Passionflower leaf dried (Passiflora incarnata L.)
With a name like passionflower, it can only be something kind, gentle and calming from nature. While that doesn’t hold true for all sweet names, it does hold true for the passionflower, a wildflower of striking beauty that produces a fleshy fruit. There are many passion flower benefits — it may help reduce and possibly eliminate insomnia, anxiety, inflammation from skin irritations and burns, menopause, ADHD and even more serious conditions such as seizures, high blood pressure and asthma, just to name a few.
Passionflower is a plant in which the parts of the plant above the ground are used, in different forms, to provide natural healing purposes and food flavoring. You may have heard of passionflower tea or passionflower extract — and it’s also found as infusions, teas, liquid extracts and tinctures.
It’s common to see passionflower combined with other calming herbs such as valerian root and lemon balm, chamomile, hops, kava and skullcap.
A perennial, climbing vine, passionflower is typically grown in Europe but is native to the southeastern parts of America. Common names are maypop, apricot vine, passion vine and passiflore.
Benefits of Passionflower
Passionflower is used for stress reduction, calming without sedation, and overcoming insomnia when combined with other calming herbs such as valerian and lemon balm.
May Help Reduce the Effects of Menopause, Including Hot Flashes & Depression: Menopause is associated with feeling of anxiety and depression, which is often caused by low levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical in the brain. Hormone therapy that relies on modern medicine can create a lot of unwanted side effects. Studies have been conducted that show that passionflower can treat menopausal symptoms such as vasomotor signs (hot flashes and night sweats), insomnia, depression, anger, headaches, and may be a great alternative to conventional hormone therapy.
Women are seeking natural remedies more and more, and passionflower may help by increasing the levels of GABA. When the levels of GABA are increased, it helps to decrease the activity of some of those depression-inducing brain cells. The alkaloids in passionflower may prevent the production of monoamine oxidase, which is exactly what anti-depressant medication tries to do. Studies have shown that it may reduce depression, a common problem for women in menopause.
Another study showed that passionflower may reduce those annoying hot flashes! The study conducted used various herbal remedies, and the results showed that anise, licorice, black cohosh, red clover, evening primrose, flaxseed, St. John’s wort, valerian and passion flower may alleviate hot flashes in those that are menopausal as well as those that are premenopausal.
Lower Blood Pressure: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry conducted a research study dosing with 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight using passionflower skin extract. The study found that blood pressure levels were significantly reduced, likely due to the GABA-promoting properties of the extract.
Additional studies that have been published indicating passionflower fruit pulp as a remedy for reducing systolic blood pressure by administering 8 milligrams of passionflower for a period of 5 days. The results indicated that passionflower extract increased levels of an antioxidant enzyme and decreased levels of oxidized lipids that can cause damage from the accumulation of toxins and waste products in the body.
Reduce Anxiety: Passionflower may be helpful in reducing anxiety and has long been known as a folk remedy. It’s believed that certain compounds found in passionflower may interact with some receptors in the brain provoking relaxation. Because passion increases GABA, the activity of some brain cells that may be causing anxiety is lowered and makes you feel more relaxed. Studies suggest that passionflower extracts may even have mild anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure benefits.
A study was performed for four weeks on 36 out-patients that were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The results indicated that passionflower extract was an effective treatment for managing the anxiety and did not negatively affect job performance unlike the synthetic therapy.
Studies suggest that passionflower may reduce anxiety in patients undergoing surgery. Another study found that passionflower had similar affects as an anti-anxiety medication in reducing general anxiety. The properties in passionflower are thought to promote calming effects by increasing the levels of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces the activity of some neurons that cause anxiety.
Addresses ADHD Symptoms: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) seems to be an ongoing concern for many parents, and sadly, conventional drugs such as Adderall can cause many unwanted side effects. ADHD is a disorder of the brain which manifests in symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with a child’s development or daily activities.
The good news is that a survey showed parents opting for alternative ADHD treatments more and more, with nutritional therapies being at the top of the remedy list. Herbs such as Roman chamomile, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower have been noted as possible treatments, though it’s always important to check with your physician first since some may cause allergic reactions. Tests were conducted using the Conner’s parent ratings to see if essential oils could be effective. The results indicate that ADHD symptoms did improve after the use of essential oils.
Improves Your Sleep: Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your body, and we all love a good night’s sleep! Studies were conducted of patients who had problems sleeping. The study, focusing on patients with bipolar disorder, tested various natural herbal medicines to include passionflower, and the results showed an improvement in sleep, maybe by reducing anxiety.
Reduces Inflammation: Passionflower may reduce disease-causing inflammation. Analysis were conducted of the phytonutrient and antioxidant contents of the wild passion fruit species, specifically P. tenuifila, and P. setacea. The researchers paid most attention to the seeds and the explants from seedlings as well as the adult version. The high level of phenolic compounds showed the powerful antioxidant activity of the extract of the passionflower plant.
How to Use Passionflower
There are several ways to take passionflower. Most common are infusions, teas, liquid extracts, and tinctures in capsules. Take a trip to your local health food store and see what options they have. You may want to try an infusion or tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then strain and sip.
You can also try adding passionflower to your bath water for relaxation. The typical dose of passionflower is about 1 to 2 grams, finely chopped. You can make a tea is by steeping a teaspoon of dried herb in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes and you can have two or three cups throughout the day.
If you are taking it to help with sleep, make sure to drink at least an hour before going to bed. Check out my passionflower tea recipe below for added relaxation and to help stop anxiety.
Passionflower & Chamomile Anxiety Reliever Tea
1–1/2 teaspoons dried chamomile
1–1/2 teaspoons dried passionflower
1 teaspoon local honey (optional)
I cup of water
Hot Flash Eliminator Passion Rose Tea
1/2 teaspoon dried chamomile
1/2 teaspoon dried passionflower
1/2 teaspoon dried St. John’s Wort
1/2 teaspoon dried valerian root
1 teaspoon local honey (optional)
1 cup of water
Prepare either tea by using a saucepan. Bring the water to a low boil then turn off the stove. Add the herbs to the water. You can use a muslin bag or tea infuser. Cover with a lid right away so that the oils from the flowers do not evaporate. Allow it to steep for about 10–12 minutes. Remove from the stove, strain if needed, and pour yourself a cup. Then add some local, organic honey if desired. Try this at any time when you may feel anxious or at night before bed.
Tea: passionflower tea an hour before bedtime is commonly used in improving sleep quality. The typical dose is 0.25 to two grams of dried herb steeped in 150 ml of boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
Fluid extract: 0.5-1 ml, three times a day (1:1 in 25% alcohol)
Tincture: 0.5-2 ml, three times a day (1:8 in 45% alcohol)
Risks and Side Effects
At one time passionflower was approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., but in 1978, it was taken off the market due to safety and lack of testing. While studies indicate many positive uses for passionflower, always check with your doctor before taking any new herb in any form.
If you experience nausea, vomiting, drowsiness or any other odd symptoms, even if after a few days, please seek the help of a physician. Do not take if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have medical problems. It may not be suitable for children under 6 months of age.
Herb / Drug interactions:
The NMCD concludes passionflower is “possibly safe” when taken for less than two months as medicine or tea. However, since passionflower has sedating properties, users should exercise caution when taking with alcohol or sedative medications. These include benzodiazepines and tricyclic anti-depressants, anticonvulsants, and barbiturates. Other side effects of taking passionflower orally include dizziness, confusion, ataxia (involuntary muscle movement and loss of coordination), and sedation.
Passionflower may cause dangerous side effects when taken with blood-thinner medications and an older class of antidepressant medication called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOs).
Because passionflower may help lower blood pressure, caution is advised when using this herb with antihypertensive medications.
Akhondzadeh, Shahin, H. R. Naghavi, M. Vazirian, A. Shayeganpour, H. Rashidi, and M. Khani. “Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double‐blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam.”Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics 26, no. 5 (2001): 363-367.
Movafegh, Ali, Reza Alizadeh, Fatimah Hajimohamadi, Fatimah Esfehani, and Mohmad Nejatfar. “Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Anesthesia & Analgesia 106, no. 6 (2008): 1728-1732.
Passionflower. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty. [Updated March 3, 2014; Reviewed March 3, 2014; Accessed April 4, 2014].