A very pretty herb – Passionflower by Ruth Ridley

This herb grows like a weed in my garden

passionflower herbThe common passionflower – or Passiflora caerulea grows very happily in my garden. In fact the Passiflora plant I use to shade the outside of my greenhouse is growing out of a crack in my patio (right hand side of picture).

passionfruit herb - uses - symbolismTreat this beautiful herb with respect

passionfruit herb societyThe passionflower fruits unreliably in the UK, although this year on the mild South Coast I have been lucky and my plants were covered in these pretty orange fruits – this photo was taken on the first of September. I looked into the edibility of these fruits, and although P. edulis is the species grown in warmer areas for its fruit, the RHS website says:

P. caerulea fruits “can be eaten when fully ripe, but please be aware that under-ripe fruits (yellow) can cause stomach upsets. All other parts of the Passiflora plants are potentially harmful and should not be eaten.”

I cut a ripe one up to eat, and although it wasn’t unpleasant, it was by no means appetising. So if you would like to grow a passionfruit plant for it’s fruit crop, I recommend buying a P. edulis and growing it in the greenhouse!

Passionflower in medical herbalism

Passionflower is traditionally used most commonly for problems relating to sleep and anxiety, and can be found as an ingredient in over-the-counter herbal remedies for these problems (although the active properties have not yet been fully tested). It is often found in combination with other herbal remedies such as valerian.

Deni Bown, former Chairman of the Herb Society, says in her “RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses” that P. incarnata is also useful for asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual tension, nervous tachycardia, hypertension and shingles. 

However, considering the RHS comment above, we would not recommend  self-medicating. Have a look at the range of ready-made products available in your health shop, or consult a medical herbalist!

Passionflower symbolism

The name passionflower is derived from Christian symbolism, referring to the passion of Jesus. This herb was named by Spanish priests in South America as the flower with the five wounds, and in the top photo you can see clearly the five green anthers which have been associated with the wounds of Christ on the cross. Different sources apply religious symbolism to this flower to varying degrees – some find a meaning in every single part of the flower.

passionflowers medical herbalismI hope you like these passionflower photos taken last year at the Courson flower show near Paris – the grower had put on a fabulous display.

Find out more about growing passionflower from the RHS.

Written by Ruth Ridley