Passionflower is a medicinal plant/flower that has been used for thousands of years.
As a nervine and an anxiolytic herb, it has a calming and soothing effect on nerves and can help reduce anxiety. Due to its relaxing effect, it’s one of the most popular herbs used to improve sleep quality.
In this article, we will get into the benefits of passionflower as well as its history and safety.
Table of Contents
What is Passionflower?
Passionflower is a herb native to the tropical areas of the United States, it typically grows in the southeast region of the US where the weather is hot.
The scientific name for passionflower is Passiflora incarnata. Other common names include maypop, purple passion flower, apricot vine, and old field apricot.
Passionflower is primarily used as a sleep aid and to reduce anxiety. Additional research shows that it can help manage menopause symptoms, regulate blood pressure, calm muscle spasms, increase memory, manage attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and has anticonvulsant effects.
We will dive into some of these benefits below.
Health Benefits of Passionflower:
Passiflora incarnata has many purported health benefits. We’ve listed the top research-backed benefits below, based on our analysis.
1. May Improve Sleep Quality
Studies have shown that about one-third of the world’s population suffers from differing levels of insomnia. Lack of sleep can significantly impact one’s overall health and well-being and lead to negative health conditions. With the rise of herbal medicine, passionflower is popularly used as a sleep aid.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that consuming one cup of passionflower tea nightly has short-term sleep benefits. These sleep benefits include better sleep quality and a feeling of refreshment upon waking.
Another clinical trial studied the effects of passionflower on individuals with insomnia. Findings revealed that a small dose of 60mg (extract form) could significantly increase total sleep time. It appears that passionflower improves sleep efficiency while decreasing the likelihood of waking up during the night.
Summary:Passionflower appears to be a promising natural remedy for improving sleep quality. However, longterm human clinical trials are needed to ensure its efficacy for insomnia.
2. May Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. While it’s natural, there may be a concern when anxiety is persistently occurring, and the feelings of fear, worry, nervousness, or irritability impede one’s everyday life.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety. GAD is characterized as excessive anxiety or extreme nervousness that interferes with daily functioning. While there are many pharmaceutical treatments for anxiety, many of them are overused and have side effects. Researchers are looking at passionflower as a safer alternative.
A clinical trial compared passionflower and oxazepam (a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety) in the treatment of GAD. The study revealed that passionflower extract (45 drops/day) and oxazepam (30mg/day) are both effective in the management of GAD with no significant difference in efficacy. However, passionflower showed an advantage with a lower incidence of impairment on job performance as compared to oxazepam.
Many patients experience stress or anxiety before surgical procedures. A clinical trial showed that patients given an oral dose of 500mg of passionflower ninety minutes before surgery had significantly decreased anxiety levels, indicating that passionflower may be a useful herb for stress.
Another study that examined anxiety during dental procedures used 20 drops of passionflower extract the night before surgery and 20 drops the morning of surgery (ninety minutes prior). The results showed a decrease in overall anxiety levels.
Another clinical trial studied the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of passionflower and midazolam (a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety) on patients undergoing dental extraction. It showed an anxiolytic effect similar to midazolam, with fewer adverse events noted.
Summary:Due to it’s relaxing effect, passion flower appears to be an effective herb for reducing GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). It also appears to be a safer alternative to the standard pharmaceutical approach.
3. May Reduce Menopausal Symptoms
Research has looked at the potential benefit of using passionflower to reduce menopausal symptoms.
As women age and estrogen production drops, menopausal symptoms typically arise. Common symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. It’s thought that the menopause transition is experienced by 1.5 million women each year.
A randomized clinical trial compared the effects of St. John’s wort and passionflower on women with menopausal symptoms. Findings revealed that there were no significant differences between these two herbs, as they both resulted in decreased menopausal symptoms, including vasomotor signs (heart palpitations, hot flashes, etc.), insomnia, depression, anger, and headaches.
Additionally, the other benefits listed in this article, namely sleep support and anxiety reduction are also extremely helpful during the menopause transition.
Summary:Initial research shows that passionflower may be benfical for women encountering menopausal sympoms. Further research is needed to verify the efficacy.
4. May Support Cognitive Health
Research shows a vital connection between insomnia and neurodegenerative diseases, implying that chronic insomnia may progress to Alzheimer’s disease.
One animal study found that passion flower extract helped to improve neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process of new neurons forming in the brain. This study may suggest that passionflower can be a potential treatment for enhancing memory and preventing Alzheimer’s disease through its actions on the hippocampus (the memory center of the brain).
A recently published meta-analysis noted that Passiflora incarnata may be helpful in treating symptoms in neuropsychiatric patients. The researchers also noted that no adverse effects, including memory loss or collapse of psychometric functions, were observed in any of the trials that they reviewed.
Summary:Animal studies show that passionflower has the ability to improve neurogenesis. While this research is promising, human clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
The Botanical Safety Handbook puts passionflower in the safety class of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed. An interaction class of “A” suggests no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.
Passionflower may increase the effects of sedatives, antispasmodics, and anxiolytics; therefore, they should be used together with caution. It may be contraindicated for those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Pregnancy & Lactation:
There may be some restrictions on the use of passion flower in pregnancy.
There is insufficient information available regarding usage during lactation.
Tincture (1:5): 1-4mL, once in the evening to aid sleep or two times per day for other conditions.
