The Health Benefits of Passion Flower

What Are the Health Benefits of Passion Flower?

The Health Benefits of Passion Flower

Passion flower is the common name of any one of the approximately 400 species of the plant genus Passiflora.

Native to warm climates in North and South America, many species are now cultivated around the world for their colorful flowers and tasty fruit. Passion flower is also known for its therapeutic benefits.

For hundreds of years, people used it as an herbal sedative, stress reducer, sleep aid, and many other applications.

History and Etymology

Natives of both North and South America used passion flower for food, drink, and therapeutic purposes for hundreds of years before the plant was first introduced to European explorers. By the 18th century, passion flower gained popularity in Europe as a remedy for epilepsy and insomnia. Today, the plant is cultivated worldwide.

With a name “passion flower,” you might think the plant was traditionally used as some sort of aphrodisiac, horny goat weed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The “passion” in passion flower actually refers to the passion of Christ.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish missionaries in Peru saw the unusual flower as a symbol of the crucifixion.

The blue and white colors of the flower were thought to stand for heaven and purity, the radial filaments symbolized the crown of thorns, and the tendrils represented Roman whips.

Passion Flower Species

The genus Passiflora contains over 500 different species, many of which are hybrids. Passiflora incarnata is the species most appreciated for its therapeutic benefits. Also known as maypop, P. incarnata is native to the southern United States but used throughout the world.

Passiflora edulis

Passiflora edulis is a South American species widely cultivated for its fruit. While many species of Passiflora bear edible fruit, P. edulis is the one that bears “passion fruit.” Passion fruit comes in two forms — the standard purple fruit and a yellow variety.

Passiflora alata

Passiflora alata, also known as wing-stem passion flower or fragrant granadilla, is another South American species. It’s known for its therapeutic applications and prized for its fruit. It’s earned the British Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit, a prestigious distinction of excellence in the gardening world.

Passiflora quadrangularis

Passiflora quadrangularis, also known as giant granadilla, produces the largest fruits (about the size of a football) of all Passiflora. These fruits are used in desserts, juice, and medicine. The leaves are made into tea and poultices.

Health Benefits of Passion Flower

In the United States, passion flower is regarded as alternative or complementary medicine, but it has more mainstream acceptance around the world, particularly in Europe.

The plant is listed in the European Pharmacopoeia, a book that provides Europe’s legal and scientific standards for medicine. In Germany, P. incarnata is approved for nervous restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety-related gastrointestinal concerns.

All the above-ground parts of the plant — the stem, flowers, and particularly the leaves — are thought to be helpful.

Promotes a Balanced Mood

Passion flower is best known for its relaxing and calming effects. Multiple human and animal studies have confirmed it's effective at supporting a balanced mood without harmful side effects. Studies have found that while prescription medications work faster, they also produce concerns, including dizziness and job-related impairment. Passion flower is far more gentle.[1]

Combining passion flower with other calming herbs can increase its potency. A randomized, placebo-controlled study revealed that a combination of passion flower, valerian, and St. John’s wort had positive effects on mood without causing cognitive impairment.[2]

Promotes Restful Sleep

Passion flower is commonly used to support restful sleep and the evidence to support this use isn’t just anecdotal. Multiple studies confirm the plant's ability to help you get a good night’s rest.[3] In 2011, a double-blind investigation found that participants who drank passion flower tea reported better sleep quality than the placebo group.[4]

Effect on Involuntary Muscle Contractions

Some studies have found that passion flower extract delays the onset and decreases the duration of involuntary muscle contractions.

Interestingly, it also seems to reduce unhappy feelings after involuntary muscle contraction episodes whereas standard treatments tend to increase them.

