Natural Medicine Chest: The Power of Passionflower

In this edition of the Natural Medicine Chest, we'll discuss the medicinal use of the herb known as Passion flower, or passiflora incarnata, a powerful naturopathic remedy for stress, nervousness and insomnia.

Passion flower is the common name for a genus of vine-like plants which prefer to grow in the tropics and subtropical regions of Australia and the Americas. Certain species have even been known to grow as far north as Virginia. Many species are grown for its fruit, a popular beverage in tropical punch, while other species have beautiful white or lavender flowers. resembling the popular clematis garden vines.

European history

The first time Europeans "discovered" passionflower was in the year 1569. Explorers from Spain were enthralled by the flower's symbolic resemblance to the passion of Jesus Christ. In the European homeopathic tradition, passionflower was used as a homeopathic medicine to treat sleeplessness, neurasthenia, heart palpitations, seizures and convulsive disorders, menopausal and climacteric complaints. It was also used as a compress for hemorrhoids and burns. The famous eclectic medical doctor, H.W. Felter, writes in the 1922 edition of the Eclectic Materia Medica, "Passiflora is used primarily in spasmodic affections and as a rest producing agent. It is one of the best remedies to allay restlessness and overcome insomnia due to the overactivity of the mind, worry, and physical and mental overwork. Patients awake refreshed from this rest with no feelings of sluggishness."

Chemistry and pharmacology

Researchers have identified a number of fascinating chemical constituents in passionflower. Weak and-fungal and antibiotic compounds have been noted. A group of chemicals called harmane alkaloids have been theorized as responsible for its sedative effects. Vitexin and other flavanoids could account for its help in alleviating climacteric complaints in menopausal women, such as hot flashes and palpitations with insomnia. The most concentrated portion of the plant is found in the leaves and fruit.

In the journal Chemical Pharmacologic Bulletin, doses of passion flower were shown to act as a smooth muscle relaxant, relaxing arteries, bronchial muscles, lowering blood pressure, reducing abdominal cramps, and relaxing and thus dilating the coronary arteries which feed blood to the heart. Recent studies reveal that the whole plant extract must be utilized to obtain the medicinal effects, which again show that mother nature is the supreme chemist. Extremely large doses of passiflora have induced nausea and vomiting in experimental animals.

So if the strains of modern day living have stirred your passions a bit too much, reach for the passionflower. You'll find it as you reach into...The Natural Medicine Chest.

Measurements & Data Corporation.

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By Eugene R. Zampeiron and Ellen J. Kamhi

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