With a name like passion flower, it can only be something kind, gentle and calming from nature. While that doesn’t hold true for all sweet names, it does hold true for the passion flower, a wildflower of striking beauty that produces a fleshy fruit. There are many passion flower benefits — it may help reduce and possibly eliminate insomnia, anxiety, inflammation from skin irritations and burns, menopause, ADHD and even more serious conditions such as seizures, high blood pressure and asthma, just to name a few.
Passion flower is a plant in which the parts of the plant above the ground are used, in different forms, to provide natural healing purposes and food flavoring. You may have heard of passion flower tea or passion flower extract — and it’s also found as infusions, teas, liquid extracts and tinctures.
It’s common to see passion flower combined with other calming herbs such as valerian root and lemon balm, chamomile, hops, kava and skullcap.
A perennial, climbing vine, passion flower is typically grown in Europe but is native to the southeastern parts of America. Common names are maypop, apricot vine, passion vine and passiflore. (1)
Benefits of Passion Flower
1. May Help Reduce the Effects of Menopause, Including Hot Flashes & Depression
Menopause is associated with feeling of anxiety and depression, which is often caused by low levels of amma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical in the brain. Hormone therapy that relies on modern medicine can create a lot of unwanted side effects. Studies have been conducted that show that passion flower can treat menopausal symptoms such as vasomotor signs (hot flashes and night sweats), insomnia, depression, anger, headaches, and may be a great alternative to conventional hormone therapy. (3)
Women are seeking natural remedies more and more, and passion flower may help by increasing the levels of GABA. (4) When the levels of GABA are increased, it helps to decrease the activity of some of those depression-inducing brain cells. The alkaloids in passion flower may prevent the production of monoamine oxidase, which is exactly what anti-depressant medication tries to do. Studies have shown that it can may reduce depression, a common problem for women in menopause. (4, 5)
Another study showed that passion flower may reduce those annoying hot flashes! The study conducted used various herbal remedies, and the results showed that anise, licorice, black cohosh, red clover, evening primrose, flaxseed, St. John’s wort, valerian and passion flower may alleviate hot flashes in those that are menopausal as well as those that are premenopausal. (6, 3)
2. Lower Blood Pressure
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry conducted a research study dosing with 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight using passion flower skin extract. The study found that blood pressure levels were significantly reduced, likely due to the GABA-promoting properties of the extract. (7)
Additional studies that have been published indicating passion flower fruit pulp as a remedy for reducing systolic blood pressure by administering 8 milligrams of passion flower for a period of 5 days. The results indicated that passion flower extract increased levels of an antioxidant enzyme and decreased levels of oxidized lipids that can cause damage from the accumulation of toxins and waste products in the body. (8)
3. Reduce Anxiety
Passion flower may be helpful in reducing anxiety and has long been known as a folk remedy. It’s believed that certain compounds found in passion flower may interact with some receptors in the brain provoking relaxation. Because passion increases GABA, the activity of some brain cells that may be causing anxiety is lowered and makes you feel more relaxed. Studies suggest that passion flower extracts may even have mild anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure benefits. (4)
A study was performed for four weeks on 36 out-patients that were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The results indicated that passion flower extract was an effective treatment for managing the anxiety and did not negatively affect job performance unlike the synthetic therapy. (1) Another study involving children showed that nervousness was reduced after the use of the combined plant extracts to include passion flower, St. John’s Wort and valerian root. (9, 10)
4. Addresses ADHD Symptoms
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) seems to be an ongoing concern for many parents, and sadly, conventional drugs such as Adderall can cause many unwanted side affects. ADHD is a disorder of the brain which manifests in symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with a child’s development or daily activities.
The good news is that a survey showed parents opting for alternative ADHD treatments more and more, with nutritional therapies being at the top of the remedy list. Herbs such as Roman chamomile, valerian, lemon balm and passion flower have been noted as possible treatments, though it’s always important to check with your physician first since some may cause allergic reactions. Tests were conducted using the Conner’s parent ratings to see if essential oils could be effective. The results indicate that ADHD symptoms did improve after the use of essential oils. (11, 12)
5. Helps Reduce Insulin Levels
A study was conducted using yellow passion fruit peel flour to see how it affected blood sugar levels.
Insulin sensitivity was evaluated in an effort to better understand insulin resistance in diabetics. To conduct the studies, 43 volunteers with type 2 diabetes (28 females and 15 males) were asked to take a certain amount of yellow passion fruit peel flour for a period of two months. The results showed a decreased insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients, which suggests that passion flower may benefit diabetic patients. (13)
6. Improves Your Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your body, and we all love a good night’s sleep! Studies were conducted of patients who had problems sleeping. The study, focusing on patients with bipolar disorder, tested various natural herbal medicines to include passion flower, and the results showed an improvement in sleep, maybe by reducing anxiety. (14)
A double-blinded, placebo-controlled study involved patients required to drink passion flower tea for week. Participants showed statistically significant sleep improvement. (15) Passion flower, combined with valerian root, may be one of the best combinations to help with insomnia and could be ideal, if you seem to have trouble turning off the brain at night, by calming the cells within it.