No conclusions can be drawn at this time but further research could uncover hope for those who suffer from involuntary muscle contractions and irregular electrical activity in the brain.[5]

May Ease the Symptoms of Withdrawal

Passion flower may provide gentle relief for symptoms of withdrawal. A double-blind, randomized study found that a daily serving of passion flower extract helped address both physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal. What’s more, the extract had no detrimental side effects.[6]

Many smokers start and fail cessation programs because they can’t overcome the nicotine withdrawal. Can passion flower help? Animal studies have found that administration of passion flower extract reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms. More research is necessary to determine if these effects carry over to humans.[7, 8]

Other Health Benefits

Passion flower offers many more potential benefits. A compound isolated from passion flower extract was found to have aphrodisiac effects in mice. Recent animal testing also hints that P. incarnata promotes balanced blood sugar, a property that traditional Ayurvedic medicine has known for years.[5]

Further, research suggests that passion flower could help promote comfort, respiratory health, digestive health, balanced blood sugar, and even attention and focus.[9, 10] Laboratory testing has found that passion flower extract may enhance the absorption and effectiveness of some types of medicine.[9] If even half of these abilities prove effective, the therapeutic benefits could be huge.

Passion Flower Active Components

Different species of passion flower contain similar, but chemically distinct, compounds. With so many species, identifying the exact components that account for passion flower's health benefits can be somewhat difficult. And, despite intense investigation, the source of its calming properties is still up for speculation.

One theory attributes credit to a particular alkaloid compound in the plant. The many species of Passiflora contain many different alkaloid compounds and the most studied is harmine.

Harmine is a beta-carboline alkaloid known to possess a variety of pharmacological effects.

It helps slow the breakdown of neurotransmitters, improves insulin sensitivity, relaxes blood vessels, encourages bone health, and supports a balanced mood.[5]

Passion flower is also host to several flavonoids including apigenin, orientin, swertiamarin, quercetin, kaempferol, vitexin, and chrysin.

Any one of, or combination of, these phytochemicals could contribute to the plant's therapeutic effects.

[9] Flavonoids are a large group of phytochemicals that have been analyzed for neuroprotective activity. They also exhibit soothing, equilibrium-seeking effects.[11]

One other possible mechanism of action could be gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it helps induce relaxation and sleep. It’s produced naturally in the brain.

Research finds that passion flower may boost GABA levels and promote relaxation. Due to the variation of passion flower species and methods of passion flower administration, these findings are not yet conclusive.


Passion Flower Side Effects and Safety

When used as recommended, passion flower is considered safe for most people. However, adverse effects may result from taking extremely large servings. Do not combine passion flower with sedatives drugs or alcohol. The combination can magnify their effects and cause dizziness or confusion.

Pregnant women should also avoid passion flower. One animal study found it may contribute to uterine contractions. Whether this effect carries over to humans is still unknown but exercising caution seems appropriate.[5] Always consult a trusted health care practitioner before starting a new supplement routine.

Available Forms of Passion Flower

There are several ways to consume passion flower. The fruit can be eaten raw or made into juice, jams, dessert toppings, and smoothies. The leaves, flowers, and stem can be dried or used to make powders, tinctures, infusions, and extracts.

Passion flower herbal tea is popular and frequently used as a sleep aid. Passion flower can also be found in nutritional supplements, both by itself and blended with other botanicals.

Because of its support for balanced mood, Global Healing incorporates passion flower into our brain and mood support supplement NeuroFuzion®.

The first Americans knew of the mood-supporting, sleep-enhancing powers of passion flower. Now, we are rediscovering these benefits and more. If you have experience unhappiness or restless sleep, passion flower might be worth a try.

