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Passion Flower

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Names of Passion Flower, past and present

French: fleur de la passion / fleur de passiflore / grenadille
Spanish: corona de Cristo / espina de Cristo / flor de passion / sadre selva / maracuja
Italian: pasiflora / passiflora / passiflora herba / passionaria
German: Christus-Krone / Muttergottes-Stern
Swedish: fleischfarbige / passionblumenkraut
Japanese: tokeiso
English: passionflower / maypop / passionfruit / apricot vine / water lemon
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Passiflora incarnata / Passiflora edulis

Background and History

The passifloras are an extremely prolific family of plants that amount to over five-hundred distinct varietals, all of which are found throughout the world in various wild or otherwise 'cultured' settings. Although they are now chiefly cultivated for their gaudy flowers which are often employed for garden aesthetics, some species of passiflora are also highly cultivated for their edible fruits, which are often incorporated (alongside its flowers) in cuisine, perfumery, and medicine. Due to its wide range of differing (yet entirely interrelated) species, each varietal of passiflora tend to have different names for their respective fruits and flowers, and while they may be employed interchangeably in some cases, they are considered as separate in their own right.

While passiflora are often typified by its vine-like appearance, it is the highly ornate and often very delicate and variegated colourations of its various flowers that easily draw the eye. Ranging from the simple to the utterly ornate, passiflora blooms - better known as passionflowers - are typically red, blue, or lavender-hued, although they may also possesses a convergence of colourations that run the gamut of the whole colour spectrum, making them a truly dazzling example of natural artistry. Usually very large and gaudy, they are replete with thin, tiny sepals radiating from the petals-proper, creating an often dizzying sunburst effect that is alluring to both humans and insects alike.

Because passiflora can be quite attractive to pests, even the otherwise simple leaves of the plant develop distinct 'markings' of its own - in this case, tiny bumps or nodules that imitate un-hatched insect eggs, typically employed by the plants to deter any egg-laying insects from turning it into the next take-out counter. The plant is also notable for its edible fruit that is replete with lime-green to dark-green skin that becomes dark shiny, yet fleshy upon maturity. The whole encases a soft, edible pulpy interior that houses nearly hundreds of soft minute seeds, which, alongside the surrounding pulp, is also edible. [1]

Common / Popular Uses

Passion flowers are extremely popular plants that are highly cultivated, chiefly for their gaudy and ornate flowers. Because of this, they have been cultured throughout the globe and sold typically as landscaping plants. Initially raised from wild specimens, the 'passiflora fever' of the late Victorian Era led to the widespread cultivation of the plant, which subsequently yielded a dizzying array of various plant varietals, all of which are dearly loved garden plants.

Aside from being choice garden plants for avid horticulturists, passiflora are also highly cultivated as a foodstuff, since the majority of fruits that many plant varietals yield is a major ingredient in a number of desserts, sweetmeats, alcoholic beverages, and a coterie of other culinary concoctions. Said to be a potent aphrodisiac, passion fruit may be found in its pure or adulterated form in punches, savoury pastries, cocktails, fruit salads, desserts, and liqueurs, where it not only add a nice aroma, but also mellows out and balances the otherwise cloying sweetness associated with such foodstuffs. The passion fruit may also be consumed in its unprepared form and is best served when chilled. The fruit itself may be juiced, with the subsequent liquid either drunk as is, or allowed to ferment to create passion fruit wine. It may also be integrated into pre-prepared alcoholic beverages or mixed with an already existing batch of alcoholic ferment. [2] The fruit of the passiflora, and all products which are derived from it, or that contain very high amounts of it are not only excellent pick-me-ups for individuals who suffer from the blues, but a regular daily intake of passion fruit-related products, (or better yet, raw, fresh passion fruit) is not only said to boost the immune system, but has also been shown to improve heart health and reduce one's risk of heart attacks, stroke, and hypertension. [3]

Aside from the versatile and healthful fruit, the leaves of some species of passiflora have also been employed by many native or aboriginal cultures as a medicine. The Native Americans more so than any other tribal culture have used the dried leaves of the plant as a primary ingredient in the creation of a special tisane that is drunk to help treat insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, hysteria, and some types of mania and hyperactivity. [4] Aside from its sedative properties, the leaves of the passiflora, when made into a potent decoction may also help to alleviate depression and provide significant amounts of pain-relief. Passionflower is typically combined with other soothing or calming herbs such as lavender or chamomile, either as a tisane, or as an inhalant sachet. Dried passiflora leaves may even be smoked as a remedy for asthma, blocked sinuses, and mild migraines.

Contrary to its sedative properties, the aroma of passionflowers is usually considered invigorating, and it features highly in shampoos, perfumes, soap-making and general commercial cosmetics. The essential oil derived from the flowers through either steam distillation or enfleurage is usually incorporated into perfumery or cosmetics as both a healing and energizing scent. It may also be mixed with other essential oils as a middle note, or as a means to improve the overall scent or bouquet of a perfume.

When employed as a regularly medicated draught for anxiety, hysteria and mania, a combination of dried passiflora leaves and flowers may tinctured and used accordingly as a soothing draught or sedative to promote calmness or sleep. Because of its highly concentrated nature, this tincture may also be used both internally and externally as a mild, yet nevertheless effective analgesic, usually accompanied by a draught of passiflora-leaf tisane.

Esoteric / Magickal Uses

The very name 'Passion flower' and 'Passion fruit' have in them highly magickal connotations, as it is not only associated with its aphrodisiacal qualities but is also chiefly named after the Passion of the Prophet and demi-god Jesus, the Christ. In mediaeval folklore, passionflowers were said to represent the varied facets of the Christ's Passion (hence the name), with various parts of the plant having been associated with the myriad articles that have been employed in his Crucifixion. In the non-Christian context, passionflower is typically associated with venal pursuits, and is usually employed in the creation of love charms.

In the shamanic context, the root of the passiflora has been employed as an additive to entheogenic or hallucinogenic drugs, as it has the uncanny effect of intensifying the mind-altering properties of the latter to an even higher degree. [5] The root is usually employed in its dried and powdered state, and is either ingested alongside other entheogens, or otherwise combined to make a smoking mixture and subsequently partaken of. Outside of the context of Vision Questing, Dreaming, and general shamanic working, dried passiflora leaves may be burnt as an incense, either by itself or combined with other soothing and calming herbs such as lavender in order to incite passion, invoke desire, or calm aggression. In the magickal context, passiflora is considered a very 'constructive' herb that is chiefly employed to bring general good luck in all matters of the heart. [6]

Despite being considered relatively benign, passiflora must never be used alongside synthetic barbiturates, antidepressants, sedatives, or narcotics. As a general safety rule, pregnant and lactating mothers should refrain from taking passiflora, or otherwise limit their intake to very small dosages. Individuals who are under blood-thinning medication or synthetic anticonvulsant medications should likewise refrain from the use of passiflora and all related products containing significantly concentrated doses of the herb or any extracts derived thereof.

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_Flower

[2] http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/passionflower-000267.htm#ixzz2JBHdHWne

[3] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/passionflower-herbal-remedies.html

[3] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/passionflower-herbal-remedies.htm

[4] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/871.html

[5] http://entheology.com/plants/passiflora-passion-flower/

[6] http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2012/05/herb-analysis-passiflora-passion-flower.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © herbs-info.com 2013

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