7. Reduces Inflammation
Passion flower may reduce disease-causing inflammation. Analysis were conducted of the phytonutrient and antioxidant contents of the wild passion fruit species, specifically P. tenuifila, and P. setacea. The researchers paid most attention to the seeds and the explants from seedlings as well as the adult version. The high level of phenolic compounds showed the powerful antioxidant activity of the extract of the passion flower plant. (16)
Another study was conducted on paw edema, which is the buildup of fluid in the paw area of animals. When using dried passion flower, the antioxidant activity decreased the fluid buildup; therefore, indicating the reduction of inflammation. (17)
Passion flower is the official wildflower of Tennessee, making it a favorite of mine since Tennessee is where I live! Tennessee first gave recognition to the passion flower as the official state flower in 1919, but it wasn’t until 1973 when legislation passed the designation of the passion flower as the state wildflower. (18)
You may hear southerners refer to the passion flower by a few nicknames such as the maypop, wild apricot and the ocoee (the Indian name also given to the Ocoee River and valley in the Tennessee and city of Ocoee in Florida).
However, the passion flower was originally a representation of the crucifixion Jesus Christ. Even the name, passion flower, was inspired by the devoted passion that Jesus had for the people and how the name “passion flower” came to be.
To give you a better picture of how this amazing wildflower had such notoriety, the ten petals and sepals represented the ten disciples that were present at the crucifixion. It has been noted that the three stigma represented three nails on the cross, and the five anthers denoted the five wounds of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the fringes have been thought to be a representation of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. In 1569, the passion flower was discovered by Spanish explorers and thought to symbolized Christ’s passion and approval for their exploration.
The passion flower contains a ripe fruit that is like an egg-shaped berry that may be yellow or purple. This fruit has been grown by the Aztecs, Incas and other South American Native Indians for thousands of years, becoming most popular in the 18th century.
Passion flower was classified as Passiflora by Linnaeus in 1745, recognizing 22 species at the time; however, now there are over 600, some of which are under threat in their natural rainforest habitat.
Uses (and Recipes)
As noted above, there are several ways to take passion flower. Most common are infusions, teas, liquid extracts, and tinctures in capsules. Take a trip to your local health food store and see what options they have. You may want to try an infusion or tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then strain and sip.
You can also try adding passion flower to your bath water for relaxation. The typical dose of passion flower is about 1 to 2 grams, finely chopped. You can make a tea is by steeping a teaspoon of dried herb in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes and you can have two or three cups throughout the day.
If you are taking it to help with sleep, make sure to drink at least an hour before going to bed. Check out my passion flower tea recipe below for added relaxation and to help stop anxiety.
Passion Flower & Chamomile Anxiety Reliever Tea
1–1/2 teaspoons dried chamomile
1–1/2 teaspoons dried passion flower
1 teaspoon local honey (optional)
I cup of water
Hot Flash Eliminator Passion Rose Tea
1/2 teaspoon dried chamomile
1/2 teaspoon dried passion flower
1/2 teaspoon dried St. John’s Wort
1/2 teaspoon dried valerian root
1 teaspoon local honey (optional)
1 cup of water
Prepare either tea by using a saucepan. Bring the water to a low boil then turn off the stove. Add the herbs to the water. You can use a muslin bag or tea infuser. Cover with a lid right away so that the oils from the flowers do not evaporate.
Allow it to steep for about 10–12 minutes. Remove from the stove, strain if needed, and pour yourself a cup. Then add some local, organic honey if desired. Try this at any time when you may feel anxious or at night before bed.
Risks and Side Effects
At one time passion flower was approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., but in 1978, it was taken off the market due to safety and lack of testing. While studies indicate many positive uses for passion flower, always check with your doctor before taking any new herb in any form. (21)
If you experience nausea, vomiting, drowsiness or any other odd symptoms, even if after a few days, please seek the help of a physician. Do not take if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have medical problems. It may not be suitable for children under 6 months of age.
Passion flower may be a great alternative for you if you have anxiety, problems sleeping and struggle to focus, those nagging, uncomfortable hot flashes and even problems with high blood pressure. Numerous studies have found it to be very beneficial, even for children with ADHD. Though it is important to make sure your doctor approves its use and to pay attention to any possible side effects, you can start with small doses using some of the recipes in this article.
Passion flower could be the perfect solution, especially when combined with other relaxation-inducing herbs, to create calmness in your day, without affecting your productivity. Since stress induces many other problems within our bodies, you may want to consider trying passion flower to see it it can help reduce stress and get you some much-needed shut eye!