Passion Flower: Benefits and Facts
Passion Flower grows on long vines in shaded, woody areas of the United States. The plant was named “Passion Flower” by Spanish explorers who thought that its flowers resembled three nails and a crown of thorns, reminding them of the Passion of Christ. The plant produces edible fruits; while the aerial parts are dried and used medicinally.
Passion Flower is used as a mild sedative and sleep aid. Although few clinical trials have been conducted, the herb is used widely in Europe and is beginning to get attention in America as well.
Most of the research on Passion Flower has been performed in animal models (primarily rats and mice). These studies confirm that it has anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects that may be mediated by GABA receptors in the brain. Two Iranian studies also determined it was effective for reducing pre-operative anxiety, as well as useful for treating generalized anxiety disorder in human subjects. More research is needed, however, before it can be recommended as a therapeutic agent.
Likewise, it would be good to see more—and better—research on its effectiveness for facilitating sleep. As it now stands, the data is limited and equivocal. In one experiment, for example, it failed to reduce sleep latency in sleep-disturbed rats. But in another, it appeared to prolong barbiturate-induced sleep in mice.
Passion Flower contains a range of biologically-active compounds, including flavonoid glycosides, indole alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, phytosterols and fatty acids.
Unfortunately, the active ingredient(s) responsible for its reported effects have not yet been identified.
The amounts of phytochemicals vary between sources as well, which makes it difficult to standardize individual commercial preparations.
Passion Flower is marketed commercially as a tea or in tinctures. Extracts can also be purchased in capsule form; either pure or combined with other herbs, such as valerian, kava-kava and lemon balm.
At reasonable doses, Passion Flower appears to be relatively safe although some adverse effects have been reported. Children and pregnant women should avoid Passion Flower, however, since its safety has not been studied in these populations.
People taking prescription medications should consult with their physcians before using it, as Passion Flower may interact with sedatives (such as Ativan, Valium or Xanax), blood thinners and certain antidepressants.
You can buy passion flower online at iHerb.com (use the coupon code FAT259 to receive $5 off your first order).