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Passionate about Passionflower

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is one of my favorite plants and medicinal herbs.

The plant I have growing in my garden was given to me by a friend’s mother many years ago. She told me to be careful with it because it could take over and would come up where it wanted to, not necessarily where I wanted it to. I have found this to be true, and at first I had to pull it up from my vegetable beds every summer. But after several years, it has found a happy place in the general vicinity of one of my flower beds. This year, it seemed particularly content to climb and twine itself around some nearby Mammoth sunflowers.

When I was first studying medicinal herbs, I was taught about passionflower and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) together, and my teacher had a preference for skullcap as an anxiolytic. This led me to not try passionflower myself for quite some time.

Skullcap and passionflower are both nervines, helping to calm the nervous system, with slightly different specific indications. Skullcap is specific for scattered thinking, whereas passionflower is specific for circular thinking. Circular thinking is when you just keep thinking about the same thing over and over again.

My Passionflower Moment

My best example of just how helpful passionflower can be for this pattern comes from my first experience with it the night before my own wedding! I was in bed and I knew I needed to get to sleep, but I just couldn’t turn my mind off. I went downstairs in search of an herb to help me. When I saw the passionflower bottle in my apothecary, I immediately knew that I was having a classic “passionflower moment” and decided to give it a try. I’m not going to lie, I took a substantial dose (a full teaspoon), and then I got back into bed. It was like magic. I felt my mind go quiet and within minutes I drifted off into a deep sleep. I have never again underestimated the power of passionflower and I find it to be consistently reliable.

Making Fresh Passionflower Tincture

Since I have passionflower growing in my own garden, I have been able to make my own medicine from the fresh plant. I make a 1:2 fresh plant tincture. I harvest the above ground parts of the plant, and weigh it using grams. Then I measure twice as much of the alcohol/water solution (the menstruum) using milliliters. So, if I have 100g of plant, I will measure 200ml of menstruum. For my last batch of passionflower tincture I used a menstruum that was 75% alcohol and 25% water. It is important when making fresh plant tinctures to use a high alcohol percentage because the plant contains water and in order for it to be shelf-stable the final product needs to be at least 30% alcohol.

After weighing the plant and measuring the menstruum, I combine them and blend them in my Vitamix. This creates more surface area on the plant material to extract into the menstruum. Then I pour it all into mason jars and let it macerate in a cool, dark place. I agitate the mixture daily to increase the extraction of the plant material into the menstruum and do this for at least 2 weeks before pressing it out.

There are lots of ways to press out a tincture. The lowest-tech way is to pour the mixture through a piece of muslin cloth, and simply squeeze out the liquid. I have a small press that I use, but the concept is the same. I store the pressed-out tincture in amber bottles and label with the common name, botanical name, and the date. I compost the leftover herbal material, which is called the marc. If stored in a cool dark place, tinctures such as this can last for many years. I am just finishing my last supply (made in 2013!) and am planning to make a new supply this week, so stay tuned!

About me:

My name is Jillian Bar-av and I am a registered herbalist and licensed nutritionist who works with busy women to help them have the energy to do what they love. I specialize in conditions that affect the reproductive system and urinary tract, such as PCOS and Interstitial Cystitis. I believe that it takes healthy people to create a healthy planet, and I want to make a difference for both.

For more information or to book an appointment, contact:


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