Passiflora spp. - Passion FlowerFAMILY: Passifloraceae

GENUS: Passiflora

SPECIES: Caerulea, Edulis, Foetida, Incarnata, Involucrata, Jorullensis, Laurifolia, Quadrangularis, Rubra

COMMON NAMES: Passionflowers, Passion Fruits, Flos Passionis, Granadilla

Passiflora as a genus covers over four hundred species. All Passiflora species (widely known as Passionflowers and Passion Fruits), are evergreen climbing vines or bushes with many-lobed leaves and unmistakable other-worldly flowers that come in several variations of colors and types of leaves, filaments, and anthers. The fruits of Passiflora are oval and usually edible (Ratsch 1998, 416).

Almost all species of Passiflora are indigenous to the tropical rain forests of the Americas, most to Central and South America. Some species may be found in the Caribbean and southeastern North America. There are only a few Passiflora species that can survive in more temperate climates, with several species now known to grow wild in Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain, as well as Southeast Asia. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, botanists helped to spread various passionflower species across much of the globe (Ratsch 1998, 415).

All species of Passiflora may be grown from seed, which are sown in very loose, airy soil throughout the year in warmer and tropical climates. In Central Europe, the seeds are best planted in the period between November to April, and will germinate within two to six weeks at the onset of warmer weather.  As a houseplant, passionflowers like to be watered well between April and September, and given fertilizer every fourteen days. In Spring, the shoots may be cut back to four to seven inches (Ratsch 1998, 416).

TRADITIONAL USES: In Pre-Columbian times, South American peoples used many of the up-to-sixty edible Passiflora species as food, as well as to prepare medicines and sedatives. When Spanish missionaries invaded the New World, they took Passiflora as a sign from God, seeing the unusual flowers as a symbol of the mystery and the passion of Jesus Christ. It was the Spanish Friars who first called the plant “Flos Passionis,” or Passion Flower in English, because of their conception that Passiflora was the living epitome of the passion story of their Lord Savior (Klock 1996 cited in Ratsch 1998, 415).

The Spaniards of the West Indies named the plant “Granadilla” due to the similarities of passion flower fruits to pomegranate fruits. The passion fruit species that thrives in the West Indies is large and red and bears a striking resemblance to the pomegranate, only the passion fruit husk is thinner, the fruit is mostly tasteless, and the juice is sour. This fruit has mild laxative effects.

In the region of Iquitos, the roots of the Amazonian species Passiflora involucrata are used as an additive to ayahuasca to intensify the visions experienced during ceremonial rituals. Maracuja (P. edulis) juice plays a significant role in Brazilian jurema rituals, which are similar to ayahuasca rituals, but which are not particularly well understood at this time (Ratsch 1998, 416).

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: To make a calming tea, dried Passiflora incarnata herbage may be combined with valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), hop cones (Humulus lupulus), and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Another variation includes the dried herbage of Passiflora incarnata blended with valerian root, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), anise (Pimpinella anisum), and mint (menthe). The recommended daily dosage of dried herbage of Passiflora incarnata is four to eight grams; as a tea the suggested dosage is two and one half grams per cup, taken three to four times daily.  Tea may also be made by combining fifteen grams of passionflower herbage and one hundred and fifty grams of boiling water (Meier et al. 1994 cited in Ratsch 199, 416).

In Mexico, the flowers of Passiflora foetida are known as amapola, or “opium,” and are brewed into a tea that is used as an opium substitute (Argueta et al. 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 416). The roots of Passiflora involucrata are suitable for use in preparing ayahuasca analogs. Passion fruit juice is used together with Mimosa tenuiflora and species of the Pithecellobium family to produce the ayahuasca-like drink known as Jurema of Brazil, and is represented in various artifacts of the people who use this medicine (Ratsch 1998, 416).  It has been rumored that the Passiflora rubra of the Dominican Republic is used to produce a zombie-like state in unwitting victims, but those reports have not been substantiated (Voogelbreinder 2009, 262-263).

The seeds of various Passiflora species are easy to obtain, and tea mixtures and herbal supplements created using Passiflora incarnata are widely available. Passion fruits may now be found at fruit stands and markets almost everywhere in the world, and are delicious eaten by themselves, or made in to various delicious desserts.

MEDICINAL USE: In the Amazon, a tea of maracuja (Passiflora edulis) leaves is imbibed as a sedative. Maracuja fruit juice allegedly has MAO-inhibiting properties. A tea made form the leaves of tumbo (Passiflora quadrangularis) is used as a narcotic and sedative. The Kubeo people tell us that a decoction of the leaves of Passiflora laurifolia has sleep-inducing effects. The Indians of the Caribbean and Central America also use several species of Passiflora as sedatives and sleeping agents (Ratsch 1998, 416).

In European folk medicine and phytotherapy, Passiflora incarnata is either taken as a tea or as part of a combination preparation for states of nervous unrest. In homeopathy, a Passiflora incarnata mother tincture is used for such purposes as calming and to promote sleep. Experimentation with animals has demonstrated that an aqueous extract of Passiflora incarnata both deepens and prolongs sleep (Meier et al. 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 416).

Currently, P. incarnata is used in Europe as an antispasmodic medicine for Parkinson’s patients.  A tea made from P. incarnata root is used by the Cherokee as a ‘social drink’, for weaning infants, and as a liver tonic and external wash for wounds. Other American Indian groups use the herb to treat swelling and eye troubles (Voogelbreinder 2009, 263).

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Today, passion fruits are one of the most highly valued exotic fruits in the world. It has been reported that the psychoactive components in Passiflora incarnata and other Passiflora species are harmane alkaloids. One may sometimes read that one hundred grams of dried Passiflora incarnata contains about ten micrograms of harmane alkaloid. This finding is highly controversial. Maltol, once believed to be the main active constituent in the plant, is actually a by-product that is created when the raw plant is heated. The pulp of the passion fruit consists primarily of two to four percent citric acid, traces of ascorbic acid, cartenoids, starch and more than two hundred aromatic substances (Meier et al. cited in Ratsch 1998, 416).

The psychoactive properties of the Passiflora genus as a whole is still awaiting thorough ethnopharmacological study. However there are several species that have a rich history of entheogenic use. The psychoactive compounds documented to be found in Passiflora incarnata include vicenine-2, isoorientine, isovitexine-2”-O-glucoside, schaftoside, isoschaftoside, isoorientine2”-O-glucoside, isovitexine and swertisine. Saponarine, once thought to be a constituent, is in fact absent in the plant (Meier 1995 cited in Ratsch 1998, 417). Passiflora jorullensis contains passicol, harmol, harmane, harmine, and harmaline (Emboden 1979). The roots of Passiflora involucrata appear to be rich in B-carbolines with MAO-inhibiting properties (Argueta et al. 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 417).

The neuropharmacological effects of P. incarnata have been compared to those of Cannabis sativa. When smoked, the herbages of both Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora jorullensis induce a mild, marijuana-type high. The herbage may be smoked alone or in smoking blends with other plants (Emboden 1979). Claims have been made that smoking Passiflora has MAO-inhibiting effects, thus making oral doses of N,N-DMT containing plants more effective (Ratsch 1998, 417).


If you would like to try making your own Passion Flower tea to calm the nervous system, you may make it with dried Passion Flower herbage.  You may also be interested in Passion Flower Capsules and Passion Flower Liquid Extract.



Emboden, W.A. Narcotic Plants. Macmillan Pub Co, 1980.

Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.