Botanical: Passiflora incarnata
Family: Passifloraceae (passionflower)
Other common names: Passionflower, Maypop, Passion Vine, Blue Passionflower, Ocoee,
Purple Passionflower, Wild Passionflower, Passiflora, Flower of the Five Wounds, Apricot Vine,Waterlemon, Corona de Cristo
Passion Flower is Nature's Tranquilizer. Troubled with tension headaches? Do you toss and turn, unable to fall asleep because you are overstressed, anxious and exhausted? Do you need a restful, sound sleep without the addictive side effects usually associated with synthetic sedatives? Perhaps it's time to think of Passion Flower. Native Americans knew this secret hundreds of years ago, and today, many European herbalists prescribe Passion Flower for insomnia, nervous anxiety and relief of pain and neuralgia. It just might provide the relief you need.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Passion Flower is the State Flower of Tennessee and a perennial woody vine with a trailing stem that can climb to the tops of many trees seeking the sun, often covering spans up to thirty feet in length. There are about four hundred known species of Passiflora, and most are natives of the Americas. In North American, Passiflora incarnata is one of the
hardiest species of the Passion Flower genus and is even considered a common wildflower in some southern areas of the United States. Passiflora is native to North, Central and South America and grows along hedgerows, on the edges of woods, in thickets and over open ground. It bears white to pale lavender flowers of about two inches across with edible berries. The fruits ripen only in warm, sunny climates, and the vine thrives in well-drained, sandy (slightly acid) soil in sun. In the sixteenth century, early Spanish explorers were astounded by the beauty of the exotic climbing vine that resembled elements of the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and named it Passion Flower in honor of the agonies of Christ. They soon found it to be a source of medicine for the Native Americans. The Houma tribe added it to drinking water as a tonic, and in the Yucatan, it was a remedy for insomnia, hysteria and convulsions in children. Other tribes used it in poultices to heal bruises, and the early Algonquians brewed Passion Flower in a tea to soothe their nerves. In 1783, a visiting European doctor described its use as a remedy for epilepsy, and other early physicians prescribed the fruit juice as a wash for sore and tired eyes. The plant was largely ignored in conventional North American medicine until the late 1800s, when it became a popular nineteenth-century remedy for insomnia. It finally received official recognition in the United States National Formulary from 1916 to 1936, and the aerial parts of the plant are used in herbal medicine. Passion Flower may be a useful bridge between traditional herbal medicine and the treatment of modern ills, especially in cases of anxious states, depression and patients trying to wean themselves from synthetic sleeping pills and tranquilizers. Despite the dearth of research into Passion Flower in the United States, the herb is frequently prescribed in Europe to calm the nerves and ease tension, restlessness, irritability and mild insomnia. However, because of its increased popularity and use in the United States, clinical trials will hopefully be conducted to determine why the plant appears to produce effective results. Aside from its medicinal value, the fruits are pulped for jams and desserts, and because they create a popping sound when mashed, the plant received one of its common names, "Maypop." Some of the constituents in Passion Flower are alkaloids (harmaline, harmalol, harmol, harmine), flavonoids (vitexin, isovitexin, apigenin, kaempferol, luteolin glycosides [orientin, homoorientin, lucenin], quercetin, rutin), carbohydrates, benzopyrones, fatty acids, gamma-pyrone derivatives (maltol, ethylmaltol), passicol, gums amino acids and calcium.
Passion Flower is a very gentle (but effective) herbal sedative that has a depressant effect on the central nervous system. The alkaloids and flavonoids are believed to be effective and work as a non-addictive sedative, which promotes restful, sound sleep, particularly in cases of nervous insomnia. It is one of nature's best natural tranquilizers and has been used for centuries as a reliable remedy for nervous, menopausal and premenstrual tension, irritability, fatigue and tension headaches. The exact mechanism of action is unknown. Activation of GABA receptors by maltol and gamma-pyrone derivatives may mediate passionflower's anxiolytic and sedative properties.
It is said to gently shift moods, alter perception and aid concentration, and the alkaloids are thought to act in a similar way as MAO inhibitors, which may be of some help in cases of depression. In Italy, Passion Flower is used to treat hyperactive children.
Its relaxing qualities appear to extend to relaxing spasms and other manifestations of extreme anxiety. As a muscle relaxer, Passion Flower helps to relieve muscle tension, which may be quite beneficial for restless leg syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Considered a fine herbal pain reliever, Passionflower works as an anodyne to alleviate pain, and as such, is used to relieve headache and nerve pain, the pain of shingles and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).
Passionflower is thought to relieve hypertension and lower blood pressure. Some tests claim that it relaxes the walls of the arteries, which may be useful for increasing circulation and maintaining good heart health.
In laboratory tests, Passion Flower was able to stop the growth of certain kinds of thyroid malignancy, and further research may, hopefully, bring positive results in this area.
There are reports that Passion Flower stops chemical reactions that cause nausea and vomiting as a result of withdrawal from cocaine, heroine or opiate painkillers, and this may prove useful for those patients trying to withdraw from such substances. A bitter principle in Passion Flower is thought to be beneficial for functional digestive problems as well.
Passion Flower may help a diminished sex drive. The herb is a source of an antioxidant chemical known as chrysin, which helps the body conserve testosterone. It does not cause the body to produce more of the hormone, but by conserving it, the action has a direct effect of increasing testosterone levels, which may boost sex drive.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Passion Flower Herbal Supplement. Since it may cause sleepiness, it should not be used before driving or operating machinery. Children should never be given this herb in any form, and older adults and older children (twelve) should take low dosages (preferably in consultation with a physician). Do not use Passion Flower if you take MAO inhibitors, and it should not be taken with other prescription sedatives or sedative herbs or alcohol, as it increases their sedative effects. Passion Flower may have additive anticoagulant effect.