Sunday, June 26, 2011

Passionate about Passionflower

I am currently enjoying the luxury of a Super 8 Motel just inside of Durham. I spent another good night at a church last night, the Little River Presbyterian, setting up my tent just behind the sanctuary with and just yards from the cemetery that was filled with many headstones dating back to the 1800's.

The heat has been challenging, but when soaked to the bone in your own sweat, the slightest breeze actually does wonders in cooling you off. I have also been graced with some kind of country store or at least a soda machine most days, sometimes multiple times a day, and so I find myself setting these as my "carrots" rather than the usual mountaintops or road crossings.

I've been doing big miles, 20+ a day, but with the increasingly flat terrain and the ease of pavement, my pace has picked up from 2.5m /hr to almost 3.5m/hr. However, in just a couple of days I will be back in the woods for another 2 days in the Falls Lake Recreation Area, which from what I hear, is beautiful - perhaps some good swimming will ensue.

The plants I have been keeping company with have been abundant but less diverse. I feel as if me and Wild Carrot, Common and English Plantain, Daisy, Greater Coreopsis, Red Clover, and Wild Sunflower are now a tight posse, and we're living "life on the road" together. However, yesterday a pretty new face poked her head out from a gaggle of tall grasses, poison ivy and virginia creeper, and boy was she a sight for sore eyes.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is a vine bearing tendrils, leaves are alternate, toothed and deeply lobed (3-5 lobes). The flowers grow from the axils, single or in pairs, and have five petals, five sepals, and a this wild looking fringe in the center. It is like none other. However, there is a smaller passionflower (Passiflora lutea) that bears greenish-white flowers, bears a blue-black berry, and has different leaves. This is the only flower I have spotted on my trip, but once I saw this one and got to looking for the leaves, I saw this vine sprawling throughout a large area along the roadside.

Passionflower, a vine with 3-lobed alternate leaves and tendrils

Passionflower produces a yellowish edible fruit about the size of an egg, appearing anytime from summer to fall. I have yet to savor one myself, but hopefully will change that on this hike considering it is a fairly common vine of the south. From what I understand, you can peel the skin and eat the fleshy fruit inside, avoiding the many dark seeds.

I have however employed Passionflower as a medicine quite regularly. Using the above ground parts (so flowers, leaves, and actual vine), you can make a tincture by immersing the plant material in alcohol or make a tea by steeping for 5-10minutes. It makes for an excellent mild sedative and pain reliever. I find it helpful for nights when my brain is busy and I'm having a hard time going to sleep. I take one dropperful of tincture and within 20 minutes, I'm drifting off, with no drowsiness in the morning. It is also useful as a smooth muscle relaxant and an anti-spasmodic, therefore good in cases of menstrual cramps, and cramps due to gas or nervous stomach. I also feel that Passionflower has a connection to the heart, in easing heartache and sorrow.

Its name has its origins with the Spanish missionaries who thought that the flower's pattern resembled Christ's crown of thorns. Another interesting note is that this plant is believed to carry a "doctrine of signatures", meaning that the shape/design of the flower suggests its use. Thus, looking at Passionflower we can see a circular design in the arrangement of sepals and petals, as well as pistil and stamen and so this plant would be helpful in relieving circular thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment