Passionflower benefits were not expressly known to Hildegard of Bingen, however the plant’s effects as a sleep remedy, particularly in combination with other herbs such as valerian, hops, or melissa have been established in Traditional German folk and monastic medicine for decades.
Expansive History of Passionflower Benefits
Over 350 species of Passionflower (Passiflora Incarnata) are native throughout the subtropics of the Americas, Europe and Asia. A fast-growing wildflower, passionflower is also known as the maypop, apricot vine, and passion vine. In the U.S. passionflower grows widely in the southeastern states. The vine can grow up to 10 meters high and blooms large, intricate flowers.
As a common, robust, and native wildflower, Native Americans used passionflower regularly for medicinal purposes. In Europe, the passionflower has become one of the most widely used and studied botanicals. Passionflower is officially included in the national pharmacopeias of France, Germany, and Switzerland and is also monographed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the British Herbal Compendium. Passionflower is also listed in the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS.)
Today, there are more than four hundred different varieties of passionflower. Many of these passionflower varieties bear a juicy fruit, commonly consumed as juice in South and Central America.
The passionflower plant has a long tradition as a religious symbol and a medicinal plant. The appearance of the plants flower reminded the Jesuit father Ferrari, serving as a missionary at the time, of Christ suffering on the cross. The image of Christ suffering led the plant to its name as the Latin word for suffer is “passio.”
The Relaxing Power of Passionflower
Interestingly, passionflower has served for centuries to alleviate health ailments of various kinds. Historical records show that the Aztecs used Passionflower for urinary tract disorders, bone fractures, and skin contusions.
At the end of the 19th century, North American physicians prescribed passion flower for its mitigating effect on seizures and epilepsy. In the early 20th century, European physicians introduced passionflower (Passiflora incarnata L) as a mild medicinal herb to treat anxiety and mild sleep disorders.
Anxiety, Nervousness and Sleep Disorders
Passion flower is recognized by academics and medical practitioners as a sleep aid, anxiety reliever, and natural calming agent.
In addition to the World Health Organization (WHO), Commission E of the former German Health Office also positively assessed the use of Passion Flower for alleviating nervousness. The European Association of Scientific Practitioners in the Field of Phytotherapy (ESCOP) also recommends the Passion Flower for sleep disorders and irritability.
Passionflower benefits for nervous restlessness
According to European scientific data, Passionflower is recognized for its efficacy in treating nervous restlessness, tension, irritability, vegetative dystonia, restless mind, and sleep disorders. In addition, studies have demonstrated improved cognitive concentration levels and relief of anxiety.
As it applies to nervous conditions, Passionflower is particularly suitable for children and young adults. Due to its mild effect, it can be used on its own or applied in combination with other calming plants (such as lemon balm, lavender, Valerian, or hops).
Passionflower can also be effective as a mild calming agent. The calming effect on its own does not typically induce drowsiness, so it is a particularly useful daytime sedative. Moderate use supports a feeling of tranquility, without side effects, and without the risk of chemical dependency or habit-formation.
In German folk medicine, Passionflower is also recommended for use in treating gastric or intestinal disorders, depression, and nerve pain.
Active ingredients drive passionflower benefits
It remains unclear, which of the Passionflower’s many active ingredients contributes to its health effects. There is evidence that extracts of Passiflora increase the effect of the nerve neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA plays an important role in behavior, cognition, and the body’s response to stress. A GABA deficiency can lead to unrest and tension.
In general, passionflower has demonstrated efficacy for:
- improved sleep
- lower blood pressure
Studies show Passionflower benefits begin as early as 30 minutes after ingestion. Unlike with other synthetic and prescription sedatives, chemical dependency does not occur.
Passionflower benefits are often more pronounced when combining the herb with other medicinal plant extracts. Several clinical studies have shown the efficacy of passionflower benefits in combination with other soothing plant extracts to resolve anxiety and mild sleep disorders.
Proven combination partners of Passiflora include:
- Lemon balm / Melissa
- St. John’s Wort
How to Take Passionflower:
The Blue Passion Flower, typically known as a houseplant (Passiflora caerulea) is not suitable for medical purposes. The Blue Passion Flower contains high quantities of cyanogenic glycosides, which, when consumed in large quantities may cause cyanide poisoning.
Dried Passion Flower, from the medically effective Passion Flower plant can be obtained from specialized herbal pharmacies. Be cautious during periods of pregnancy and lactation, when usage should be discussed with a doctor.
For passionflower tea, combine a heaping tablespoon of dried Passionflower with a cup of boiling water. Allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to three cups daily for symptoms related to nervous restlessness. Do not exceed 6 cups daily.
Passionflower Tincture for Sleeping
Add 3 heaping tablespoons of dried Passionflower herb into a sealed mason jar. Pour grain (80 to 100 proof) alcohol over the herbs until they are completely submerged. Allow the mixture to soak at room temperature for two weeks. Filter the tincture into a dark bottle and take 10 to 20 drops in water before sleeping.
Soothing Passionflower Herbal Mix
Nature offers an abundance of effective herbs, which positively affect body and mind. This blend of dried herbs blends well with the medicinal qualities of passionflower to produce a relaxing and anxiety relieving effect.
• 20 g Melissa leaves (lemon balm)
• 10 g Peppermint leaves
• 15 g Valerian root
• 20 g Orange Blossoms
• 20 g Passion Flower
Mix the herbs and pour 2 teaspoons of the dried blend into hot water, let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink three cups daily for 6 weeks.
Possible side effects:
No known side effects or counter-indications are currently referenced for Passion Flower, lemon balm and valerian, Peppermint can cause stomach irritation if used for too long. If you have gallstones, you should discuss the use of peppermint with a doctor. For people with sensitive skin, orange-blossoms can lead to increased light sensitivity of the skin.