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Passiflora incarnata


Passiflora incarnata


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Maracuja, Passion Flower, Purple Passionflower, Passion Vine, Maypop


Passiflora  incarnata is a perennial, deciduous vine of the family Passifloraceae.  The rapidly-growing vine can grow  to up to measures 10m in length from its deeply rooted taproot. The angular vine has a grey or brown stem which displays longitudinal bands on its bark.  The leaves of P. incarnata are arranged alternately along the stem.  P. incarnata climbs using tendrils which grow directly from the leaf axils.  Each leaf is palmate, containing three lobes, lightly pubescent, serrate, and can grow to 15cm in length.  From June to September, P. incarnata produces numerous impressive flowers.  Each flower grows from an axillary pedicle and can grow from measuring  5cm to 9cm in diametre.  The flower has five sepals and five white to pink petals.  A secondary corolla forms above the petals consisting of numerous violet threads arranged in rays around the axis of the flower.  The fruit  borne of P. incarnata is a fleshy, yellow berry roughly the size of a chicken egg which ripens to bright orange.  The fruit is edible but contains many dark reticulate seeds.

Origin / Habitat

P. incarnata is native to southwest United States as well as Central and South America including Peru and Brazil, however, it is now cultivated throughout the world.  The plant thrives in partial shade and dry soils and can usually be found growing at the roots of larger trees.

Chemical Constituents

Flavonoids, including vitexin, isovitexin and the C-glycosides apigenin, luteolin; chlorogenic acid, maltol and traces of harmane alkaloids [1][2].

Plant Part Used

Vine, stem, leaves [4].

Traditional Use

P. incarnata was discovered in Peru in the mid-16th Century.  Its use traditionally has been that of an anxiolytic or calming agent that has few, if any, side effects.  Due to the calming properties of this herb, it was used for a variety of common complaints such as menstrual pain, menopause, rheumatic pain, asthma, hypertension and muscle spasms.  Its use as an aphrodisiac is less common in traditional applications and more common in current use.  In general, it has been used to treat stress and anxiety related symptoms of other conditions.  In this sense it has been used for headaches, alcoholism, insomnia, bronchitis, diarrhea and seizure disorders [4] [5].



The bioactive constituents maltol and ethylmaltol have been shown to have CNS sedation, anticonvulsant activity (high doses), and a reduction in spontaneous motor activity (low doses) in laboratory animals [6].

The harmane alkaloids are reported to have CNS stimulatory action. It has been suggested that the maltol and ethylmaltol constituents may mask the stimulatory activity of the harmane alkaloids [7].

P. incarnata extracts have been reported to reduce motor activity, prolong sleeping time, raise the nociceptive (pain) threshold and produce an anxiolytic effect in laboratory animals [8]. P. incarnata has been reported to increase the sleeping time induced by hexobarbital [9].The exact bioactive constituents with this activity are controversial; Maltol shows sedative activity while other constituents not yet identified appear to provide much of the neuropharmacological activity [10].


In humans, P. incarnata has been reported to be useful in combination with other sedative and anti-anxiety herbs such as valerian [11].These effects may be due to synergism and also due to the potential binding of P. incarnata constituents to benzodiazepine receptors in vivo [12] [10].

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

P. incarnata has been reported safe in recommended doses.

Recommend caution while driving automobile or operating heavy machinery when using P. incarnata.

Discontinue if allergy occurs.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

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  1) Medicinal Herbs


  1. Li QM, et al. Mass Spectral Characterization of C-glycosidic Flavonoids Isolated From a Medicinal Plant (Passiflora incarnata). J Chromatogr. Jan1991;562(1-2):435-446.
  2. Lutomski J, et al. Pharmacochemical Investigation of the Raw Materials from Passiflora genus. 1. New Method of Chromatographic Separation and Fluorometric-planimetric Determination of Alkaloids and Flavonoids in Harman Raw Materials. Planta Med. Dec1994;26(4):311-317.
  3. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 2nd edition. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000:574.
  4. Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:  A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals.   New York: Square One Publishers;2005.259.
  5. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis. 2009.721.
  6. Kimura R, et al. Central Depressant Effects of Maltol Analogs in Mice. Chem Pharm Bull. (Tokyo). Sep1980;28(9):2570-2579.
  7. Newall CA, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:206-07.
  8. Soulimani R, et al. Behavioural Effects of Passiflora incarnata L. and Its Indole Alkaloid and Flavonoid Derivatives and Maltol in the Mouse. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun1997;57(1):11-20.
  9. Aoyagi N, et al. Studies on Passiflora incarnata Dry Extract. I. Isolation of Maltol and Pharmacological Action of Maltol and Ethyl Maltol. Chem Pharm Bull. (Tokyo). May1974;22(5):1008-1013.
  10. Speroni E, et al. Neuropharmacological Activity of Extracts from Passiflora incarnata. Planta Med. Dec1988;54(6):488-491.
  11. Bourin M, et al. A Combination of Plant Extracts in the Treatment of Outpatients with Adjustment Disorder with Anxious Mood: Controlled Study Versus Placebo. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 1997;11(2):127-132.
  12. Wolfman C, et al. Possible Anxiolytic Effects of Chrysin, A Central Benzodiazepine Receptor Ligand Isolated from Passiflora coerulea. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Jan1994;47(1):1-4.

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