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Common Name: Passionvine | Scientific Name: Passiflora Incarnata

Family Name: Passifloraceae


Passion vine (Passiflora incarnata) is a long used sleep aid, first used by the Native Americans, then by the colonials. Its really helps with insomnia and even in pain. The passion vine family of plants has been used for this and other purposes…..Passiflora edulis, the edible passion vine makes one hell of a healthy juice!


Fact Sheet
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest” by Dr. Douglas Schar

Fact Sheet

Parts Used: Flowers, leaves, and vine

Remember This: tranquiliser

Reasonable Uses: anxiety, nervousness, over active mind, insomnia, pain, stress related conditions including constipation, neck pain, headache, nervous muscular twitches.

History and Traditional Uses

Native Americans pounded or boiled the root of this twining vine to make medicine for boils, earaches, and other painful conditions. The plant’s exotic and remarkably intricate flowers reminded Spanish explorers and missionaries of the crown of thorns of Christ’s passion—the crucifixion. Hence the name passion vine.

Passionflower grows wild in the southern US, where it’s a folk remedy for insomnia and rattled nerves. It might be called the anti-passion vine as few can resist its ability to put one into a deep sleep!

Healing Potential

The flower, vine, and leaves of this showy herb contain alkaloids and flavonoids that, in laboratory studies, have demonstrated sedating effects. Herbalists say that it is one of the best tranquilizing herbs for insomnia, making it a good sleep inducer when nighttime rest is disturbed. It can reportedly calm many stress-related physical problems, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, neck pain, and more.

Herbalists Use It To…
Knock people out
Passion vine is an old American sleep medicine used first by the Native Americans and then by the Colonials. Its alkaloids make the eyelids heavy and the urge to sleep irrisistable

Reduce pain
Accidents happen. We slam our fingers in car doors, burn ourselves while cooking, and sprain our ankles. When pain is a problem herbalists recommend passion vine. Its tranquilsing effect extends to the nerves endings that transmit pain to the brain. It blocks pain signal transmission and we in turn feel less pain.

Reduce period pain
There is a certain segment of the population who suffer from excruciating menstrual pain. The price tag on having a uterus can be high. Apart from using herbal medicines to correct the root of the problem, it is important to keep a pain killer around to end the misery. Herbalists recommend this as emergency medicine for women terrorised by menstrual pain.

Shopping Tips

Passion vine is a readily available and cheap herbal remedy. Avoid products containing other herbal remedies

*Recovering addicts and alcoholics should use this product with caution.
*Pregnant and nursing woman should avoid it.
*People taking chemical tranquilisers, sleeping tablets, and sedatives should avoid it.

Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest” by Dr. Douglas Schar

If I don’t get some sleep my brains may pop out of my skull!

The passion vine is one of the plants the colonists in the Americas came across early in their tenure on these two continents. The blossom of the passion vine is about as subtle as a missing head, shocking maybe a good word choice to describe the bloom. The flower looks like something from outer space. All of the passion vines, and there are many species, are vines similar in growth to the grape. The tenacious vines are covered much of the year with these wild flowers and as the Europeans bounded through the wilderness of both north and south america it was one of the plants they had to hack their way through to get anywhere.

In the moderate and tropical parts of the Americas well over twenty different species of passiflora can be found growing on the edge of forests and in the jungle. They are usually found propping themselves up on small trees. The medicinal uses of the vine vary from virginia to argentina with the common thread being treatment of the nervous system, particularly an over active one. Passiflora foetida is used in argentina to treat epilepsy; Passiflora laurifolia is used in Trinidad to treat nervous heart palpitation, Passiflora quadrangulis is sued as a sedative and for headaches, and in Jamaica Passiflora rubra is used as a morphine substitute. The common denominator is the deadening of the nerve endings which chemicals contained in the passiflora family seem to do quite well.

Several of the passion vines produce edible fruit which have become increasingly popular in the global juice business. Though some say the fruit is called passion fruit due to an ability to engender lust nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the name has nothing to do with sex, oh, contraire. The peculiar flower was said to look like the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ . Other parts of the flower were thought to resemble the instruments of the Passions of Jesus Christ. Its this association with the Passions of Christ that it received its name. Nothing less sexy than the idea of crucification and a crown of thorns as far as I am concerned. The plant that produces the juice we eat, passiflora edulis, is not the plant we use for medicine, instead a close relation, passiflora incarnata is used when a person can’t sleep.

The plant we use to induce sleep is one of the northern most growing of the passion vines, whereas most of them are indigenous to tropical america the maypop as it is known ranges as far north as virginia. All of the members of the passion vine family contain chemicals with relaxing properties to a greater or lesser degree, the maypop being the best in the lot for an over active mind when it comes time to fall asleep. The colonials learned of its relaxing features upon arrival to the new world and from there ultimately it became a feature in the doctors medicine cabinet.

Grieve said this of it, ” The drug is known to be a depressant to the motor side of the spinal cord, slightly reducing arterial pressure, though affecting the circulation but a little, while increasing the rate of respiration. It is official in the homeopathic medicine and is used with bromides, it is said to be of great service in epilepsy. Its narcotic properties cause it to be used in diarrhea and dysentery, neuralgia, sleeplessness, and dysmenorrhea.”

The maypop can now be found growing around the globe largely due to its use as a landscaping plant. The part we use in herbal medicine are the leaves, gathered before the plant flowers or the whole plant with the fruit intact. The herb should be collected and then dried in the shade until fully dry and then stored in brown paper.

