The Passifloraceae include a few hundred species, the majority of them (around 400) of the genus Passiflora. They are found in the wild mainly in the New World, very few in Asia or Australia.
They are small herbaceous plants or perennial woody lianas, sometimes with great development, whose flower is remarkable, often by its size and especially by its structure: 5 stamens firmly connected to the gynophore, style with 3 stigmatic branches, 5 sepals and 5 petals.
The passionflower fruit is globular or oblong and contains many seeds surrounded by an edible pulp that is often sweet or tangy and very fragrant but sometimes tasteless or almost non-existent depending on the species.
The leaves are often multi-lobed; tendrils start in the axils of the leaves and allow the liana to cling to various supports.
The first missionaries in South America who discovered these lianas found a resemblance between the floral pieces and the instruments of the "Passion" of Christ, hence their generic name: Passion flower.
Passiflora incarnata which grows naturally in the Southeastern USA and Mexico is the officinal species.
It is a woody and perennial passion flower that is not widespread, the very typical flower of which has purple tendrils (hence its name), leaves generally with three lobes with pointed ends and the middle lobe of which is the most developed.
These characteristics leaf differentiate it from other more widespread passionflower species.
There are horticultural varieties of purple passionflower, some of which have almost white flowers.
There are many species of passionflower cultivated for their fruit in South America, but globally it is mainly Passiflora edulis (maracuja or grenadilla) which is cultivated or subspontaneous in most tropical-equatorial regions.
In the tropics, barbadine, Passiflora quadrangularis is also cultivated and the small stinking passionflower,marya-marya, or maribouya, Passiflora foetida, which grows spontaneously in fallow land, is used as a medicinal plant.
In mild temperate countries, the Brazilian blue passion flower, Passiflora coerulea, is appreciated as a decorative plant.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
STEMS, LEAVES AND FLOWERS OF PASSIFLORA INCARNATA (OFFICINAL)
The aerial parts of the purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, are medicinal: the leaves and to a lesser extent the flowers. The root is not currently used in herbal medicine.
The main constituents to which pharmacological action is attributed are:
- Flavonoids: derivatives of kaempferol and quercetol which are quite common in plants and others which are less derived from luteolin, apigenin (vitexin and isovitexine).
- Very low amounts of alkaloids which are known as hallucinogens (harmine, harmol, harmaline, harmalol), but present in too small a quantity for this psychic effect to be felt.
- other compounds are cited by pharmacologists as potentially active on the nervous system: maltol and ethyl maltol, chrysin.
- The leaves also contain cyanogenic glucosides (gynocardine) in small amounts (these unstable substances can release toxic hydrocyanic acid). These toxic substances are more concentrated in the root, which explains the habit of traditional populations of keeping passionflower plants away from underground water reservoirs or masonry cisterns.
Recent and quite numerous studies carried out by researchers mainly in Iran, India and Brazil show that extracts (methanolic, ethanolic and aqueous) of passionflower leaves and stems are active on the central nervous system, probably by acting on benzodiazepine receptors and at GABA.
(REMINDER: Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs (valium type) that are used as anxiolytics and for their sedative and calming properties. The GABA receptor plays a key role in the regulation of nerve activity including brain activity) .
That's explain why passionflower extracts:
- Calm mild anxiety.
- Are sedatives and tranquilizers.
- Calms irritability and psychosomatic manifestations often linked to an imbalance of the nervous vegetative system.
- Promotes the onset of sleep especially when insomnia is linked to anxiety.
The flowers contain much less active substances than the leaves.
Indian researchers have shown that part of the methanolic extract makes it possible to reduce the withdrawal effect in animals artifically drugged (morphine, nicotine, cannabis or alcohol), thus reducing dependence on these drugs and facilitate withdrawal.
The association with valium facilitates even more the withdrawal of the drug.
These same researchers hypothesize that part of the effect of this flavonoid extract is due to an interaction with the hepatic metabolism of the male sex hormone (testosterone).
They attribute the anxiolytic effect and improved mood to an increase in the amount of free testosterone in the blood.
We can relate this hypothesis to the traditional use of passionflower to improve male fertility in humans and even in domestic animals.
Sleep disturbances and insomnia
This is the main use of the officinal purple passionflower, especially when it is difficult to fall asleep.
