Herbal Nerd Society Exclusive Article

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a beautiful flowering vine native to the Americas. It was a popular remedy for wounds and bruises among the FIrst Nations people of the Eastern United States for centuries due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Currently, passionflower is more often used as a sedative, anti-spasmodic and anxiety reducer in Western formulas. The formula that passionflower plays a starring role in is for sleep.

The tincture is often made with alcohol menstruum such as vodka or gin or brandy for home use. It is made either with fresh vine at the budding stage or with some dry added to strengthen it’s potency. This plant has a musky odor that does not transfer into most tinctures unless they are infused for more than a few months. It is easily dried and added to tea blends or capsule formulas or made into syrups.

Passionflower blends well with other herbs for insomnia. Noted herbalist David Winston, wrote in his book Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulasthat passionflower is “…useful for anxiety, insomnia, nervous or occipital headaches, neuralgia, teething children, muscle/nerve pain, facial tics, pelvic and spasmodic pain.” With this broad reach, it is clear why passionflower is so popular with western herbalists for nerve related issues. It is commonly combined with valerian, hops, skullcap, milky oats, chamomile, kava kava, Jamacian dogwood and crampbark. Depending on the formula, it can be combine successfully with hawthorn or motherwort for anxiety that elevates blood pressure.

Dosage can vary depending on the formula. It is considered a high dose herb. Even in its most potent form, a single plant tincture, can be safely taken at 30 to 100 mg (depending on body weight) per day. Passionflower, unlike other sedatives does not have a history of making the patient groggy the morning following its dose. This makes it a safer and thus, preferred herb for use of a wide spectrum of patient ages and conditions. As with any sedative, it is important to use it responsibly. Passionflower is best for short term use. The need for long term use for sleeplessness should be accompanied by other therapies to respond to the root cause of the difficulty in falling asleep.

Counter-indications: Lobelia is counter-indicated for use with prescription sedatives such as pentobarbital, phenobarbital, secobarbital , clonazepam, lorazepam, or zolpidem. Common side effects can include nausea, dizziness or sleepiness. Discontinue use of this and other herbal sedatives two weeks before undergoing surgery as it will increase the effectiveness of anesthesia. As always, do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breast feeding without first consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner.


Further Research

Science Direct: Passionflower

Cochrane Library: Passiflora for Anxiety Disorders

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: Passionflower

Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics – Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam