The need in these situations is for a mild but effective sedative that will not cause drowsiness or addiction even if taken long term. There are a number of herbs that work effectively on the central nervous system but some interact with other medication and others are not suitable for long-term use.
Passiflora has traditionally been used as mild sedative and anti-depressant, has no side effects or contra-indications, and can safely be taken long-term. When mixed with other sedative herbs its effects are strengthened.
Due to its anti-spasmodic properties, Passiflora can also be given to relieve muscle tension and intestinal spasms (gastro-intestinal symptoms are often linked to stress).
The passion flower was well known to the natives of South American as a herbal remedy. The plant was also often used in Brazilian medicinal folklore. The passion flower was discovered by the Spanish doctor, Monardes in Peru in 1569.
Forty years later, it was introduced to Europe as an ornamental plant, for, long before the passion flower was included in the Europe’s treasury of medicinal plants, botanists were fascinated by this climber’s inflorescence. In his book De florum cultura, published in 1633, the Jesuit Ferrari saw in the various parts of the flower all of the instruments of the Passion of Jesus Christ:
- the three-lobed leaves represent the spear,
- the tendrils the scourge,
- the three styles the nails of the cross,
- the stigma represent the sponge steeped in vinegar,
- the corona at the centre of the blossoms resemble the Crown of Thorns,
- the ovaries on a stalk represent the chalice,
- the five stamens the five wounds
- and the stemmed ovary (androgynophore) the cup or – according to other interpretations – the post to which Christ was bound during the flagellation.
The Jesuits also gave the passion flower its Latin name, which is made up of the words passio or ‘suffering’, flos, the ‘flower’ and incarnata which means ‘to make flesh’, re-incarnation respectively.
The passion flower began to be used as a herbal remedy in the second half of the last century and was introduced via American homoeopathy. It is a well known sedative in low doses. The remedy’s cardiotonic properties were only recognised in France and in Switzerland. During the First World War it was used as a nerve sedative to treat shell-shock.
The over 400 species of the Passiflora family are to be found in a primarily tropical habitat; for this reason this plant is nowadays a highly endangered species. Most of the species were found originally in the Southern States of the USA as well as in Central and South America.
Botanists and plant lovers were responsible for the worldwide dissemination of the plant early on, so that today, species of the plant can be found in all tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Some species are less sensitive to cold weather and can survive European winters, provided it is growing in a frost-free area.
For this reason the plant can sometimes be found growing wild. Nowadays it is produced from specially grown crops. The main areas of cultivation are in India, Florida, Italy and Spain.