Passionflower and Passion Fruit: Natural Herbal Remedy  and Its Sacred Symbol

Passionflower and Passion Fruit: Natural Herbal Remedy and Its Sacred Symbol

Native to South America, passionflower (Passiflora incarnate L.) is a climbing shrub that can grow as high as 9m. It is widely cultivated throughout Europe and produces wonderful, showy flowers with white petals and large stamens with orange-coloured sacs. These are surrounded by a crown of violet filaments, which is why it is often called the purple passionflower.

History of Use

In North America, the passionflower is known as maypop. It was valued by Native Americans, mainly for its ability to heal bruises and wounds. The Houma tribe in Louisiana used the herb as a blood tonic, while the Mayans used the crushed plant to help reduce inflammation. Infusions of the pounded roots were used to wean babies and as drops for ear infections.

It was first described by a European botanist in the 1780s and, by the 19th century, had joined the herbal repertoire, initially as a remedy for epilepsy. As time went on, herbal practitioners started to value the plant for its calming, sedative and pain-relieving actions. Over the years, it has been used to help relieve anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, muscle spasms, seizures, hysteria and hyperactivity in children.

Registered herbal medicines containing passionflower are used today for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress such as mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. (

Passionflower’s remedy actually turns us inward, calms frayed nerves, and pacifies the mind and body. Her soothing purples remind us of the calming energies of Lavender; however, Passionflower’s gift is  for restoring those with physical or emotional exhaustion, and she is an excellent ally in times of change and stress. Passionflower’s signature is its historic use to aid those who  are sleepless and suffer from  a running mind.

L. Krenn in “Passion Flower- A Reliable Herbal Sedative” notes that  “Extracts and fluid extracts from the aerial parts from Passiflora incarnata L. are widely used as components of herbal sedatives. Many pharmacological investigations confirm the sedative effects of Passiflora herb. From some of the studies also anxiolytic {anti-anxiety} effects can be deduced.”

Passionflower’s spectacular colors and shapes offer a cherished medicine for all ages in all walks of life. Rich in persuasive constituents like Flavones, Coumarins, and alkaloids it has also been discovered that Passionflower extract actually includes GABA as a prominent ingredient! GABA is a chief inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain chemical) in the human central nervous system, and plays a role in regulating excitability and regulation of muscle tone. It has long been said that Passionflower relaxes and feeds the nerves, and it is now known that it is  partially comprised as the same matter as  the brain.

Passionflower can also help  those struggling with addiction, tension, irritability, and fear. Research has been done which suggests that “Passiflora extract is an effective drug for the management of generalized anxiety disorder and the low incidence of impairment of job performance” which accompanies pharmaceutical medication.

So if you’re looking to calm the unruly mind, assist sleep, or recover from stress, then find divine inspiration in the beauty and brain food of Passionflower.




Botanical Name:
Passiflora edulis Sims f. edulis – Purple Fruit

P. edulis f. flavicarpa – Yellow Fruit


Odor profile: sweet fruity floral scent for the flowers, while the leaves smell grassy. Has a calming effect on a variety of conditions.

BOTANY The genus Passiflora exhibits a remarkable floral complexity and diversity. It shows several unique floral features, including multiple series of brightly colored coronal filaments, diverse operculum morphology, an androgynophore, and elaborate floral nectaries. The genus represents a wide range of leaf shapes and a great variation in the shape of extrafloral nectaries which are present on leaves, stems, bracts and petioles. The genus consists of about 600 species of vines, lianas and small trees. Of the 600 species of Passiflora, only one, P. edulis Sims, has the exclusive designation of passion fruit. Passiflora edulis exists in two distinct types known as P. edulis, the purple passion fruit and P. edulis flavicarpa, the yellow passion fruit.


The purple passion fruit tree bears a dark-purple, or almost black, rounded or egg-shaped fruit .

The yellow passion fruit, P. edulis flavicarpa, is deep yellow in color and similar in shape (but slightly longer than the purple passion fruit). The yellow form has brown seeds. It has a firm, round, shiny shell and is sometimes referred to as sweet granadilla.


COMMON NAMES Wild passionflower, maypop, apricot vine, old field apricot, Holy-Trinity flower, mayapple, molly-pop, passion vine, pop-apple, granadilla, maycock, maracoc, maracock, white sarsaparilla. The purple form is called purple, red, or black granadilla, or, in Hawaii, lilikoi; in Jamaica it is mountain sweet cup; in Thailand it is called linmangkon. The yellow form is widely known as yellow passion fruit; it is called yellow lilikoi in Hawaii; golden passion fruit in Australia; parcha amarilla in Venezuela.


Picture of Close-up of bloom

The flowers are large, attractive, colorful and fragrant and produce plentiful nectar. Some species grow fragrant flowers that smell pleasant and sweet, with mild fruity nuances and a hint of heliotrope. Some flowers of the species exude no scent at all and some smell rather unpleasant.

