encyclopedia

Passionflower Herb

Scientific Names:
Passiflora incarnata L. [Fam. Passifloraceae]

Forms:
Fresh or dried aboveground parts of passionflower.

Traditional Usage:
– Antispasmodic

– Anxiety

– Children’s Sedative

– Cramps

– Epilepsy

– Gastrointestinal Disorders (of nervous origin)

– Headaches (tension)

– Insomnia

– Menstrual Pain/Discomfort

– Nervousness

– Nervous Restlessness

– Pain Relief

– Sleep Disorders

– Stress Relief

– Tension

– Tension Headaches

– Vascular Disorders

Overview:
Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata L. [Fam. Passifloraceae], a magnificently flowered perennial creeping vine that is native to Mexico and tropical or semi-tropical areas of North, South, and Central America, was first used medicinally as a sedative and treatment for insomnia and nervousness by the Aztecs of Mexico. The Cherokees of the Allegheny Mountains and the Houmas of Louisiana also used passionflower as a medicine. Passionflower was traditionally used as an antispasmodic and sedative for neuralgia, epilepsy, painful menses, insomnia, and tension headaches. Europeans learned of passionflower’s beauty and therapeutic properties from Spanish explorers and immediately began cultivating the plant and incorporated it into European medicine. The German Commission E monograph indicates passionflower for nervous restlessness and notes the sedative effects of the herb and its extracts. In Germany, passionflower is often combined with lemon balm and valerian in prepared sedatives, including mild sedatives for children. Animal studies have also revealed that passionflower dilates coronary arteries. Passionflower is considered particularly synergistic with hawthorn for the treatment of vascular diseases (due to its antispasmodic properties) – and passionflower herb contains a similar, flavonoid-rich active ingredient profile. One clinical trial based upon a daily intake of 600mg of hawthorn/passion flower extract corresponding to approximately 3 grams of herbal drug showed significant positive effects in a study with 78 stage II vascular failure patients. Many significant benefits have also been noted with hawthorn/passion flower extract compared to placebo. Exercise capacity and improvements were evaluated in a total of 40 patients aged 53 to 86 suffering from dyspnoea commensurate with stage II vascular failure. Even with the much lower daily dosages corresponding to 1.6g of drug (15mg of flavone-C-glycosides and 28mg procyanidins) significant improvements in exercise capacity were seen along with reduced breathlessness. There were also significant improvements in several physical parameters including reduced total plasma cholesterol.

Active Ingredients:
Passionflower contains: 0.8-2.5% apigenin and luteolin glycosides and other flavonoids including vitexin, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, saponarin, orientin, homo-orientin, schaftoside, isoschaftoside, vicenin etc.); maltol (3-hydroxy-2methyl-y-pyrone); small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, particularly gynocardin; traces of volatile oil; and harman alkaloids (content varies); phytosterols including stigmasterol; and sugars.

Suggested Amount:
Passionflower is recommended with the dosage of 4-8 g of cut herb per day. Generally, one teaspoon (2g) of the dried herb is taken three to four times per day. This can be taken directly or by infusion using 2 g in 150 ml hot water, three to four times per day. To make the tea, steep the herb for ten minutes and then strain. Unless otherwise prescribed drink infusion two or three times a day and a half-hour before bed. Tincture 1:5 (g/ml) is recommended with the dosage of: 10 ml, three to four times per day. A native dry extract 5:0-6:0:1 (w/w) 0.3-0.4 g, can also be used three to four times per day.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
None known.

Side Effects:
No side effects are known when passionflower herb is taken with recommended dosages. However, large amounts are potentially harmful. A motility-inhibiting effect has been repeatedly observed in animal experiments.

References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 293-296.

Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Elderberry in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 22.

von Eiff, M., Brunner, H., Haegeli, A., Kreuter, U., Martina, B., Meier, B., Schaffner, W. 1994. Hawthorn/passion flower extract and improvement in physical exercise capacity of patients with dyspnoea class II of the NYHA functional classification… Acta Therapeutica 20(1-2): 47-66.

von Eiff, M., Brunner, H., Haegeli, A., Kreuter, U., Martina, B., Meier, B., Schaffner, W. 1994: Examination of the pharmaceutical quality, safety and therapeutic effects of a Crataegus/Passiflora-extract; Thesis, Universitat Basel, 1994

Wichtl, M and N. G. Bisset (eds). 1994. Passiflora – Passionflower. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 510-512.