Passionflower: Snapshot


The use of passionflower to tranquilize and settle edgy nerves has been documented for over 200 years. This herb relieves muscle tension and helps calm extreme anxiety. It has a depressant effect on the central nervous system and lowers blood pressure. Passionflower is especially good for nervous insomnia.

A wide range of potential therapeutic applications of passionflower is currently being investigated. It relaxes the linings of artery walls; reduces blood pressure; stops chemical reactions that cause nausea and vomiting as a result of withdrawal from cocaine, heroin, or opiate painkillers; and, in laboratory tests, stops the growth of certain kinds of thyroid cancer. It has been approved by the German Commission E for nervousness, restlessness, and insomnia.

Botanical Name

Passiflora incarnata

Part Used

Aerials

Common Names

passiflora, maypop, passion vine, Maracuja, Maracuya, Passionfruit, Granadilla, Purple granadilla, Apricot vine, passionaria.

Brief History

Passiflora incarnataPassionflower was first cultivated by Native Americans for its edible fruit. Spanish conquerors first learned of passionflower from the Aztecs of Mexico who used it as a sedative to treat insomnia and nervousness. It was named flos passionis or flor de las cinco llagas (flower of the five wounds). The plant was taken back to Europe where it became widely cultivated and introduced into European medicine. The unusual construction of its whitish violet flowers caused Spanish missionaries to name this plant with reference to elements of the passion of Christ: Its coronal threads were seen as a symbol for the crown of thorns, the curling tendrils for the cords of the whips, the five stamens for the wounds, the three stigmas for the nails on the cross, the ovary for the hammer, and the five petals and five sepals of the flower for the ten “true” apostles.

Constituents

Flavonoids (C-glycosides of vitexin, isovitexin, apigenin, luteloin), traces of volatile oil, cyanogenic glycoside, and possibly traces of alkaloids

Therapeutic Properties

Hypnotic, sedative, anxiolytic, anodyne

Vitalist Properties

Temperature: Cool

Moisture: Dry

Therapeutic Indications

Restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, nervous gastrointestinal disorders (children and adults). May be useful in supportive treatment for withdrawal from opiates, cannabis, and alcohol.

Primary Uses

Anxiety and Addiction

Laboratory studies in France concluded that passionflower reduces anxiety and increases the effectiveness of prescription sleep aids. Compounds in passionflower occupy the same receptor sites in the brain as benzodiazepine drugs, such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium), but produce less drowsiness. The alkaloids harmane and harmaline, found in passionflower, have been found to act somewhat like monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, a category of drugs sometimes prescribed for depression and other disorders.

Passionflower is sometimes substituted for prescription sedatives for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. In one study, men who were addicted to opium benefited during withdrawal from passionflower, according to the Short Opiate Withdrawal Scale. In another study, using passionflower before surgery seemed to reduce the anxiety associated with the upcoming surgery.

Clinical Research

  • A randomized, double-blind, controlled,14-day trial compared clonidine (an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, maximum dose 0.8 mg/day) plus passion flower extract against clonidine plus placebo in the outpatient detoxification of opiate addicts. Both treatments were equally efficacious in treating the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but the group receiving passionflower showed superiority over clonidine alone in terms of managing mental symptoms. The dosage of the undefined passionflower extract was 60 drops per day.
  • In a pilot, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial, passion flower extract was as efficacious as oxazepam (a benzodiazepine drug) for managing generalized anxiety disorder. However, passion flower treatment resulted in a lower incidence of impairment of job performance. The daily dose of the undefined passion flower extract was 45 drops.
  • A passion flower and valerian combination improved symptoms of insomnia in uncontrolled trials. Side effects characteristic of benzodiazepine tranquilizers were not observed. In a controlled trial with comparison against chlorpromazine (an antipsychotic drug), EEG recordings showed sedative activity after 6 with the herbal combination. The dosage administered in one of these trials was 1.0 to 2.5 dessert-spoonfuls per day of syrup (100 g of which contained 25 g of passion flower extract 1:1 and 12.5 g of valerian extract 1:1).
  • In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, a single dose of passion flower extract (equivalent to 7 g of dried herb) demonstrated a sedative effect when compared with baseline values in healthy female volunteers as assessed by a self-rating scale for alertness.
  • In a randomized, double-blind trial, Hawthorn (leaf and flower) combined with passion flower reduced heart rate at rest, diastolic blood pressure during exercise, plasma cholesterol and increased exercise capacity compared with placebo in NHYA stage II heart failure patients.

Dosage (Divided Daily)

Dried Herb: 2,000 – 8,000mg

• Liquid Extract: 3 – 6mL (1:2 liquid extract)

Contraindications

None known

Side effects

Do not administer during lactation without medical supervision. May cause drowsiness. If affected do not drive or operate machinery.

Interactions with other drugs

None known


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Passionflower

 Bibliography
  1. Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for herbal healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.

  2. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Herbalpedia (2013)
  4. Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine: the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub. 

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