Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

The incredible flower of the passionflower is hard to miss — it’s showy display comes in so many vibrant color combinations there are entire textbooks dedicated to the many different types of passionflower.

This herb is one of the most reliable anxiolytic herbs in our arsenal.

The leaves and stems of the passionflower vine contain a series of MAO-inhibitor, GABAergic, and dopaminergic compounds that make it useful for many of the different underlying causes of anxiety and insomnia.

Passionflower is also an excellent muscle relaxant, hypotensive, and offers mild pain-killing effects for muscular pain.

Modern herbalists primarily use this herb in sleep formulas, and as a gentle anxiety aid for children or sensitive individuals.

Other Names for Passionflower

  • Maracuja
  • Granadilla
  • Maypop
  • Passiflora
  • Passionfruit

Herbal Actions of Passionflower

  • Analgesic
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antidepressant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anxiolytic
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Diuretic
  • Hypotensive
  • Nervine
  • Sedative
  • Vermifuge

What is Passionflower Used For?

Passionflower is used as a nervous system tonic for managing chronic stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

It’s gentle enough to use on children or frail individuals, but strong enough to provide a reliable set of benefits.

Some herbalists use passionflower as a mild antidepressant as well — mainly due to the MAO inhibitory effects.

Passionflower also offers notable muscle relaxant ability — which makes it great for athletes after a session at the gym. This effect, combined with the anxiolytic activity also makes it great for people who clench their jaws or experience tension headaches due to tight muscles in the shoulder and neck — especially when the source of the tension is stress-related.

Folklore & History of Passionflower

Passionflower use dates back to the Archaic period (8000-2000B.C). It’s thought to have been used as both a food and medicine for early civilizations in North & Central America.

Passionflower Side Effects & Safety

Passionflower is a very safe herb. There are rarely any side effects while using this herb. The most common side effect is sedation, which is also one of its benefits.

There have been several studies exploring the safety of using passionflower. One such study gave mice 2000 mg/kg of passionflower (this is way more than any reasonable dose), and there were no reported deaths or altered behavior.

There are some potential drug interactions with passionflower to pay attention to.

The MAO inhibitory effects of passionflower mean it could interact with drugs such as the benzodiazepines, SSRIs, or SNRIs.

How Much Passionflower Do I Use?

The most common method of using this herb is in the form of a tea. Add a generous portion (2 – 3 grams) in a tea strainer, add water that hasn’t quite reached a boil (80 C) and cover (to limit evaporation of essential oils). Allow the tea to infuse for at least 10 minutes before drinking.

Tinctures can also be used. The dosage range for the standard 1:2 liquid extract of passionflower is 1 – 2 mL taken twice or three times per day.

The weekly dose of passionflower when making herbal blends is 15 – 40 mL.

Passionflower in Medical Research

1. Jesse et al., (2015) Chronic unpredictable mild stress decreases BDNF and NGF levels and Na+, K+-ATPase activity in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of mice: Antidepressant effect of chrysin.Neuroscience, 289, 367-380.

2. de Souza et al., (2011) Effect of repeated restraint stress and clomipramine on Na+/K+-ATPase activity and behavior in rats.International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 29(8), 909-916.

3. Nicolls et al., (1973) Passicol, an antibacterial and antifungal agent produced by Passiflora plant species: qualitative and quantitative range of activity.Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 3(1), 110-117.

4. Ramaiya et al., (2014) Assessment of total phenolic, antioxidant, and antibacterial activities of Passiflora species.The Scientific World Journal, 2014.

5. Quinton et al., (2007) Neurotoxic effects of chronic restraint stress in the striatum of methamphetamine-exposed rats.Psychopharmacology, 193(3), 341-350.

6. Yao et al., (2014) Chrysin protects against focal cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury in mice through attenuation of oxidative stress and inflammation.International journal of molecular sciences, 15(11), 20913-20926.

7. Miroddi et al., (2013) Passiflora incarnata L.: ethnopharmacology, clinical application, safety and evaluation of clinical trials.Journal of ethnopharmacology, 150(3), 791-804.

8. Livea et al., (2014) Antioxidants and sensory properties of the infusions of wild passiflora from Brazilian savannah: potential as functional beverages.Society of Chemical Industry. 2014. Online. Doi,

9. Grundmann et al., (2008), Anxiolytic activity of a phytochemically characterized Passiflora incarnata extract is mediated via the GABAergic system.Planta medica, 74(15), 1769-1773.

10. Sundaram et al., (2013) Evaluation of protective role of Ocimum sanctum leaf extract in excitotoxicity-induced neurobehavioral deficits based on specific changes in the structure of feeding behavior, diuretic and anxiety paradigms in female rats.Journal of Medical Sciences, 13(3), 182.

11. Sasikala et al., (2011) Analgesic and anti–inflammatory activities of Passiflora foetida L.Asian Pacific journal of tropical medicine, 4(8), 600-603.

12. Karaki et al., (1986) Inhibition of calcium channels by harmaline and other harmala alkaloids in vascular and intestinal smooth muscles.British journal of pharmacology, 89(2), 367-375.

13. Akhondzadeh et al., (2001) Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: A pilot double‐blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam.Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 26(5), 363-367.

14. Song et al., (2015) The neuroprotective effect of maltol against oxidative stress on rat retinal neuronal cells.Korean Journal of Ophthalmology, 29(1), 58-65.

15. Ulmer et al., (2004), Passiflora: passionflowers of the world.Portland, Or.: Timber Press 430p.-illus., col. illus.. ISBN, 881926485.

16. Neha Rani et al., (2015) Inhibition of TGF-β by a novel PPAR-γ agonist, chrysin, salvages β-receptor stimulated myocardial injury in rats through MAPKs-dependent mechanism.Nutrition and Metabolism. DOI 10.1186/s12986-015-0004-7 Retrieved from the web.

17. Elsas et al., (2010) Passiflora incarnata L.(Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method.Phytomedicine, 17(12), 940-949.

18. Kasala et al., (2015) Chemopreventive and therapeutic potential of chrysin in cancer: mechanistic perspectives.Toxicology letters, 233(2), 214-225.

19. Dhawan et al., (2002) Antitussive activity of the methanol extract of Passiflora incarnata leaves.Fitoterapia, 73(5), 397-399.

20. Nassiri-Asl et al., (2007) Anticonvulsant effects of aerial parts of Passiflora incarnata extract in mice: involvement of benzodiazepine and opioid receptors.BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 7(1), 26.

21. Wolfman et al., (1994) Possible anxiolytic effects of chrysin, a central benzodiazepine receptor ligand isolated from Passiflora coerulea.Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 47(1), 1-4.

22. Zanoli et al., (2000) Behavioral characterisation of the flavonoids apigenin and chrysin.Fitoterapia, 71, S117-S123.

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