It can be used in children over 6 years old but not in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Mild anxiety with psychosomatic disorders
Passionflower is useful when anxiety is accompanied by temporary extrasystoles, functional digestive disorders (belching, epigastric or colic bloating, digestive cramps)
It can also be offered in asthmatics to prevent an asthma attack at night or during the day to reduce respiratory discomfort.
Also in the event of irritative cough, of the big child or the adult.
Nervousness and irritability
Passionflower extracts replace tranquilizers or synthetic sedatives with harmful side effects especially when the neuropsychic disorders are of low intensity: irritability of the menopause or when stopping smoking, the suspension of tranquilizers or sedatives or of alcoholic withdrawal.
Examples of dosage:
30 to 50 gr of leaves in a liter of water, boil 2 to 3 minutes, infusion during 10 minutes.
One cup 3-4 times a day for mild anxiety and nervousness or two cups at night for easy falling asleep
Alcoholic tincture of purple passionflower:
This alcoholic extract is more effective and easier to dose than the infusion.
30 to 50 drops 3 to 4 times a day
or 30 to 60 drops at bedtime
There are many pharmaceutical specialties (often over the counter) that contain passionflower extracts (or passionflower powder) often associated with other sedative plants (such as hawthorn for example).
Comply with the manufacturer's instructions.
Let us present 3 species among the numerous passionflowers used for their dietary or pharmacological properties
The MARACUJA or grenadilla is best known for the sweet aril of its fruit commonly called Passion fruit.
There are two varieties, the original from the Amazon rainforest whose fruit is purplish and a mutant or hybrid form very widespread now in the tropics with yellow or greenish fruit.
The edible and very fragrant pulp contains:
80% water, 0.6% protein, 0% lipids, 18-20% carbohydrates, 11mg / 100g of calcium, 15 to 20mg / 100g of vitamin C.
It is therefore a good source of vitamin C and natural sugars.
The Native Americans consider the leaves, green fruits and roots of passion flowers to be poisonous.
However, they use the sap from the crushed leaves or stems as an anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious poultice. Similar uses (vulnerary, healing) are found in other regions (West Indies, South Pacific).
The crumpled or slightly heated leaves are applied to abscesses, boils, infected blisters, small wounds, contusions.
Passiflora quadrangularisBarbadine is a robust vine with a quadrangular stem and fairly large fruit (30 cm). It is a plant from hot regions.
The small Passiflora foetida or sticky vine apple or maribouya is a plant from the tropics that crawls and covers the ground and sometimes the bushes.
In Polynesia, the sap of the leaves is mixed with coconut milk (traditional support for "rau Tahiti") to obtain a healing liquid.
A leaf decoction (a handful for a liter of water, boil 10 minutes) is useful externally for its astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious properties : superficial burns, oozing wounds, "blur".
Let us cite the classic use of leaves as an emmenagogue (not recommended).
Traditional populations consider Passiflora foetida or stinking passionflower to be more effective than large "edible" species.
A recent Indian study recalls that this small vine has many pharmacological properties not always exploited: sedative, anxiolytic, antibacterial and anticancer in vitro, leishmanicide, antispasmodic, vulnerary and that its ethanolic extract promotes the healing of gastric ulcer induced in animals.
This plant is not part of the Western pharmacopoeias.
PASSSION FLOWER CULTIVATION
The propagation is done thanks to the seeds collected on the slightly wilted ripe fruits and put in the ground shortly after, it is preferable not to dry the seeds too long, they slowly lose their germination capacity.
Cuttings are possible.
Passionflower is a liana that requires support to develop well.
Pollination is done by insects and when the pollinating species (some wasps) are absent, the growers pollinate the passionflower flowers by hand. The quantity of edible pulp is proportional to the number of seeds, and therefore to the quality of pollination.
Passionflowers adapted to mild temperate countries, such as officinal passionflower, lose their leaves in winter but are persistent by their roots.
Passionflower is cultivated in the south and west of France.
LIANAS WITH EDIBLE FRUITS AND SEDATIVE LEAVES
There are many species of passionflowers, they are lianas with very decorative flowers which are mainly native to South America but which have been introduced in many countries.
Their fruits contain a fragrant and edible pulp, the leaves of the officinal passion flower are sedative and anxiolytic, promoting sleep and calming irritability..
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel