Often, the things I write about are driven by our own needs and experiences out here. This one is no exception. Many years ago, Passionflower tea became one of my favorite herbal allies. I suffered from what I came to refer to as my nightly 3am conference call in my head. I would wake between 2 and 3am and my “voices” would get together to discuss everything I had done that day, how I did it wrong, how something I did could have been misconstrued, everything I didn’t do but should have, the list of things to be done the next day and all possible scenarios of how those things could go wrong, etc. You get the point. It was at least 3 nights a week. I tried all kinds of remedies; melatonin, chamomile, bedtime changes, benadryl, meditation, night-time snacks, you name it. Finally I started using prescription sleep aids but wasn’t happy with them because the side effects were not pleasant and I had to take a pill every night. They also left me feeling extremely groggy the next morning. At one point my doctor prescribed a low dose of Xanax so that I could take it only when I was having trouble sleeping and being an anti-anxiety drug, it would quiet my mind. I’m usually not hard to please, but I wasn’t happy with this either, as Xanax comes with a myriad of its own dangers. So, I turned to my herbal medicine cabinet and an old friend that I used to love playing with as a child, Passionflower or Passiflora incarnata. (it’s funny how you often come to find that your biggest herbal allies have been prominent in your life long before you ever knew you needed them). We used to call them maypops and would wait with great anticipation for the fruit to come after the lovely exotic purple flowers. We would stomp them to hear the pop of the seed pod as it burst, then pick out the seeds and use the hollow hull as a boat for imaginary passengers or stuff them with all kinds of things to make pretend deviled eggs served with an enticing mud pie. (It’s here that I should pause and apologize to my cousin for all that I put him through!)
Passionflower grows easily in many regions and is an enchanting trailing vine that blooms and fruits twice a year. Some say the latin name comes from its ability to re-bloom/fruit within the same year, as in reincarnate. Others say the name originated with Spanish Christian missionaries that saw it to be a representation of the passion of Christ because of its physical resemblances to Christ’s thorny crown, the nails in his cross and his incarnation or resurrection. In other cultures it’s referred to as Christ’s Crown, Crown of Thorns and God’s Star.
One of my favorite things about the Passionflower is that it grows voluntarily all over our farm. I don’t have to depend on anyone else to grow and ship my remedy to me – that’s a valuable thing when you stop and think what would happen If, all of a sudden, in this fragile world, we had to use only what we could provide for ourselves. Self-sufficiency is one of our main goals and passionflower fills that need in many ways. We also use it as a substitute ingredient in our homemade popsicles. (see the bottom portion of my post http://livetheoldway.com/popsicles-for-sore-throats-and-troubled-tummies/).
Because of its name, Passionflower is often assumed to be a libido enhancer, but it’s actually a very effective nervine with a sedating aspect that is (in my opinion) much superior to other herbal preparations. For anxiety related insomnia, it pairs wonderfully with an equal part of Linden flowers (Tilia genus). A cup of passionflower and linden tea 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime promotes deep sleep and a quiet mind.
Passionflower can also be paired with Motherwort for menstrual and menopausal anxiety and irritability. Others report finding relief from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with a standardized dose several times daily of the capsule form. I have great luck using it for restless leg syndrome, yet another thing trying to keep me awake! It’s non-addictive and non-narcotic so it’s a much safer alternative to prescription sleep aids and anxiety medications. Like many other supplements, check with your doctor before using if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you’re taking other medications. It may be used in small doses (like the popsicles) for children but I wouldn’t use it with infants. The elderly should use it conservatively until tolerance is determined.
If you don’t have access to passionflowers where you live, you can order it in small or large quantities from Mountain Rose Herbs.
So, put that kettle on the stove and drop a tea ball infuser full of all natural night-time medicine in your cup. Here’s to a good nights sleep!