Passiflora incarnata is more commonly known as passionflower. Also called apricot-vine, maypop, and maracuja, this plant is as exotic as its name implies, growing in the tropical areas of North, South, and Central America. A woody vine containing stunning white flowers with pink or purple centers, passionflower grows up to ten meters long high into the rain-forest canopy. Its beauty prompted early Spanish missionaries of the late sixteenth century to give its common name. But passionflower is more than simply a beautiful plant; it appears to have many medicinal properties and has been used by practitioners of herbal medicine for centuries.
The vine, stem, leaves, and fruit of this plant are among its useful parts. The fruit is enjoyed for its taste throughout the tropics. Passionfruit is roughly the size of a large lemon and is eaten plain or used to make beverages, sherbets, salad dressing, and jams. Many indigenous people have used passion fruit to make tonics believed to strengthen heart function and sooth coughs, but the fruit is primarily ingested for its culinary and nutritional properties. In many parts of South America, the juice of passion fruit is given to hyperactive children to induce calm.
It appears the primary medicinal benefits of the passionflower lie in its other useful parts. Through infusion, the leaves of the plant have been used to make teas that are medicinally important. Some of the first Spanish conquerors learned from the indigenous tribes that the tea made from the passionflower has sedative qualities and the ability to sooth nerves. The Spanish, in turn, brought the vine back to Europe where it began to be used for this purpose. Researchers have suggested that the passionflower produces a similar sedative effect to that experienced by people who take codeine…
Today, native healers and practitioners of alternative medicine prescribe passionflower for a wide variety of complaints. Perhaps, not surprisingly because of its name, one of these is a low libido. Passionflower appears to be a potent aphrodisiac…
Passionflower also appears to reduce depression and anxiety in people. Its ability to calm the nerves has been documented since the sixteenth century, but the plant has been used for this purpose long before by Native American tribes.
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