When Europeans came to the New World over 500 years ago, the passionflower was already a well-established crop. Passionflowers provided many native cultures with food and medicine.
Spanish explorers first reported seeing the plant in 1569. William Strachy, one of the early settlers at Jamestown, described the native crop this way… “[it] hath manie azurine or blew kamells, like as a pomegranet, and yet bloometh a most sweet and delicate flower…”
It didn’t take the Europeans long to add passionflower to their medicine chest.
Passion Flower Quickly Became a Popular Way To Promote Feelings of Calm
For many years, passionflower was popular with doctors, too. Not long ago, I found an article from a 1946 medical journal. The author wrote passionflower was well-studied and eased “tenseness, restlessness and irritability with difficulty in falling asleep.” 1
But passionflower slowly fell out of fashion. In 1978, the U.S. government restricted its use, claiming it wasn’t well-studied or proven effective.
Today, passionflower is making a comeback. And if you ever feel nervous or stressed, that’s good news. Because studies show it promotes general calm – without side effects.
In one study, doctors in India gave passionflower extract to a group of patients suffering from generalized anxiety. They gave oxazepam – a popular anti-anxiety drug – to a second group.
After just 4 weeks, the passionflower group felt much calmer. In fact, passionflower extract worked as well as the drug.2
A recent hospital study looked at passionflower’s effect on patients awaiting surgery. Doctors gave some patients passionflower 90 minutes before they were scheduled for surgery. A second group took a placebo.
The passionflower group felt calmer and more relaxed going into surgery. But the second group didn’t feel any calmer.3
Even more interesting, the passionflower group felt calm… but not drowsy.
The reason that’s so interesting is that passionflower is a traditional sleep remedy. So you’d think it should make you drowsy. But it doesn’t.
Passionflower works through a process called the “GABAergic system.” 4
GABA – gamma-aminobutyric acid – is a chemical that calms brain cells. GABA literally makes your nerve cells less active. Not less alert… just less active.
When GABA hits your brain, it’s like taking your foot off the gas pedal. Your car keeps running, but it slows down. That’s the reaction passionflower triggers by promoting higher GABA levels.
This quieting action helps people get to sleep. And a brand new study published in Phytotherapy Research found it’s very effective.5
Passionflower’s gentle action makes it a good choice for promoting feelings of calm and relaxation. It doesn’t leave you feeling ”spacey” or out of control. And it doesn’t make you drowsy.
Passionflower Makes You Calmer and Less Stressed… Gently, Naturally and Safely
You can take passionflower as a tea, a tincture or an extract.
To drink it as a tea, use 2.5 grams of leaves steeped in one cup of boiling water for five minutes. For added convenience, you can simply buy passion flower tea bags. If you’re going through hard times, or having trouble sleeping, you can drink up to 3 or 4 cups throughout the day.
Tinctures and extracts come in a small bottle with an eye dropper, which you can put in a glass of water or other beverage.
You can usually find passionflower tea at your local health food store. Or you can go online. Amazon.com has the tea, tincture and extract all at reasonable prices.
1 Krenn, L., “Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata L.)–a reliable herbal sedative,” Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (1946) 10.1046/j.1563-258X.2002.02062.x.
2 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. Oct 2001; 26(5): 363-367.
3 Movafegh, A., et al, “Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” Anesth Analg. Jun 2008; 106(6): 1728-1732.
4 Ngan, A. and Conduit, R., “A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Investigation of the Effects of Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower) Herbal Tea on Subjective Sleep Quality,” Phytotherapy Research. Aug 2011; 25(8) 1153–1159.
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