How to Calm Anxiety & Improve Sleep with Passion Flower
For a flower as unique as it is enchanting, it can be hard to think that far more secrets lay beneath its inconspicuous petals—save for delicious passion fruit, of course.
And yet, traditional herbalists and healers of old decided to look a little farther beyond beautiful appearances. In the end, they found some amazing health benefits in the plant’s bewitching blossoms.
To be more precise: passion flower appears to have a calming, sedative, and hypnotic effect on the body. This can really come in handy for certain mild health issues, such as anxiety and insomnia.
Ever since this simple discovery found in such a humble tropical vine, the race has been on to learn so much more about what passion flower can do in this vein—both in the realms of traditional herbalist knowledge as well as research.
WHAT IS PASSION FLOWER?
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata and others) can refer to many species of vining, flowering, and fruiting tropical plants native to South America and parts of Asia.
Though the flower is used as a remedy, it’s the sweet, delicious, pulpy fruit and juice—dubbed passionfruit—that may be the plant’s more recognizable trademark.
All species of passion flower vines vary in appearance in small ways. But they do share one common trait among some others: their large, elaborate, and complex flowers, some of which grow to be several inches in diameter.
Among some of these special species, such blooms possess qualities that are even more unique when it comes to plants: namely, benefits for relaxation and sleep.
In South America, for example, the species Passiflora edulis was used as medicine for pain, overexcitement, and female health issues.
Further north up in the United States, First Nation peoples had similar uses for Passiflora incarnate (also called maypop), while also accepting it as a wound and liver medicine.
A PASSIONATE PLANT WITH A PEACEFUL PURPOSE
How did such a singular flower get such a passionate name, despite its calming capabilities? It is said that the Spanish explorers who learned about the herb among the indigenous Peruvians saw the Christian cross (or “Passion”) within its flowers many a time.
While its English name contains Christian origins, the true roots of this plant and its uses stretch back even further back before that time by thousands of years—reportedly used by the Cherokee, Aztecs, and Houma peoples far before them. And it’s among these ancient peoples that its first uses for easing anxiety, nervousness, and fitful sleep appeared.
Not long after its exposure to the Spanish, the blossom’s convincing effects and popularity soared high—high enough to cross the Atlantic and take root in Europe, and then back in colonized America, for a time.
THE LOSS OF A NATURAL SEDATIVE REMEDY – WHAT HAPPENED?
Throughout the 18th Century and on until the early 20th Century, use of passion flower for anxiety and sleep spread like wildfire in Europe—spreading almost as fast as the tendril-like vine itself could grow.
It also took hold in America, being a common natural prescription for nervous disorders and insomnia. The plant, also striking in its beauty, was a favorite flower cultivar and show variety.
Even in the early 1900’s, passion flower was included as a part some major medical texts as a widely accepted remedy even for depression and other complaints. Then, in the 1970’s, the herb was removed from medical texts and over-the-counter remedies in America, mainly due to the lack of human-based health trials.
In Europe, however, use of the blossom in mainstream products stayed strong.
And while American medicine found it too unstudied in its safety—enough to only accept it as a supplement—recent research and studies surrounding this stunning flower today (including new human studies) would make one wonder why it was ever removed as a modern remedy in the first place!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The annals of herbalism, early modern medicine, and evidence-based data have plenty to offer to attest for passion flower’s near-miraculous powers on the nervous system.
But what does the science have to say? Apparently, quite a bit—and a lot in favor of its anti-anxiety & sleep quality-improving properties most of all.
Originally, a tea of the vine’s leaves, stems, and flowers were steeped as a calming tea for tension, uneasiness, trauma, and even depression.
For near centuries, all medical practitioners had to vouch for these anxiety benefits was the enormous body of traditional experience and—in the 20th Century—a few studies. But today much more has been discovered about how the botanical works, proving that it does indeed live up to its centuries-old reputation.
In one 2012 study, some of 60 patients were given passion flower to ease their anxiety before going into spinal surgery. Some were also given a placebo. In those who took the passion flower remedy, relief of anxiety was markedly more superior.
Another similar study was undertaken in 2013, only this time with dental patients. The same results were observed: while the placebo had beneficial effects, those from passion flower far surpassed them!
While most studies on the botanical mention that more trails are needed to fully prove that passion flower can be used as an anti-anxiety remedy, these results are nevertheless very real—and hopeful.
How does its anxiety alleviation work? Closer research into its actions—as seen in this 2010 article—show that it may very well have to do with the way passion flower’s compounds bind to receptors in brains and nerves. It specifically attaches to GABA receptors, which are responsible for elevating mood and promoting relaxation.
Naturally, an herbal remedy that helps calm people down should no doubt help on the sleep side of things, too.
Just like with its use for anxiety in ancient times, a tea of the leaves, stems, or flowers of this tropical vine was administered as a natural folk remedy for helping bring on sleep. Today, a modern extract could very well achieve the very same end results.
Up until the 2000’s, only studies on animals proved that sleep enhancement was possible, but not yet in humans. In 2011 however, a trial on 41 subjects found that compared to a placebo, those who took passion flower for sleep problems had a much easier time overcoming any insomnia.
Two years later in 2013, passion flower was studied in a trial comparing a popular pharmaceutical sleep aid to a mixture of three hypnotic herbs that included passion flower, as well as hops (Humulus lupulus) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis). In the trial, the herbs performed just as well as the drug.
No doubt, this natural sleepiness induced by passion flower—and which creates no side effects—can be owed to the same actions behind its anti-anxiety effects. More specifically, it helps relax the nerves and brain just enough to help bring on a sleep state, when it would have been difficult to reach otherwise.
