferol are other flavonoids which show antioxidant, anti inflammatory and anti cancer properties. Flavonoids – Vitexin and isovitexin are present which helps calm nerves.
- Peel of the Maypop fruit contains carotenoid lycopene which has found use as potential anti cancer drug especially prostate cancer.
- Phytosterols – stigmasterol and sitosterol are present in passiflora, which are used as precursor / intermediate in the manufacture of semisynthetic Vitamin D3 and human hormones like progesterone, androgens, estrogens, and corticoids.
Apart from these chemicals, maypop fruit offers strong source of vitamin C, dietary fibers, various minerals and fatty acids.
Health benefits of passiflora
Native Americans were first to make use of Maypop leaves and roots for medicinal use. Native Americans used it to heal cuts or bruise. Maypop tea was used as herbal medicine to treat insomnia, hysteria and epilepsy. Maypop fruit had been considered by them as heart tonic and relieve cough. They considered smoking dry passiflora incarnata leaves. Passiflora benefits spread to Europe along with Spanish colonists. In Europe, it became popular as sedative, antispasmodic and nerve tonic. It has been used in treating pain including headache, menstrual problems and gastrointestinal problems. Passionflower herb from Passiflora incarnata is part of the European Pharmacopoeia. German Commission has approved passionflower for treat of nervous anxiety and insomnia.
Health benefits of passiflora is recognized traditionally in countries like Brazil, US, Poland, Middle East, Turkey and India where it has been used for its analgesic, anti-spasmodic, sedative and anti-asthamatic properties. It is used in natural remedy for irregular menstrual periods, epilepsy, neural disorders, hysteria, haemorrhoids and insomnia. Passiflora benefits are discussed in detail below:
Passiflora to pacify anxiety
Research is active in identifying various chemical components which are effective in treating anxiety without impairing memory or motor functions. This can be attributed to presence of flavonoids chrysin and apigenin. Passionflower has been traditionally used in reducing anxiety symptoms. A research showed that oral dose of Passiflora incarnata extracts was helpful in reducing anxiety before surgery without inducing sedation.
Coming out of drug addiction with Passiflora
This herb has been used for deaddiction of narcotic drugs and alcohol. Drug removal symptoms are often elevated anxiety and restlessness and these increases urge for the addict to go back to drug or alcohol. Passiflora provides relief from such symptoms. It helps in calming nerves, reducing tremors and treating sleeping problems. Passiflora extract is considered effective in revering dependence on psychotropic drugs which have other side effects.
Passionflower for psychiatric disorders
In combination with other herbs, it is effective in relieving symptoms of psychiatric disorders. This often requires adjustments with anxiety levels and calming nerves. It is found effective in treating Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Extract of Passiflora incarnata flowers are used as folk medicine for anxiety and ADHD.
Passiflora treats sleep problems
This herb can help you aid sleep, relive nerve pain and anxiety and treat insomnia. It is believed to contain sleep inducing serotonin and maltol. It is well suited for treating sleeplessness in children, infants and old people. In Europe, teaspoon of dried passiflora powder is often consumed with tea for good sleep. Sedative chewing gum is experimented with passiflora extracts. Drinking passionflower tea made from passiflora leaves before going to bed can help induce sleep and enhance sleep quality. It has sedative and hypnotic effect without any side effects on other body functions. This mild sedative action is also helpful in treating other nervous system disorders like hysteria, delirium, nervousness and anxiety.
Calm your nerves with passiflora tea
This herb has power of strengthening our nerves and reliving any inflammation and pain on nerves. Alkaloids and flavonoids in this herb can be attributed for such property. It is effective in treating Neuralgia or nerve pains, headaches It works with other mild sedative herbs in calming your nerves. Best way to enjoy this benefit is passiflora tea.
Passiflora for heart problems
Cardiovascular neurosis is condition results from stress and anxiety. It causes increase in blood pressure, great rhythmic changes in the heart, sweating and palpitation. This is often treated by anti-anxiety drug. Phytochemicals in passiflora helps relive this condition and helps keep heart healthy. Other nutrients which help in treating this condition include amino acid – GABA present in the brain that regulates brain activity. Passiflora ingredients regulates GABA system in brain.
Passiflora for Epilepsy
As a strong anticonvulsant and antispasmodic, it helps in treating disorders like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy and seizures. Animal studies show that it delays onset of drug induced seizures. It has ability to work on GABA activity in brain and thus relax muscles and nerves in seizures. It is also believed to block activity of glutamate which can trigger nerve cells and produce convulsions and spasms.
Passiflora for respiratory troubles
This herb has been traditionally used in Brazil for treatment of asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough. It works as expectorant for irritating dry cough. It also suppresses cough. It contains alkaloids which displays anti-asthmatic properties and relieves asthma symptoms.
Passiflora to increase your libido
Traditionally passionflower is believed to have aphrodisiac properties which help increasing libido and virility. Animals studies shows that menthol based passiflora extract prevented drug induced decline in sexuality of male rats. Another animal study showed increased sexual behavior in male mice treated with passionflower extract. Benzoflavone derivative in passiflora prevents degradation of testosterone and increases its level in blood. However no human studies have been done so far to establish this claim.
Passiflora can also help relieve sex related anxiety also termed as performance anxiety.
Antioxidant activity of Passiflora
Passiflora leaves and fruit contains various flavonoids including chlorogenic acid, , isovitexin, quercetin, vitexin and others which have strong antioxidant activities. It helps in preventing harmful impact of free radicals.
Anti-inflammatory property of Passiflora incarnata
Passiflora contains chemical chrysin which offers strong anti-inflammatory property. It is helpful in reducing inflammation and pain.
Gastro intestinal problems
You had butterflies in stomach before going for examinations, didn’t you? A nervous stomach and other gastrointestinal spasms results from anxiety. Passiflora has antispasmodic effect and helps relieve anxiety. Biochemicals in passionflower work as vermifuge to remove worms and parasites out of intestine.
Passiflora for diabetics
Recent studies show that extract of Passiflora incarnata show potential for reducing blood sugar and lipids. Animal studies confirm such effect in drug induced diabetes in mice. More research is required to establish potential benefits of passiflora.
Passiflora and treatment of cancer
Various phytochemicals in passiflora including Lycopene, chrysin, Luteolin, quercetin and kaempferol have exhibited strong anti cancer properties and are being researched in treatment of cancer. Chrysin and apigenin present in passionflower helps inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, as found in studies.
Benefits of passiflora for women
Passiflora has been used in Europe for treatment of menstrual disorders. Menstrual cycle, puberty, menopause, childbirth and breastfeeding are often associated with hormonal changes. Often these periods are associated with psychological changes including mood swings and anxiety. Passiflora helps in regulating these female hormones. It helps relieve pain and anxiety in case of PMS disturbance, dysmenorrheal and menopause.
Topical Application Of Passionflower
It can be applied on skin to treat burns, wrinkles, inflammation from hermorrhoid, headache, fibromyalgia and other pain.
Side effects of Passiflora
No major side effects have been reported. Some reports suggested effects like increased heart beats, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness and impaired cognitive function. It can interfere with other central nervous system depressant drugs and medications. Passiflora incarnata has small amount of cyanogenic glycosides which have reported to have liver and pancreas toxicity.
While passiflora is more commonly used in medications including homeopathy, it cannot undermine the potential benefits of passiflora tea and other folk herbal remedies using passiflora leaves or fruit. Use of Passionflower tincture or passiflora incaranata homeopathy or passiflora tea is perfectly beneficial.Image Credits: Wikimedia -H. Zell, Wikimedia - H3ini