The Power of Passionflower - Relax Sleep Better

The Power of Passionflower - Relax Sleep Better

Passionflower helps you to a calmer state of mind and to healthier sleep.

Passionflower, passiflora incarnata (one of my favorite botanical names), is a perennial vine with climbing stems, fruit commonly called maypop, and gorgeous flowers, named for a resemblance to Christ's crucifixion. It was first brought to prominence in the west in the 16th century when Spanish explorers found Peruvians using passionflower as a sedative and were mesmerized by it from the start. Their initial reaction was to immediately interpret them as symbols of Christ’s passion and as a clear sign of his approval for their journey. They brought the plant back to Europe with them and it became popular as a tonic for calming nerves, and as a soporific for those with sleep problems.

Despite the four hundred years of historical medicinal use of passionflower, only recently have any scientific studies been done on its effectiveness. Although more research is needed, there is clear initial evidence of its benefits:

Anti-anxiety effects.

Passionflower showed strong evidence of having an anti-depressant effect, reducing anxiety and nervousness, in some cases, as well as prescription drugs. Several studies by Kamaldeep Dhawan et al, showed passionflower to have "anxiolytic properties in the elevated plus-maze model of anxiety in mice," approximating diazepam.It is believed the anxiety reducing and sleep inducing effects may stem from an increase in the production of GABA, which calms and lowers activity in the brain.

Sedative-like effects. 

The debate still goes on about these findings, but some evidence corroborates the claim that passionflower improves sleep quality and length. A study in 2011 found that it has beneficial effects on the subjective quality of sleep (A. Ngan & R. Conduit; "A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata herbal tea on subjective sleep quality" Phytotherapy Research 2011.) Researchers concluded that "sleep quality showed a significantly better rating for passionflower compared with placebo."

Mood effects.

Passionflower was effective in relieving symptoms of “adjustment disorder with anxious mood” when used in a multi-ingredient product (Euphytose). In concert with other herbs with sedative-like effects (most notably, valerian,) it was responsible for lowering anxiety and improving general disposition in subjects.

Relieves symptoms of narcotic drug withdrawal.

Mild relief of withdrawal issues was evidenced when used in combination with a medication called clonidine. One of the more surprising benefits discovered during study was passionflower's ability to reduce withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, nervousness, and insomnia.

So if nothing else, given just how many adults suffer from some form of insomnia (estimated 60 million to 75 million in the U.S.), passionflower may be a very helpful option, especially if you are keen to avoid dangerous and addictive sleep narcotics. Passionflower has been a core ingredient in many natural sleep aid supplements for decades now. Again, it's long historical use suggests its safety, and studies do bear this out.

There are some caveats though:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Don’t take passionflower if you are pregnant. Some chemicals in passionflower may cause uterine contraction.

Surgery. Passionflower can increase the effects of anesthesia and other medications taken for and after surgery. Stop taking passionflower at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.

Medications. Some drugs for high blood pressure (antihypertensive drugs) and sedatives (CNS depressants) are affected by passionflower. Avoid use with medications like captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), furosemide (Lasix), as well as sedative medications like pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.

We have been testing passionflower for our formulas for years and have found very promising results. As with all natural forms, there is a variance between individual reactions, but compared to other known plant soporifics, passionflower is one of the big five, with valerian, chamomile, jujube, and hops. If you are suffering from any form of nervousness, or sleep problems like insomnia, passionflower may be a natural solution worth trying.

Related Posts:
How Phosphatidylserine Improves Sleep Quality
What You Don't Know About Hops Could Make You Sleepy
Wonderful Jujube Does More Than Help You Relax
Why Is Valerian Interesting Beyond Being A Sedative?

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  • Quercia V, Turchetto L, Pierini V, and et al. Identification and determination of vitexin and isovitexin in Passiflora incarnata extracts. J Chromatogr. 1978;161:396-402.
  • Capasso A and Pinto A. Experimental investigations of the synergistic-sedative effect of passiflora and kava. Acta Therapeutica 1995;21:127-140.
  • Soulimani, R., Younos, C., Jarmouni, S., Bousta, D., Misslin, R., and Mortier, F. Behavioural effects of Passiflora incarnata L. and its indole alkaloid and flavonoid derivatives and maltol in the mouse. J Ethnopharmacol. 1997;57:11-20.
  • Spencer, K. C. and Seigler, D. S. Cyanogenesis of Passiflora edulis. J Agric.Food Chem 1983.
  • Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar, Anupam Sharma (2001). "Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic]". Journal of Ethnopharmacology


The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.

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