Since this is the season of Passiontide, with Easter arriving in just a few days, I thought I would explore the merits of a beautiful flowering vine, Passiflora incarnata, or Passion Flower. This climbing vine can reach thirty feet and is found in most parts of the world, but not in Africa, and goes by many different names such as Maypop, Passion Flower, Apricot vine, Passionsblume, Purple Passion-flower, and Passion Vine. There are over 500 species of this plant. The flowers are typically white and purple but I have seen some pictures where the flowers are many different shades of red and pink, and even yellow.
There is an interesting history is associated with this flowering vine. Today the name is often used with romantic or sexual connotations. Actually Spanish Christian missionaries adopted this flower to symbolize the Passion of Jesus. The leaves pointed tips represent the lance that pierced Jesus side while He hung on the cross. The tendrils refer to the whips used in the scourging; the numerous filaments are said to symbolize the crown of thorns. The flower has a chalice, or cup-shaped, ovary representing the Holy Grail which was supposed to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper. There are ten petals and sepals that stand for the apostles; here is where I was always confused because there were twelve apostles. The apostles represented here do not include St. Peter, who denied Jesus, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Three stigmas in the flower refer to the three nails; the five anthers represent the five wounds of Christ. Lastly the blue and white colors refer to Heaven and Purity. Because of this description by the missionaries, the flower also is known by Christs crown, Christs thorn, Christs bouquet, crown of thorns, Jesus passion and Mother of Gods Star.
In areas of the world where Christianity is not predominant, people have called this vine and its flowers clock flower or clock plant, because the symmetrical arrangement of the flowers reminded them of a clock face. In Hawaii this is the flower they call lilikoi.
All parts of the vine can be used for treating multiple physical and emotional ailments. The primary use today is in skin care; the oil from the kernels and fruit is soothing to the skin. The oil can also be used as a carrier/base oil to dilute other essential oils. Flower parts have been used to heal bruises and wounds. The leaves and root are for easing aches and pains, nervous disorders, insomnia, digestive upsets and to expel intestinal worms. The fruits juice is useful as a heart tonic and mild diuretic. The edible fruit is sweet and can be eaten fresh or cooked and made into jams and jellies. The extract is used to flavor food and drink. Flowers can be used in a similar manner. Young leaves are eaten in salads and cooked as a vegetable.
Passion Flower has been used for hundreds of years to ease many discomforts and symptoms of disease. Today medical science can provide supportive documentation of the effectiveness of passion flower when used, along with prescription medication, in treating nervous disorders, but not enough studies have been done to recommend its use in treating other conditions. Passion Flower is considered safe when taken in the amounts normally found in food. It is considered unsafe for use in pregnancy, because it could cause uterine contractions. If consumed in large amounts it is not thought to be safe; there are numerous side effects which could be serious heart arrhythmias, impaired muscle movements and coordination, and phlebitis. It can also enhance the effects of some medicines, primarily sedatives. Therefore, check with your doctor if you are thinking of adding this to your diet!*
Whether you take Passion Flower for its medicinal value, or simply grow the vine because of its flowers, enjoy the beauty of the plant and contemplate the history and many names that have been associated with it. To all of you, a Happy and Blessed Easter from Peaceful Being.
*This article is intended to bring information to the reader and is not to be considered a recommendation or a substitute for proper medical treatment.