Passiflora incarnata

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Passiflora incarnata
File:Passiflora incarnata flower and bud.jpg
File:Passiflora incarnata fruit.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Passifloraceae
Genus: Passiflora
Species: P. incarnata
Binomial name
Passiflora incarnata
File:Passiflora incarnata map.jpg

Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as maypop, purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, is a fast growing perennial vine with climbing or trailing stems. A member of the passionflower genus Passiflora, the maypop has large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens. One of the hardiest species of passionflower, it is a common wildflower in the southern United States. The Cherokee in the Tennessee area called it ocoee; the Ocoee River and valley are named after this plant, which is the Tennessee State Wildflower.[1] This, and other passionflowers are the exclusive larval host plants for the Gulf Fritillary and non-exclusive for the Variegated Fritillary butterflies.[2]


The stems can be smooth or pubescent; they are long and trailing, possessing many tendrils. Leaves are alternate and palmately 3-lobed and occasionally 5-lobed, measuring 6–15 centimetres (2.4–5.9 in). They have two characteristic glands at the base of the blade on the petiole. Flowers have five bluish-white petals. They exhibit a white and purple corona, a structure of fine appendages between the petals and stamens. The large flower is typically arranged in a ring above the petals and sepals. They are pollinated by insects such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, and are self-sterile. The flower normally blooms in July.

The fleshy fruit, also referred to as a maypop, is an oval yellowish berry about the size of a hen egg; it is green at first, but then becomes orange as it matures. As with other passifloras, it is the larval food of a number of butterfly species, including the zebra longwing and Gulf fritillary. In many cases its fruit is very popular with wildlife.

The maypop occurs in thickets, disturbed areas, near riverbanks, and near unmowed pastures, roadsides, and railroads. It thrives in areas with lots of available sunlight. It is not found in shady areas beneath a forest canopy.

Medicinal use

Traditionally, the fresh or dried whole plant has been used as a herbal medicine to treat nervous anxiety and insomnia.[3] A small clinical study suggested that in the form of a tea it may improve the subjective quality of sleep.[4] The dried, ground herb is frequently used in Europe by drinking a teaspoon of it in tea. A sedative chewing gum has even been produced. In cooking, the fruit of this variety is sometimes used for jam and jellies or as a substitute for its commercially grown South American relative Passiflora edulis – the fruit is of comparable size and juice yield. The fruit can be eaten out of hand and historically it was a favorite of colonial settlers of the South and Native Americans alike.

Modern research

According to several studies conducted by Kamaldeep Dhawan et al., the methanol extract of P. incarnata demonstrates anxiolytic properties in the elevated plus-maze model of anxiety in mice. At a dosage of 10 mg/kg of the purified methanol extract, the anxiolytic effects were comparable to a 2 mg/kg of diazepam. The active constituent of this extract was identified as a benzoflavone which binds to and inhibits the aromatase enzymes, thus preventing the oxidation of testosterone to produce estrogen.[5]

This benzoflavone moiety was also shown to significantly reduce symptoms of withdrawal from, and addiction and dependence of benzodiazepines,[6] alcohol,[7] morphine,[8] nicotine[9] and cannabis[10] (specifically tetrahydrocannabinol, THC). If the bioactive extract was given twice daily to mice along with the dependency-producing drug, the symptoms of withdrawal were lessened upon cessation of both treatments. If the extract was instead not given along with the dependence-producing drug, but only after cessation of the drug treatment and thus after withdrawal symptoms were displayed by the mice, the severity of these symptoms was also significantly reduced.[11]

This benzoflavone phytochemical has also displayed antitussive properties against sulfur dioxide–induced coughing,[12] and has shown some anti-asthmatic activity.[13]

The same benzoflavone chemical, as found in the methanol extract, has also proven to have aphrodisiac effects in mice.[14]

A large review study has been published which combines all earlier findings by the author into one document.[15]


  1. "State Symbols". Tennessee Government. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  2. Horn, compiled and edited by Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart ; technical editor: Thomas E. Hemmerly ; photo editors: David Duhl and Dennis (2005). Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians : the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society. [Edmonton]: Lone Pine Pub. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-55105-428-5. 
  3. Plants For A Future: Passiflora incarnata
  4. A. Ngan & R. Conduit (2011). "A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality". Phytotherapy Research 25 (8): 1153–1159. PMID 21294203. doi:10.1002/ptr.3400. 
  5. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar, Anupam Sharma (2001). "Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic]". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 78 (2–3): 165–170. PMID 11694362. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(01)00339-7. 
  6. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Sanju Dhawan & Sumit Chhabra (2004). "Attenuation of benzodiazepine dependence in mice by a tri-substituted benzoflavone moiety of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic]: a non-habit forming anxiolytic" (PDF). Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 6 (2): 215–222. PMID 12935433. 
  7. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar & Anupam Sharma (2002). "Suppression of alcohol-cessation-oriented hyper-anxiety by the benzoflavone moiety of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic] in mice". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 81 (2): 239–244. PMID 12065157. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(02)00086-7. 
  8. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar and Anupam Sharma (2002). "Reversal of morphine tolerance and dependence by Passiflora incarnata – a traditional medicine to combat morphine addiction". Pharmaceutical Biology 40 (8): 576–580. doi:10.1076/phbi.40.8.576.14660. 
  9. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar & Anupam Sharma (2002). "Nicotine reversal effects of the benzoflavone moiety from Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic] in mice". Addiction Biology 7 (4): 435–441. PMID 14578021. doi:10.1080/1355621021000006044. 
  10. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar & Anupam Sharma (2002). "Reversal of cannabinoids (Δ9-THC) by the benzoflavone moiety from methanol extract of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic] in mice: a possible therapy for cannabinoid addiction". Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 54 (6): 875–881. PMID 12079005. doi:10.1211/0022357021779069. 
  11. Kamaldeep Dhawan (2003). "Drug/substance reversal effects of a novel tri-substituted benzoflavone moiety (BZF) isolated from Passiflora incarnata Linn. – a brief perspective". Addiction Biology 8 (4): 379–386. PMID 14690874. doi:10.1080/13556210310001646385. 
  12. Kamaldeep Dhawan & Anupam Sharma (2002). "Antitussive activity of the methanol extract of Passiflora incarnata leaves". Fitoterapia 73 (5): 397–399. PMID 12165335. doi:10.1016/S0367-326X(02)00116-8. 
  13. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar & Anupam Sharma (2003). "Antiasthmatic activity of the methanol extract of leaves of Passiflora incarnata". Phytotherapy Research 17 (7): 821–822. PMID 12916087. doi:10.1002/ptr.1151. 
  14. "Aphrodisiac activity of methanol extract of leaves of Passiflora incarnata Linn. in mice". Phytotherapy Research 17 (4): 401–403. 2003. PMID 12722149. doi:10.1002/ptr.1124. 
  15. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Sanju Dhawan & Anupam Sharma (2004). "Passiflora: a review update". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 94 (1): 1–23. PMID 15261959. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.02.023. 

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