Chemically maypop it contains lots of alkaloids, including harmine, harman, harmol, harmaline, harmalol, passaflorine. On the flavonoid side of the equation the plant contains apigenin, when it comes to glycosides quite a number can be found, homoorientin, isovitexin, kaempferol, luteolin, orientin, quercitin, rutin, saponaretin, saponarin, vitexin. The alkaloids and the flavanoids have been proven to have a sedative action on animals and humans are just over done animals.

Passion vine has a depressing effect on the central nervous system which means that it slows the action of the nerves. This makes it useful when you have over activity of the nerves, or when you want to deaden the nerves function a bit. This slowing of the nervous system is the reason it is used in insomnia and in muscular spasms. When you lay in bed and your mind goes around and around, thinking about this and that, unable to stop long enough to fall asleep, passion vine will slow it all down so you can slip into slumber. Unlike narcotic sleeping pills passion vine does not result in you waking up in the morning with a hangover. Passion vine is one of the best botanic drugs for over activity of the nerves and any condition that results from this over activity is treated with it.

The lists of conditions treated with it include severe spasms, epilepsy, chorea, tetanus, hysteria, persistent hiccough, sleeplessness.

Ellingwood said it should be used in a variety of complaints, ” Wakefulness, disturbed sleep from mental worry, and exhaustion from cerebral fullness and from excitement, especially with feebleness. Anemic patients are relieved by it, also the wakefulness of infants and the aged. It is not usually efficient if the wakeful is caused by pain, nor when the patient is in full strength. Nervous excitement, and irritation with muscular twitchings, evidences of approaching convulsions in childhood, with marked cerebral fullness are indication, and it is given at any time preceding or during convulsive paroxysms if it can be swallowed. It is indicated in convulsions of any character.”

The Ecletics were one of the groups of physicians to really take notice of maypop and its ability to relax the mind and the body. At the turn of the century one Eclectic physician said this of it,

“This new remedy is anti-spasmodic, hypnotic, and tonic. It quiets nervous irritation and promotes sleep. Passiflora ahouls be used in atonic conditions. It tones up the sympathetic nervous system and improves circulation and nutrition. Use this remedy in asthenic insomnia. In insomnia, with flushed face and determination of blood to the brain, it will do no good. Passiflora is of use in some cases of spasm in children, and it may be employed as a nervine at the menstrual period. In insomnia of fevers , particularly low forms of typhoid, beneficial results are obtained from this drug. The dose depends upon circumstances. Usually from ten to twenty drops every half hour, or every two or three hours.” At a certain point a person needs to sleep even though there nervous systems are so out of whack they cant do it on their own, and the Ecletics felt that the maypop was perfect for inducing sleep. As the doctor said, it simply gives the nerves a break when they need it. It will gently slow the system down so that the person can drift off to sleep. Anyone who has taken sleeping pills will tell you that they give you a hangover in the morning. This doesn’t happen with the passion vine which makes it a superior drug.

I hesitated about including this plant in the medicine cabinet as there is such widespread abuse of over the counter and prescription sleep aids. I didn’t really want to add to the problem. Passion vine is to be used for the occasional case of insomnia, it is not to be used on a nightly basis for a number of years. Insomnia happens to all of us from time to time, overwrought nerves, emotional crisis, the flu, etc. can make it difficult for us to sleep. In cases such as these passiflora is a great plant to have in the medicine chest.

I read a study a few years back conducted by a high and mighty medical school asserting that coffee doesn’t not make people nervous or unable to fall asleep. Dont wonder too hard what industry funded the study and subsidizes the school. Caffeine is a stimulant, it has been proven to be such beyond any shadow of a doubt. In order to fall asleep the body has to slow down and relax, stimulants make that impossible. If insomnia is an ongoing problem, look at how much caffeine you take in and cut some out. If you can’t sleep the last thing you want to have in your system is stimulants.

For those people with chronic insomnia taking drugs, be they pharmaceutical or herbal, to fall asleep on a regular basis, is inappropriate. If you cant sleep more than two nights a week you have a problem and it probably requires professional help to sort it out. Its not normal to be unable to sleep on a regular basis-though there are exceptions to this rule-generally speaking if you cant sleep at night you’re doing something wrong during the day that needs changing. It could be as simple as you drink too much caffeine in the day or it could be that you are living at too high a pace and you have worked your nerves into such a state you cant fall asleep at night. Either way it is not acceptable to be dependant on drugs to fall asleep all the time.

Getting your herb:
1. Buy the dried herb or tincture at a health food store/herb seller.
2. Grow your own. Passion vine is a wonderful garden specimen owing to its incredible flowers and rapid growth habit. The side of a house, a fence, or even a free standing trelis will become the happy home of passiflora incarnata. Much like a grape vine, once planted and provided with some form of structural support, the plant just goes crazy. The only note is that the plant is such an agressive grower it burns through a lot of nutrition and you want to be certain to keep it well fertilized. I have found fish emulsion to be one of the best foods for the sleep inducing plant. Getting a starter plant is simple, most mail order herb nurseries carry it. Be certain to purchase incarnata, remember there are lots of species and you want to be certain you have the correct plant. Winter hardiness is a bit of a problem in some locations. If you live north of Virginia you will want to grow it in a container and bring it into a somewhat warmer location for the winter. Fortuntatly passiflora takes to a pot with no problem. The part we use is the leaves and they can be collected and dried in the sun whenever it suits the owner!

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.