BRINGING PEACE OF MIND IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Working together, passion flower’s anxiety-soothing, sleep-promoting qualities join forces to bring you one ultimate benefit in the end: relaxation and peace of mind. When working with other anti-anxiety herbal combinations, the plant could potentially achieve even more for peace of mind and sleep.
The famed flower has drawn so much attention as an herbal remedy, in fact, that famous natural doctor Josh Axe recommends it as an overall nervous system tonic and an amazing support when struggling with stress, tension, nervousness, and irregular sleeping.
Axe says: “Studies have shown that passion flower may be just as effective as synthetic drugs for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)!”
“It’s common to see passion flower combined with other calming herbs such as valerian root and lemon balm, chamomile, hops, kava and skullcap.”
WHEN TO CONSIDER TAKING PASSION FLOWER
Intrigued by the research, healing history, and promises of this magical flower?
If the following issues are recurring time and again, exploring passion flower as a healing anti-anxiety supplement could be a huge boost to health—not to mention its nighttime perks that help catch those zzz’s.
Note: passion flower cannot permanently cure or get rid of any disease or disorder, even those related to sleep or anxiety. It should also not be taken if pregnant or using blood thinners.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Constant overwhelm
- General anxiety
- Fast heart rate
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Mood swings
- Stress burnout/adrenal fatigue
BUT IT DOESN’T END THERE…
Like so many other herbs out there, passion flower is not limited to benefits exclusive to anxiety and sleep. In fact, both studies and traditional knowledge reveal that this fascinating vine could be capable of that and so much more.
- DEPRESSION – Alongside anxiety and sleep improvement, passion flower was also historically used for depression. A preliminary 2014 study on mice does show that the plant has very promising anti-depressant-like effects.
- BLOOD PRESSURE – Passion flower fruits are high in antioxidants, which can have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and inflammation in the body. A 2013 study of mice found that the plant could indeed lower blood pressure in those with hypertension due to free radical protection.
- MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS – While hormone therapy may help with some of the complications of menopause, it is surmised that passion flower could help with its more specific symptoms – namely mood swings, anxiety, and depression. A 2010 study found that passion flower was helpful for menopause symptoms of depression in women, and was just as effective as St. John’s Wort.
ENHANCE THE POWERS OF PASSION FLOWER WITH OTHER HERBS
Research shows that passion flower is not only promising but readily and demonstrably effective for helping with anxiety and sleeping problems.
And yet, studies also show that passion flower also tends to be a whole lot more effective with the help of other herbs with similar effects. And we couldn’t agree more.
We’ve included passion flower as just one of many herbs carefully hand-picked and selected to be in our Tranquil Mind formula, specifically formulated for support during times of stress, sleeplessness, anxiety, nervousness, and general unwellness that weighs not only on the body but the mind as well.
Try Tranquil Mind, not just for passion flower’s sleep and anxiety benefits—there are also adaptogenic, antioxidant, digestive, mood-boosting, and energy replenishing herbs like ashwagandha, schisandra, and gynostemma to be found. These help restore the body in the face of stress and anxiety, while regulating sleep to bring overall health and wellness back into balance.
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Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraonoa Low Dog, David Kiefer (2014). Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. National Geographic.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) (2016). Passionflower. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/passionflower
Ashpari, Zohra; Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD (2016). The Calming Effects of Passionflower. Healthline Media. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/calming-effects-of-passionflower#overview1
Josh Axe (2017). Passion Flower for Hot Flashes, Depression & Better Sleep. DrAxe.com. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/passion-flower/
Pinar Aslanargun, Ozgun Cuvas, Bayazit Dikmen, Eymen Aslan, Mustafa Ugur Yuksel (2012). Passiflora incarnata Linneaus as an anxiolytic before spinal anesthesia. Journal of Anesthesia 26(1) 39-44. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00540-011-1265-6
Kaviani, M. Tavakoli, M.R. Tabanmehr, R.A. Havaei (2013). The Efficacy of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus in Reducine Dental Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Periodontal Treatment. Journal of Dentistry (Shiraz) 14(2) 68-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977550/
Kurt Appel, Thorsten Rose, Bernd Fiebich, Thomas Kammler, Christine Hoffman, Gabriele Weiss (2010). Modulation of the y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system by Passiflora incarnata L. Phytotherapy Research 25(6) 838-843. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.3352/full
Ngan, R. Conduit (2011). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Investigation of the Effects of Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower) Herbal Tea on Subjective Sleep Quality. Phytotherapy Research 25(8) 1153-1159. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.3400/full
Niteeka Maroo, Avijit Hazra, Tapas Das (2013). Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: A randomized controlled trial. Indian Journal of Pharmacology 45(1) 34-39. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3608291/
Jafarpoor, S. Abbasi-Maleki, M. Asadi-Samani, M.H. Khayatnouri (2014). Evaluation of antidepressant-like effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Passiflora incarnate in animal models of depression in male mice. Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology 3. Retrieved from http://eprints.skums.ac.ir/4724/
Eliziane Mieko Konta, Mara Ribeiro Almeida, Cátia Lira do Amaral, Joana Darc Castania Darin, Veridiana V. de Rosso, Adriana Zerlotti Mercadante, Lusânia Meria Greggi Antunes, Maria Lourdes Pires Bianchi (2014). Evaluation of the Antihypertensive Properties of Yellow Passion Fruit Pulp (Passiflora edulis Sims f. flavicarpa Deg.) in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. Phytotherapy Research 28(1) 28-32. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.4949/full
Fariba Fahami, Zahra Asali, Abolfazl Aslani, Nahid Fathizadeh (2010). A comparative study on the effects of Hypericum Perforatum and passion flower on the menopausal symptoms of women referring to Isfahan city health care centers. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research 15(4) 202-207. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203277/
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