The style of passion flower shows rhythmic movement. At anthesis, its style is in an upright position and it starts curving in due course of time. According to the style curvature, there are three kinds of flowers in passion fruit: a) Completely curved (CC) style b) Partially curved (PC) style c) Style without curvature (WC) The three flower types may be found on a single plant, however, CC flowers are the most common, and WC flowers are relatively less common ones.


The Passionflower: The Sacred Symbol

Passionflower is an elaborate  vine that  received its name from Pope V in 1605.  He  saw the vine  as a symbol of the “Passion of Christ.” And in fact there is something truly celestial and provocative about the wild petals and crowned middle of the royal Passionflower. Indeed, Passionflower stirs the imagination and can be likened to our  network of neuronal highways or even to the most elaborate Buddhist mandala.


Passion fruit stands for its unique exotic flavor and aroma and for its amazing nutritional and medicinal properties. The names passionflower and passion fruit  sound “passionate,” but they have nothing in common with passionate love. In fact, the names are connected to the torments and Passion of Jesus on the cross, and therefore passionflower is commonly referred to as the “Flowers of Jesus.” The name “passion fruit” is not derived from any aphrodisiac quality of the fruit but was reportedly named by Spanish Catholic missionaries who saw the flower as the symbolism of the Passion of Christ in which Passus means “suffering” andFlos means “flower.”


Passion fruit should actually be referred to as passion flower fruit, but the term passion fruit is more commonly used. The Spanish colonies associated the flowers with the suffering of Christ: the corona refers to the crown of thorns, the three stigmas to the nails at the cross … in other words: the common name refers to the Passion of Christ. Thus, the English prefix “passion” derives from the Passion of Christ, as suggested by the prominent four-branched style of the flowers.

Jacomo Bosciom, a monk who wrote about the Torments of Christ, got drawings of the Passion flower from Mexico, and in this strange flower he found several symbols of Christ’s crucifixion, such as radial filaments in the form of a wreath representing the Crown of Thorns, the ten petals and sepals symbolizing ten beautiful disciples (without Peter and Judas), three upper stigmata are the three nails, while five lower anthers symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus.

The Sacred “She heard no sound before her gate, Though very quiet was her bower. All was as her hand had left it late: The needle slept on the broidered vine, Where the hammer & spikes of the passion-flower Her fashioning did wait.” ~ Helen Gray Cone, 1859-1934.

The Passion Flower is sacred even outside the Christian world. In India, for example, the flower’s structure is interpreted according to the story of the five Pandava brothers, with the Divine Krishna at the center, opposed by the army of one hundred at the outside edges. The pigment of the blue Passion Flower is said to be associated with the color of Krishna’s aura. (


DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT The purple passion fruit is native to southern Brazil, Paraguay and up to northern Argentina. It is a highly valued export-oriented crop. It has been stated that the yellow form is of unknown origin, that it may be native to the Amazon region of Brazil or that is is a hybrid between P. edulis and P. ligularis (q.v.). Cytological studies have not borne out the hybrid theory.

And the Profane “Oh, cut me reeds to blow upon, Or gather me a star, But leave the sultry passion-flowers Growing where they are. I fear their sombre yellow deeps, Their whirling fringe of black, And he who gives a passion-flower Always asks it back.” ~ Grace Hazard Conkling, 1878-1958

Vines were associated with nearly every Sun-myth of the Americas. The radiating circle of Passiflora’s extravagant flowers were particularly apt to invoke the sun for sun-worshipping pyramid-building jungle peoples such as the Aztecs, Mayans, & Incans. The Mayan word for Vine, akh, also means Tongue, which indicates a belief that vines could speak, or that certain vines could induce prophetic speech. (

In the west the “Passion” of this flower was not invariably of a religious nature, & one of its many common names, “Love-in-the-Mist,” alludes to the other meaning of “Passion.” Hence Passion Flower herbs & oils become ingredients in neo-pagan love filtres & aphrodisiacs, without regard for the fact that it is much more apt to induce sleep than arousal. So too “Passion Flower” became a name for a 1990s Oakland store specializing in lubes, lotions, & latex, & the store’s only outside signage was a painting of a purple Passion Flower at the entrance. The Passion Flower may also have been a jazz slang term because it was an open secret that Duke Ellington’s hit “Passion Flower” was written by the delicate Billy Strayhorn, whose own passions were known to be homosexual. (

If the passionate association is more apt to be homoerotic than hetero, it may be in part because the anti-spasmodic medicinal effect of the seed oil can help relax sphincter muscles, in addition to its aforementioned resemblance. Various species of Passiflora rival sunflower & soybean for the amount of oil that can be extracted from the seeds. Can it be only a coincidence that there are two lubricants marketed to gay men, one made of P. elacsis sold as “Palm Oil” distributed Select Oils Company, the misleading pun-name indicating that masturbators can use it on their palms; the other called Andros Sports Creme containing extract of P. coerulea claiming rather suspiciously to possess an anti-estrogenic effect that will increase men’s sexual potency when lubricating the male member. Both of these products are marketed almost exclusively within the gay men’s community. (


