Encompassing some 500 varieties, passion flowers come in a fiery range of bright colors. Their large, summertime, perennial blossoms grow along thick, sturdy vines, with tendrils that climb and reach upwards of 15 feet in length. Passion flower and its derivatives are used for diverse medicinal purposes including treatment of pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, poor blood circulation, high blood pressure and even dependency on chemicals, such as nicotine and opiates.
A brilliant member of any garden, the passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is also prized as an indoor houseplant. In addition to its symbolic presence and beauty, it is a draw for a variety of butterfly species, large bees and hummingbirds.
Passion flower derives its name from its symbolic link to the crucifixion of Christ, with many of its parts representing Christ in some way--for example, the spotted red pigment symbolize drops of Christ's blood; the filaments, the ring of thorns around Christ's head; and the tendrils represent the lashes inflicted upon Christ prior to his execution.
The yellow-green fruits of some passion flower species are edible. This sweet fruit can be eaten raw or made into jellies and jams. It also can be juiced for a healthful beverage.
An extract from the passion flower, chrysin, has been preliminarily linked to the reversed suppression of natural killer cells that are found deficient in cancer patients. Although evidence is still forthcoming, a conclusive link could bode well for the treatment of tumors and a host of immune suppressant diseases.
Passion flower's leaves and flowers can be dried and then ground to create tea leaves. Steeped in a tea infuser, sack or ball in boiling water, the soothing drink lays claim to anxiety and insomnia curative powers. Passion flower tea can also be purchased at health food stores and websites.
As a dried herb, liquid extract, or in pill form, passion flower is a nutritional supplement used to calm nerves and alleviate tension. It has also been used to reduce withdrawal symptoms from opiates and nicotine.
Passion flower is sometimes found in soaps and potpourri. They can be produced as a home craft or purchased directly from vendors.
Because the active ingredients in passion flower have been linked to sedative effects, some growers take the dried leaves of the plant and roll them into cigarettes.