An Herb For Thought: Passion Flower
Family Name: Passifloraceae
Botanical Name(s): Passiflora Incarnata
Popular Name(s): Maypops, Wild Passionflower and Apricot Vine
Parts Used: Leaves and whole plant
Habitat: The plant is native to North, Central, and South America.
Description: Passionflower is a perennial climber with deeply lobed, finely toothed leaves, with fragrant lavender to white flowers appearing in summer. Edible fruits follow the flowers of passionflower.
Uses: Passionflower is used internally to treat nervous restlessness, sleep disorders, anxiety, neuralgia, irritability and overcoming the difficulty in falling asleep. The ripe passion fruits are eaten raw and can be made into jellies, jams, wines and fruit based drinks, while the flowers are made into syrup. Its narcotic properties cause it to be used in diarrhea and dysentery, neuralgia, sleeplessness and dysmenorrhea.
Passionflower is used for sleep problems (insomnia), gastrointestinal (GI) upset related to anxiety or nervousness, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and relieving symptoms related to narcotic drug withdrawal.
Passionflower is also used for seizures, hysteria, asthma, symptoms of menopause, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness and excitability, palpitations, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and pain relief.
Some people apply passionflower to the skin for hemorrhoids, burns, and pain and swelling (inflammation).
In foods and beverages, passionflower extract is used as a flavoring.
In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered passionflower in Peru. They believed the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion and indicated his approval for their exploration. Passionflower is found in combination herbal products used as a sedative for promoting calmness and relaxation. Other herbs contained in these products include German chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap, and valerian.
Passionflower was formerly approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., but it was taken off the market in 1978 because safety and effectiveness had not been proven. However, passionflower may still be available alone or in combination with other herbal products.
How does it work?
The chemicals in passionflower have calming, sleep inducing, and muscle spasm relieving effects.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD):
- 45 drops of passionflower liquid extract daily.
- A specific tablet formulation 90 mg/day has also been used.
Passionflower is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth in amounts normally found in food. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken short-term (less than two months) as medicine or tea. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large amounts.
Passionflower can cause some side effects such as dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle action and coordination, altered consciousness, and inflamed blood vessels. There has also been a report of nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, a rapid heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm in one person who took it.
There isn’t enough information to rate the safety of passionflower when applied to the skin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t take passionflower if you are pregnant. It is UNSAFE. There are some chemicals in passionflower that might cause the uterus to contract.
Not enough is known about the safety of taking passionflower during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don’t use it.
Surgery: Passionflower can affect the central nervous system. It might increase the effects of anesthesia and other medications on the brain during and after surgery. Stop taking passionflower at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
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