Passionflower is a beautiful, exotic looking plant that's known for its soothing effects on body and mind. The medicinal benefits of passion flower weren't widely recognized until the 19th century, but it's been used by native people groups of North and South America for centuries.
The common name "passion flower" comes from Spanish missionaries who thought that it resembled a crucifix. It became symbolic of the whole crucifixion story of Jesus Christ, which is also referred to as "the Passion."
Here's more about this unique plant and the health benefits of passion flower.
What Is Passion Flower?
Passionflower is native to the more tropical regions of the U.S., mainly southeastern states. It has also been widely grown and used in South America for thousands of years.
There are many different species of passion flower, but the one used for its medicinal benefits is Passiflora incarnate. It goes by other names like maypop and wild apricot and is the state wildflower of Tennessee.
Passionflower is a perennial vine that grows fairly quickly and is drought-tolerant. It blooms with large and striking flowers that are typically blue-purple. An egg-shaped fruit will develop that ripens from green to yellow and is eaten by both humans and wildlife.
Although the herb is referred to as passion flower, all parts of the plant can be used for health benefits. Most often the leaves, stems, and flowers are used, but the roots have also seen frequent use in traditional medicine practices.
For at home use, you'll likely want to use the dried herb to make a tea. It works well with several other herbs, especially chamomile.
Top Benefits of Passion Flower
Passion flower is perhaps most well-known at this point because of its benefits for more restful sleep.
It can have a calming and mild sedative-like effect that promotes more restful sleep for both adults and children. Passionflower seems to be especially suited for those who are prevented from sleeping by racing and repetitive thoughts.
One study confirmed the traditional use of passionflower tea as a sleep aid. It was tested versus a placebo in a small study of 41 participants. Overall, those who took the passion flower tea rated their sleep significantly better than those drank the placebo tea. (1)
Although beneficial on its own as a tea, passionflower also combines well with other herbs for sleep like chamomile, valerian root, and lemon balm. Try its soothing nature for yourself in this Sweet Slumber herbal tea.
May Help Anxiety
Another traditional use for passionflower is to relieve anxiety and calm the mind. In fact, this is one of the reasons it can help with sleep- by lowering anxiety and promoting relaxation.
Passion flower is known by herbalists as a nervine, which means that it can calm and soothe the nervous system. (2) Its gentle nature and pleasant taste also makes it an often-used remedy for children dealing with anxiety or nervousness.
The benefits of passion flower for anxiety are thought to come because it causes an increase of gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can prevent over-excitement and have a calming effect. (3)
So far, studies seem to confirm its anti-anxiety effect. One found that passionflower extract reduced anxiety in patients who were about to have an operation. Another found that a combination of St. John's Wort, valerian root, and passionflower was effective and safe for calming nervous agitation in children. (4)(5)
May Provide Pain Relief
Passionflower is full of antioxidants and other compounds that have an anti-inflammatory effect. (6) It used to be used by traditional medicinal practitioners for pain-relief and inflammatory conditions like gout, arthritis, and joint disorders.
Because of its calming effects on the nervous system and its pain-relieving potential, passion flower can be especially beneficial for headache relief.
You can use it alone or with other herbs to make a tea that will soothe your stress and your head. Try it out in this ready-made Headache Releaf tea that's safe to use even during pregnancy.
Helps Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is a natural part of life but can be very difficult to get through for many women. It often comes with many unpleasant symptoms, but there are ways to find relief naturally.
Passion flower can help with symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, but it's especially beneficial for mood-related symptoms like anxiety, depression, and emotional mood swings. This is likely due to its calming effect on your nervous system and ability to increase GABA levels. (7)
Few studies have been done so far but a small study did provide evidence that passionflower can help decrease several symptoms of menopause, especially when participants got to the third week of taking it. (8)
Soothing to Stomach and Skin
Other traditional uses for passion flower include using it as a poultice to cover wounds and internally to calm muscle spasms in the digestive tract. (2)
Using the tea as a wash or using passionflower seed oil may also help with skin issues like acne, rashes, and eczema. To calm your stomach and digestion, you can use it as a simple tea or combine with other herbs like peppermint.
Using Passion Flower
If you live in a region where passion flower is a native plant, you'll have access to the fresh herb. Otherwise, you can easily buy it in the dried form.
Tinctures and extracts will give you a stronger dose, but for most benefits like sleep and stress-relief, passion flower tea is a good choice. Here's how to make it:
- Use 1-3 teaspoons of the dried herb per 8-10 ounces of water.
- Put the passionflower in a mug or glass jar and pour boiling water over it.
- Let the tea steep covered 15-20 minutes before straining out the herbs.
- You can add a natural sweetener like honey and drink the tea before bed or whenever you feel stressed.
- You can also add herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, or St. John's wort to further help with a calming effect.
There are few precautions or side effects with passion flower. Because it can have a mild sedative-like effect, it may cause sleepiness, dizziness, or confusion. Don't take passionflower along with any sedative medications.
Finding Your Calm Place
Passion flower is a beautiful herb for calming both body and mind. You can use it to help with sleep, to deal with a stressful day, and even to help with menopausal symptoms.
Suitable for children, this is a gentle and tasty herb that's well worth adding to your herbal arsenal. Try it out for yourself, and see what you think!