Infusion (tea): Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp. of dried herb and infuse for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1 cup in the evening to aid sleep or 1 cup two times per day for other conditions.
Capsules: Take 400mg capsules, 2-4 daily.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Passionflower’s scientific name is Passiflora incarnata. It is a perennial plant that belongs to the Passifloraceae family of plants.
It’s a climbing vine that produces an attractive and delicate purple flower. It tends to be a fast-growing plant and develops egg-shaped edible fruits known as maypops during the summer months.
The genus name Passiflora and the common name “passion flower” originated from the Italian phrase fiore della passione, which derives from Christian symbology. In 1605 CE, a live passion flower plant was given to the pope (Pope Paul V) and planted as a gift in his honor.
Monks described the passion flower’s corona as a representation of “the crown of thorns, the three styles being the nails of the cross, the three-lobed leaves the spear, and the five anthers representing the marks of the five wounds”.
History & Traditional Use:
Historically, passionflower has been used as both food and medicine by Native American tribes in the southeastern states of the United States.
In 1838, a thickened juice made out of the fruit was used clinically after 30 years of successful outcomes for neonatal tetanus.
In the 19th century, passionflower extracts were used for many conditions, including pain within the brain and nervous system, sleeplessness, anxiety, convulsions, nervous headaches, hypoventilation, and heart palpitations. In addition, it was used to help relieve reflux pains in pregnancy and menopause and alleviate whooping cough and spasmodic asthma.
Passionflower has been traditionally used throughout Europe for treatment of the following conditions: anxiety, constipation, indigestion, insomnia, nervousness, mild infections, dysmenorrhea, epilepsy, and neuralgia.
Various flavonoids, including: quercetin, rutin, saponaretin, saponarin, vitexen, apigenin, homoorientin, isovitexin, kaempferol, luteolin, and orientin.
Alkaloids including harmine, harman, harmol, harmaline, harmalol, and passaflorine.
Nervine, anxiolytic, antispasmodic, anodyne, hypotensive, sedative
Passionflower Compared To Other Herbs:
Passion flower is often compared with many other herbs. We have put together helpful articles going over the most common comparisons.
•Passionflower vs. Valerian Root
Passionflower has a long historical use with clear evidence showing various health benefits.
The aforementioned research studies show that many of its health benefits are interconnected.
If you experience anxiety, menopausal symptoms, have trouble sleeping, or want to support your brain health, passionflower may be the herb for you to try.
- Akhondzadeh, S., Naghavi, H. R., Vazirian, M., Shayeganpour, A., Rashidi, H., & Khani, M. (2001). Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 26(5), 363-367. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11679026/
- Dantas, L.P., de Oliveira-Ribeiro, A., de Almeida-Souza, L. M. & Groppo, F. C. (2017). Effects of Passiflora incarnata and midazolam for control of anxiety in patients undergoing dental extraction. Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal, 22(1), e95-e101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5217504/
- Engels, G. & Brinckmann, J. (2016). Passionflower Passiflora incarnata L. The Journal of the American Botanical Council, 112, 8-17. https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/112/table-of-contents/hg112-herbpro-passionflower/
- Fahami, F., Asali, Z., Aslani, A., & Fathizadeh, N. (2010). A comparative study on the effects of Hypericum Perforatum and passionflower on the menopausal symptoms of women referring to Isfahan city health care centers. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 15(4), 202-207. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203277/
- Felter, H. W. (1922). The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/felter/passiflora.html
- Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (2013). Botanical safety handbook (2nd edition). CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL.
- Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, VT.
- Kaviani, N., Tavakoli, M., Tabanmehr, M., & Havaei, R. (2013). The efficacy of Passiflora incarnata Linnaeus in reducing dental anxiety in patients undergoing periodontal treatment. Journal of Dentistry (Shiraz, Iran), 14(2), 68-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977550/
- Kim, G., Lim, K., Yang, H. S., Lee, J., Kim, Y., Park, S., Kim., S., Park, S., Kim, T., Moon, J., Hwang, I. K., Yoon., Y. S., Seo, H. S., Nam, S. M., Kim, M., Yoon, S. G., Seong, J. K., & Yi, S. S. (2019). Improvement in neurogenesis and memory function by administration of Passiflora incarnata L. extract applied to sleep disorder in rodent models. Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 98, 27-40. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30951822/
- Lee, J., Jung, H.Y., Lee., S.I., Choi, J.H., & Kim, S.G. (2019). Effects of Passiflora incarnata Linnaeus on polysomnographic sleep parameters in subjects with insomnia disorder: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 35(1), 29-35. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31714321/
- Movafegh, A., Alizadeh, R., Hajimohamadi, F., Esfehani, F., & Nejatfar, M. (2008). Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 106(6), 1728-1732. https://journals.lww.com/anesthesia-analgesia/Fulltext/2008/06000/Preoperative_Oral_Passiflora_Incarnata_Reduces.19.aspx
- Ngan, A. & Conduit, R. (2011). A double-blind placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytotherapy Research, 25(8), 1153-1159. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21294203/
- Ohayon, M. M. (2002). Epidemiology of insomnia: What we know and what we still need to learn. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 6(2), 97-111. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12531146
- Shamin, S. A., Warriach, Z. I., Tariq, M. A., Rana, K. F., & Malik, B. H. (2019). Insomnia: Risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases. Cureus, 11(10), e6004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6876903/