We recently re-discovered our love for passionflowers when we finally found some to plant here in our coastal garden. We had grown them in previous homes- they seemed to do the best in the desert Southwest, and across the front of our store in Eugene. We wanted to plant one here as a windscreen across the north fence of our garden, but we were holding out for a medicinal species.
Our sweet little local nursery got in a striking variety called “Aphrodite’s Nightie”, and we couldn’t resist getting one for the front porch since it is gorgeous and the name was just too funny to pass up! But, as far as we can tell, it’s not a medicinal type, so as much as we and the bees enjoy it, we were still on the hunt for the right kind for the main garden.
A couple weeks later, the nursery got in some of the type we were looking for- Passiflora caerulea. We bought a couple and planted them, and they took off pretty quickly. Their vines are about 6 feet long already, and we expect them to grow into a thick cover for the fence within a couple years.
Even better, they started flowering right away, with ornate and otherworldly flowers that smell like candy. Each day we walk over to their corner and are greeted by new blooms, often harboring bumble bees that fell asleep in them the night before. It’s magical!
There are about 750 different species of passionflower, most of them from tropical regions. They come in all shades of blue, red, pink, yellow, and white, and when I look through the photo galleries on this specialist site, I am sometimes envious of all the types we can’t grow here. I’d especially like to have one that would grow delicious fruit, but our climate is a bit too cold and wet for that. But, I’m happy we did find a caerulea again, since I loved interacting and working with them when we had one in Eugene.
That vine was across the front of our store, wrapping around into the entranceway, and some mornings when I would go to open the store, I would find that tendrils of it had made it inside during the night. It was a persistent, tenacious plant with a strong intelligence, and on slow days I would sit and watch it, seeing its movements as it looked for something to grip and climb up on. It moved fast for a plant, and I also enjoyed holding a finger against a tendril for a few minutes to let it slowly wrap around and close in. Now that I look back on it, I realize I spent a lot of time making friends with that vine, which is probably why the medicine we made from it was so wonderful.
Once these new vines grow in, we will make another vintage of the special all-flower Initiatic like we did many years ago. Every vintage is different, but we expect that, being from only flowers gradually gathered over a summer, it will be gentle and elevated in energy, calming on a spiritual level in a way that makes it very useful for certain practices. To understand this aspect of Passionflower, we should dive into its chemistry a bit.
Passionflower as an herbal medicine is best known as a reliable and effective relaxant, with anti-anxiety effects on the mind, and muscle relaxing qualities for the body. Its action lowers blood pressure and slows the heartbeat, making it an excellent remedy at small doses for daytime anxiety or hypertension, and at higher doses at night for insomnia, especially when it also involves pain, muscle tension or spasm. Our Passionflower Essence is an expression of these healing qualities on the physical level.
On a higher level, Passionflower is also relaxing, but more to the mind and spirit, healing to both anxiety and depression. This is because of its content of harmala alkaloids, which are the same constituents that give Syrian Rue and the Caapi vine of Ayahuasca their entheogenic properties. Harmine and related alkaloids are MAO inhibitors, which means that they decrease the brain enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
Many pharmaceutical anti-depressants work this way, since if less of these brain chemicals are broken down, then more are available to improve brain function and mood. This means that, for some people, Passionflower can be as effective for depression and anxiety as chemical medicines, but it should be noted that Passionflower should never be combined with any pharmaceutical that changes brain chemistry, as dangerous side effects can be created.
Going back to Harmine and its effects, we find that in areas of South America where the Caapi vine does not grow, it is Passionflower which is used for that half of the Ayahuasca brew. It is a gentler entheogen than Caapi, and does not last as long, but its relaxant and anti-anxiety effects can be very useful for journeys which may be challenging or difficult. Its calming intelligence eases the transition into liminal space, and creates a graceful state of openness in which visions can be experienced and processed without fear or resistance.
Outside of ceremony, this relaxation can also be used for Yoga, with a small dose bringing expansion and ease to the breath and movement. It is also very useful for sleeping, as mentioned above, with our Passionflower Essence creating simple sedation and relaxation, along with a boost to the mood just before drifting off, while our Initiatic facilitates dreamwork and astral travel.
For physical healing, Passionflower Essence combines well with Hawthorne for the heart and circulation, and with Ashwagandha Essence to work on the core imbalance of insomnia and the sleep cycle. Our Passionflower Initiatic can be combined with Jurema for a version of Ayahuasca, and if the journey is expected to be difficult, some Tulsi can be added to keep the space protected and positive. For Yoga, the Initiatic works well with Cordyceps to further open the breath, and Turmeric to release physical tension on a deep structural level.