Botanical Name: Passiflora incarnata
Plant part used medicinally: Flowering Herb
History: The newly discovered plant was sent to Pope Paul V in 1605 from a Jesuit mission in Peru, with the suggestion that the distinctive star-like corona and petals represented the Passion of Christ- hence the name Passion Flower.Traditionally used as a remedy for the nervous system, insomnia, tension, spasms and restlessness, thought to calm the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.
Important chemical components: GABA, chrysin, apigenin, quercetin, oleamide
Cautions/side effects: may have additive effects when used with other sedatives, avoid during pregnancy
Research on passionflower demonstrates benefits for anxiety, insomnia, nerve pain and opioid withdrawal. These effects are thought to be due to activation of GABA, opioid and cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nerves.
Passion flower studies show:
- improvement in mental symptoms of opiate withdrawal: “These results suggested that passiflora extract may be an effective adjuvant agent in the management of opiate withdrawal.”
- anxiety-reducing effect that was comparable to diazepam, a benzodiazepine
- improved sleep quality reported in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study
- nerve pain reduction in animal models, the same study noted that lower doses eased anxiety and higher doses caused sleepiness
Akhondzadeh S et al. Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double blind randomised controlled trial. J. Clin Pharm Therap. 2001; 26:369-73
Grundmann O et al. Anxiolytic activity of a phytochemically characterized Passiflora incarnata extract is mediated via the GABAergic system. Planta Med. 2008 Dec;74(15):1769-73
Ngan A, Conduit R. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytother Res. 2011 Aug;25(8):1153-9
Aman U et al. Passiflora incarnata attenuation of neuropathic allodynia and vulvodynia apropos GABA-ergic and opioidergic antinociceptive and behavioural mechanisms. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Feb 24;16:77