Maracuya (Passion Fruit)
In English this fruit is known as Passion fruit, in Spanish Maracuya. The passion fruit is round to oval, yellow or dark purple, soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous mucilaginous seeds! Which you either love or hate! The different types of passion fruits have various exterior appearances. In South America some are the yellow to pale brown variety it is larger than the other dark variety we normally seen in Europe, with a smooth, glossy rind. Maracuya (passion fruit) has an absolutely wonderful aroma with a tart, slightly bitter sweet taste.
The yellow maracuya is a rich source of minerals like magnesium, vitamin C and beta- carotene which is converted into vitamin A, as and when the body requires it. This vitamin is essential for good vision, good skin, hair, and mucous membranes especially the lungs, healthy bones, and for the proper functioning of the immune system. So if you frequently get lung infections you should be eating a lot of beta-carotene rich foods. Vitamin C is involved in the formation of collagen, bone and teeth, red blood cells and enhances the absorption of iron from food, plus it enhances our resistance to infections. . Rich in antioxidants, plus magnesium - so many people do not get enough magnesium, adequate amounts are needed for good functioning bowel, nerves and muscles, plus for calcium to be utilized correctly the body need enough magnesium, it improves our immune systems and has a mild laxative effect.
Therapeutically - the flowers, leaves, and stems of the passionflower (passiflora) plant are used for medicinal purposes in many countries. In South America it is commonly used to calm hyperactive children. In Brazil it is used to treat coughs and bronchitis, urinary tract infections, antispasmodic, sedative and to stabilize the heart. In Italy, a combination of passion flower, belladonna, and lobelia is used to treat asthma. In Poland, a proprietary drug for treating excitability and highly stung conditions contains an extract of passion flower. It also contains naturally occurring serotonin (our happy chemical) plus a chemical called maltol which has a sedative effect, reducing the affects of stress. In addition, a flavonoid named chrysin has been shown to have significant anti-anxiety properties. Also helps to relieve pain in a very mild way.
Germany leads the way in modern herbalism in Europe today, they have an enviable system - generally herbs are prescribed before the stronger pharmaceutical drugs are. They are also leading the way in modern research into the actions and effectiveness of phyto-compounds (plant chemicals). During the early twentieth century, Germany included this herb into many over-the-counter sedatives and sleep aids. Today, professional herbalists use passionflower (often in combination with other calming herbs) to help treat insomnia, tension, and other health problems related to anxiety and nervousness. In Europe the herb has been used for over a hundred years for many conditions. In 1978, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned these preparations! Passion flower appears to be completely nontoxic, and has now been approved for use by the FDA. However, do not take more than is recommended at anyone time.
It contains certain alkaloids (phyto-chemicals) that help to lower blood pressure, having a sedative and antispasmodic action. It has been used in the treatment of bronchial asthma, insomnia, nervous gastrointestinal disorders and menopausal problems. Very early research indicated that an extract of passion plant was effective against the uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause. It is extremely helpful if you experience restless nights, the herb has shown no side-effects, and appears to induce a normal peaceful sleep pattern. Observations in the morning are consistent - there seems to be a completely normal functioning of the body and mind, in contrast with the effects usually experienced with sleeping pills.
In a nut shell it relieves pain, reduces anxiety, relieves mild depression, diuretic (helps with fluid retention), reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, expels worms, reduces spasms, or cramps, calms nerves, mild sedative.
Passionflower may also relieve anxiety in people who are recovering from heroin addiction. In a recent study including 65 heroin addicts, those who received passionflower in addition to a standard detoxification medication experienced significantly fewer feelings of anxiety than those who received the medication alone. It would help with any addition like nicotine. Passionflower preparations are made from fresh or dried flowers and other above-ground parts of the plant. Both whole and cut raw plant materials are used. Flowering shoots, growing 10 to 15 cm above the ground, are harvested after the first fruits have matured and then either air-dried or hay-dried. For an infusion of tea for adults = I teaspoon of the dried herb in a mug of boiled water, steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink one mug full three times a day, maximum.
The fruit can be cut in half and the content eaten with a teaspoon or scoop out the center and place into sieve and squeeze though the juice from the seeds, add the juice to your salad dressing, wonderful flavor and aroma to any salad.
Final word of caution - If you are on pharmaceutical medication such as anti-depressants, sleeping pills, pain-killers, any sedative or anti-histamines etc do not take passiflora - leaves or flowers, however eating the fruit is okay. Do not take the plant if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but the fruit is fine.
Sonia Jones ND
Naturopath, nutritional therapist and author of three published books