The beautiful, complex, flowers of the passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) are named for their representation of Christ’s passion, including the stigmata and crown of thorns. Passion flower (sometimes spelled as one word, passionflower) herbal extracts are used to promote relaxation and to relieve stress, restlessness, agitation and anxiety. The leaves of the plant appear to have the greatest medicinal activity.
Passion flower health benefits
Passionflower is a traditional herbal medicine licensed in the UK to relieve symptoms associated with stress such as mild anxiety, and to aid sleep. The aerial parts (leaves, stems, flowers) contain a number of antioxidant flavonoids and indole alkaloids. It is believed to reduce anxiety via effects on GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, damping down over-excitability in the central nervous system, and researchers have found that Passion Flower contains more GABA than 20 other plants examined.
Passion flower extracts and acute anxiety
Passion flower can reduce anxiety in acutely stressful situations. Sixty people who were scheduled to have a surgical hernia repair were given either passionflower extracts, or a placebo, as a premedication 90 minutes before their operation.
Anxiety scores were significantly lower in those who took the passionflower extract compared with placebo. The researchers concluded that oral passionflower extracts reduced anxiety without inducing sedation.
In another study, 60 people who were scheduled for surgery under spinal anaesthesia (so they would be awake during the operation) were given either passion flower extracts or placebo half an hour beforehand.
Those receiving the passionflower extracts were significantly less anxious at the end of the operation, and for 60 minutes afterwards, with no change in their ability to think straight, sedation level, pulse rate of blood pressure.
Passion flower extracts and chronic anxiety
Passion flower extracts are also helpful for long-term stress and anxiety. A study involving 36 people with generalised anxiety disorder compared the effects of taking passion flower extracts for six months, against the prescribed benzodiazepine drug, oxazepam. Passionflower extracts were at least as effective as the prescribed drug, with no significant difference in effectiveness between the two treatments. Oxazepam worked more quickly initially, but was associated with significantly greater impairment of job performance.
Passion flower tea and sleep
Passionflower tea is a popular, traditional remedy to promote sleep and is included in many herbal nocturnal tea blends. When 41 adults drank either a passion flower herbal tea before bedtime, they slept significantly better than during a similar period in which they drank a placebo tea.
Ten participants were also monitored overnight in a sleep laboratory on the last night of each treatment period, which provided objective confirmation of their improved sleep scores when drinking passion flower tea.
Passion flower and libido
Despite its name, passionflower is not traditionally used as an aphrodisiac. However, researchers in India have found in preclinical trials that passion flower extracts can restore sexual interest where this has been reduced by use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana (THC cannabis) use.
As passionflower extracts reduce stress and anxiety, which are common causes of low libido, it might be expected to work for those experiencing stress-related loss of interest in sex, too.
Passion flower supplement dose
Follow manufacturer’s instructions, as concentrations of the herb vary. A typical dose is 400mg to 2g passionflower extracts, three to four times daily.
Passion flower side effects
No serious side effects have been reported. A few people have experienced dizziness or sedation, but this is unusual. Like most herbal remedies, passion flower should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
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