References (11)

  1. Akhondzadeh, S, et al. “Passionflower in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety: A Pilot Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial with Oxazepam.”>Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics., vol. 26, no. 5, 27 Oct. 2001, pp. 363–7. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.
  2. Dimpfel, Wilfried, et al. “Early Effect of NEURAPAS®balance on Current Source Density (CSD) of Human EEG.”>BMC Psychiatry, vol. 11, no. 1, 2 Aug. 2011.
  3. L, Krenn. “[Passion Flower (Passiflora Incarnata L.)—a Reliable Herbal Sedative].” Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (1946), vol. 152, no. 15-16, 1 Jan. 2002, pp. 404–406. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.
  4. Ngan, A., and R. Conduit. “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Investigation of the Effects of Passiflora Incarnata (Passionflower) Herbal Tea on Subjective Sleep Quality.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 25, no. 8, 3 Feb. 2011, pp. 1153–1159.
  5. Braun, Lesley, and Marc Cohen. Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide: Volume 2. Australia, Churchill Livingstone, 21 Nov. 2014. Print.
  6. “Passionflower in the Treatment of Opiates Withdrawal: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics., vol. 26, no. 5, 27 Oct. 2001, pp. 369–73. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.
  7. Dhawan, K, et al. “Nicotine Reversal Effects of the Benzoflavone Moiety from Passiflora Incarnata Linneaus in Mice.” Addiction Biology., vol. 7, no. 4, 28 Oct. 2003, pp. 435–41. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.
  8. Breivogel, C, and B Jamerson. “Passion Flower Extract Antagonizes the Expression of Nicotine Locomotor Sensitization in Rats.” Pharmaceutical Biology., vol. 50, no. 10, 10 Aug. 2012, pp. 1310–6. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.
  9. Enna, S. J., and Stata Norton. «Herbal Supplements and the Brain: Understanding Their Health Benefits and Hazards.»  Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT, 2012. Print.
  10. Akhondzadeh, Shahin, et al. “Passiflora Incarnata in the Treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents.” Therapy, vol. 2, no. 4, July 2005, pp. 609–614.
  11. “Flavonoids.” Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University, Nov. 2015. Accessed 29 Dec. 2016.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.



8 Impressive Benefits of Passionflower Tea

The Health Benefits of Passion Flower

Passionflower tea boasts many different benefits which may include the ability to reduce anxiety, treat sleep disorders, prevent depression, ease menopausal symptoms, stimulate libido, curb drug addiction, heal the skin, and lower blood pressure, among others.

What is Passionflower Tea?

The primary species used to make passionflower tea is taxonomically known as Passiflora incarnata, but there are more than 500 different species of passionflowers and vines that grow around the world. The plant is also known commonly as maypop. Passionflower tea has been used in North and South America for centuries, but was eventually introduced to European markets and is now globally sought after.

The flowers, leaves, and stems of this plant are all good for different medicinal applications, but the tea is brewed specifically with the leaves.

Most of the health benefits of passionflower tea are the result of significant levels of harmine, flavonoids, and organic acids, such as linolenic, palmitic, and myristic acid, as well as various amino acids, coumarins, and other antioxidants. [1]

What is Passionflower Tea Good For?

Passionflower tea is good for treating insomnia, anxiety, addiction, high blood pressure, eczema, psoriasis, depression, menopause, menstrual discomfort, infertility, and other inflammatory conditions.

Passionflower tea has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Aid in Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause can be a difficult and stressful time in life, resulting in mood swings, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, and sleeplessness. The sedative and soothing effects of passionflower tea can help balance your neurotransmitters, and also stimulate the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is known to improve mood and regulate hormones. [2]

May Chronic Stress and Depression

The phytochemicals and alkaloids found in passionflower tea, such as quercetin and kaempferol, are known to improve mood and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. This can keep you feeling energized and positive, relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. [3]

May Aid in Skin Conditions

Traditional use of passionflower tea includes its application for rashes, burns, irritation or inflammation of the skin. This can come in many forms, from eczema and psoriasis to acne, burns, and allergic reactions. The topical application of this tea is not common, but a powerful brew can have notable effects in treating these conditions. [4]

May Reduce Inflammation

Reducing inflammation throughout the body is what many organic acids and antioxidants are best at, and the compounds found in passionflower tea are no exception.