NUTRITIONAL VALUE Passion fruits contain acids and sugars, nutrients and non-nutritive phytochemicals that make the fruits a tasteful and healthy addition to a diet. There are three primary groups of active chemicals in passion fruit: alkaloids, glycosides and flavonoids. Passion fruit is a high acid food (pH~ 3.2) due to the presence of citric and malic acid. Passion fruit also contains about 14.45 g sugar/100g of edible portion, including fructose, glucose, etc. The acids and sugars add to the unique taste and serve as a preservative of the fruit. Passion fruit provides a good source of nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium and non-nutritive phytochemicals, carotenoids and polyphenols. In passion fruit, thirteen different carotenoids, including zeta-, beta- and alpha-carotene, b-cryptoxanthin and lycopene, have been identified. Other non-nutritive phytochemicals found in passion fruit are polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

Passion fruit possess a very intense, exotic and tropical scent and taste. The fragrant component Oxane (registered trademark of Firmenich) is produced from yellow fruits and is used to produce aromas of passion fruit and grapefruit in citrusy and fruity fragrant compositions.


Passion fruits contain numerous small, black wedge-shaped seeds that are
individually surrounded by deep orange-colored sacs that contain the juice, the
edible part of the fruit. Passion fruit is either consumed as fresh fruit or in commercial juice production.

• The fruit can often be found in fruit salads, sherbets, ice cream, jams, cool drinks and as concentrates. The yellow variety is used for juice processing, while the purple variety is sold at fresh fruit markets.

• In Brazil, the majority of passion fruits in supermarkets are yellow fruits. The fruit has been used as a heart tonic and medicine by the Brazilian tribes, and as a favorite drink called maracuja grande that is frequently used to treat asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis and other persistent coughs.

• In South American traditional medicine and in Peruvian traditional medicine, the juice is used as a mild diuretic and to treat urinary-tract infections. In Madeira, the juice of passion fruits is used as a digestive stimulant and for the treatment of gastric cancer.


Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta (cshekhar)

Fragrantica Writer

Spoon passion fruit over icy-cold slices of blood oranges for an instant, and beautiful dessert


Tropical Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit
4 servings

Use whatever combination of tropical fruits you like or follow my suggestions. This is a fun chance to visit your nearest ethnic market and experiment with any unusual fruit you might find there. Don’t be put off if the soup base tastes strangely spicy by itself. Combined with the tropical fruits, the flavors work. Chill the serving bowls in advance so everything stays refreshingly icy-cold.

The soup base:
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of 1 orange
1 piece lemongrass, 2 inches long, sliced (use the white part from the root end)
2 thin slices fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dark rum

The assembly:
6 kumquats, sliced and seeded
1 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 basket strawberries, sliced
2 blood oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/4 pineapple, diced
1 banana
2 passion fruit, pulp and seeds
Sugar, if necessary
Fresh mint to garnish

1. To make the soup base, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Coarsely crush the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and black peppercorns in a mortar, or put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or a hammer. Add the spices to the water then add the vanilla bean, orange zest, lemongrass, and ginger. Cover the pan, and steep for 1 hour.
2. Strain the soup base and discard the flavorings. Add the rum and chill thoroughly.
3. Toss all the prepared fruits together in a bowl. Taste for sweetness, and add a sprinkling of sugar if they’re too tart.
4. Divide the fruits into four wide soup bowls and ladle the chilled soup base over them.
5. Tear some mint leaves into tiny pieces and scatter them over the soup. Place a scoop of a favorite tropical fruit sherbet in the center. (


Passionfruit Cooler Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 20 minutes

This is based off of fresh passionfruit juice from our garden.  Fruit will vary in sweetness/tartness so adjust amount and sugar amount to taste.  This is pretty tasty as a cocktail with the addition of rum and a bit more lime. If you are a pulp-free type, make a mint simple syrup (see note 2) instead of muddling the mint leaves and sugar.


  • 5-6 whole Mint Leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 ounce (30ml) fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Passionfruit Juice *see note 1 for extracting
  • 6 ounces (180ml) Water


  1. Muddle the mint leaves, sugar, and lime juice together.
  2. Add passionfruit juice and water to the muddled mix. (Add passionfruit seeds if you are so inclined)  Pour into glasses filled with ice.

*Note 1: Extracting Passionfruit Juice

Cut the passionfruit in half then scrap out the seeds and pulp into a small mesh strainer.  Over a small bowl to catch the juice, scrap the seeds and pulp using the back of a spoon in order to separate the pulp and juice from the seeds.  Reserve the seeds if you enjoy them in your drinks or other recipes.

*Note 2: Mint Simple Syrup

(keeps quite well, so make more than needed and use for iced tea, making lemonade, cocktails, etc…)
Combine 2 cups (480ml) water, 2 cups (400g) sugar, and a large handful of mint leaves in a medium saucepan.  Heat just until a light simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and allow mint to steep for 15-20 min. Strain and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Recipe Source:

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