By Ellen Zimmermann
Photography by Carole Topalian
Taking time for yourself is of the utmost importance for maintaining good mental health, physical well-being and precious personal relationships. While busily preparing for the holidays, it’s essential that you take a breath, steal a moment, relax and reenergize your batteries. There are many ways to set aside time just for you, and one easy, soothing method is by incorporating herbal teas, tinctures and baths into your daily lifestyle.
One of my favorite herbs to use for relaxation is passionflower (Passiflora incarnate). If you’ve never seen a passionflower bloom, you’re in for a very special treat. Once seen as symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ (hence the name), the blossom is a dramatic, otherworldly flaunt of 10 purple leaves, brightly colored tendrils and a cluster of pronounced stamen. Passionflower grows as a perennial vine and seems to like our hot Texas sun. Once established, it grows very fast, produces many incredibly beautiful blossoms that last only one day, then dies back to Mother Earth in the winter.
The leaves and flowers of the passionflower are used medicinally for nervous tension and anxiety. A mild and wonderfully soothing passionflower tea or tincture can help with insomnia and can be used in the evening or upon awakening in the middle of the night. According to herbalist Michael Tierra, author of The Way of Herbs, passionflower can also be used to help reduce high blood pressure, in the treatment of palpitations and for some neurological disorders such as neuralgia, shingles and Parkinson’s. Infuse or steep the leaves—and even the flower—for about 15 minutes to get a medicinal benefit that is safe, nonaddictive and can be used with no known contraindications.
Passionflower is well worth growing in your garden—for the beauty, medicinal benefits and even for the little fritillary caterpillar, which will “borrow” a few of the leaves, but repay you with visual candy when it evolves into the beautiful fritillary butterfly.
A simple cup of tea can calm the nerves, soothe the stomach and relax the mind. The mere act of taking the time to brew the tea will slow you down and help you realize the great benefits in doing something positive for yourself.