This tea has long been recommended for joint disorders and arthritis, as well as gout, hemorrhoids, and inflammation of the gut.

These soothing active ingredients can help relieve symptoms of indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping, as well as chronic inflammation caused by free radical activity. [5]

May Increase Sex Drive

If you want to increase your libido, this tea might be the secret, as it can increase the production of testosterone in the body, giving men a reproductive boost, not only increase sex drive but also virility and fertility.

May Improve Heart Health

The potential blood pressure-lowering qualities of passionflower tea are well known and may be the result of a specific antioxidant compound known as edulilic acid.

By treating hypertension, this tea can help prevent atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease, and generally, reduce the strain on the cardiovascular system.

This effect can also help relieve headaches and migraines, by reducing the pressure and inflammation in capillaries near the temples. [6]

May Act As A Remedy for Sleep Disorders

This herbal tea has long been used to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia or restlessness at night. By possibly impacting the neurotransmitter levels in the brain with flavonoids and other phytochemicals, you can enjoy a full night of undisturbed sleep and a refreshed feeling in the morning! [7]

May Help  Curb Addiction

Some people have turned to passionflower tea to curb drug addiction, by soothing the symptoms of withdrawal, improving mood and reducing anxiety. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence points to passionflower tea’s potential ability to reduce nicotine cravings, making it important for those trying to quit smoking. [8]

How Do You Make Passionflower Tea?

If you want to brew passionflower tea at home, all you need is dried or fresh passionflower leaves and hot water, in addition to any sweeteners you may desire.

Dried leaves can either be crushed into a powder to infuse in the tea, or the leaves can be placed in an infuser or tea strainer.

Fresh leaves can also be used to brew this tea, in which case about a 1/4 cup of the leaves is required for a strong brew.

  • 5 grams powdered dried passionflower leaves or
  • 1/4 cup fresh passionflower leaves
  • 2 cups water filtered
  • honey optional
  • Add the powdered passionflower leaves to a stainless steel pot.
  • Add water and bring the water up to a boil. Let the leaves simmer for 10 minutes. If you want the tea stronger, let it simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and cool, then strain the tea into a teapot or mug.
  • Add honey or sugar, if desired, and enjoy!

You may notice that some sediment from the powder will be at the bottom of the cup, which is normal. 

Side Effects of Passionflower Tea

For all the benefits of this herbal tea, there are also quite a few side effects, including vomiting, nausea, stomach upset, cognitive distress, drowsiness, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, hypotension, and muscle spasms. However, these side effects are rare, and mainly affect people allergic to members of the Passiflora genus, or people who consume an excessive amount of this tea.

While most of these side effects are the result of drinking an excessive amount of this tea, you should still monitor your use and reaction to this tea carefully. [11]

  • Pregnancy: One of the stimulant properties of this powerful tea affects uterine contractions, which can be very dangerous for pregnant women, and can even result in miscarriages or premature labor. Breastfeeding women are also advised not to consume this beverage, as it can pass along potent chemicals to their child.
  • Cognitive Confusion: Common side effects of drinking large quantities of passionflower tea include dizziness, lack of coordination, mental confusion, and anxiety. If you experience any of these side effects, discontinue use and avoid operating motor vehicles or taking any physical risks.
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Nausea, vomiting, bloating and cramping have been reported when high levels of this tea are consumed, as the active components can cause inflammation in the gut.
  • Blood Pressure: Being able to lower blood pressure is a benefit to heart health, but in combination with other blood pressure-lowering medications, it can be dangerous, resulting in fainting, lightheadedness, drowsiness, and muscle weakness.
  • Sedation: The sedative properties of this tea are highly praised, but they can also cause negative reactions with certain medications, such as anti-depressant, antispasmodic, and anti-anxiety medications, resulting in highly intensified sedative effects. If you are prescribed any of these medications, speak with your doctor before adding passionflower tea to your daily or weekly health regimen.


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