What is it?
Passionflower is used for sleep problems (insomnia), gastrointestinal (GI) upset related to anxiety or nervousness, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and relieving symptoms related to narcotic drug withdrawal.
Passionflower is also used for seizures, hysteria, asthma, symptoms of menopause, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness and excitability, palpitations, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and pain relief.
Some people apply passionflower to the skin for hemorrhoids, burns, and pain and swelling (inflammation).
In foods and beverages, passionflower extract is used as a flavoring.
In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered passionflower in Peru. They believed the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion and indicated his approval for their exploration. Passionflower is found in combination herbal products used as a sedative for promoting calmness and relaxation. Other herbs contained in these products include German chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap, and valerian.
Passionflower was formerly approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., but it was taken off the market in 1978 because safety and effectiveness had not been proven. However, passionflower may still be available alone or in combination with other herbal products.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for PASSIONFLOWER are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Anxiety. There is some evidence that passionflower can reduce symptoms of anxiety, sometimes as effectively as some prescription medications.
- Relieving symptoms related to narcotic drug withdrawal, when used in combination with a medication called clonidine. This combination seems to be effective in reducing symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, sleep problems (insomnia), and agitation. However, passionflower plus clonidine is no better than clonidine alone for physical symptoms such as tremor and nausea.
- Relieving symptoms of a psychiatric disorder known as “adjustment disorder with anxious mood” when used in a multi-ingredient product (Euphytose, EUP). Other herbs in the product are crataegus, ballota, and valerian, which have mild sedative effects, and cola and paullinia, which have stimulant effects. It’s not clear, though, which ingredient or ingredients in the mix are responsible for decreasing anxiety.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia). Some preliminary research suggests that drinking a passionflower tea an hour before bedtime might help improve feelings of sleep quality. However, this did not seem to improve the time it takes to fall asleep, the number of awakenings at night, or refreshed feelings upon awakening in the morning.
- Nervous stomach.
- Heart problems.
- High blood pressure.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Passionflower can cause some side effects such as dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle action and coordination, altered consciousness, and inflamed blood vessels. There has also been a report of nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, a rapid heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm in one person who took it.
There isn’t enough information to rate the safety of passionflower when applied to the skin.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t take passionflower if you are pregnant. It is UNSAFE. There are some chemicals in passionflower that might cause the uterus to contract.
Not enough is known about the safety of taking passionflower during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don’t use it.
Surgery: Passionflower can affect the central nervous system. It might increase the effects of anesthesia and other medications on the brain during and after surgery. Stop taking passionflower at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
- Passionflower may have blood pressure-lowering effects. Taking passionflower along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
- Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
- Passionflower might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking passionflower along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might cause sleepiness and drowsiness
- Passionflower can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Using it along with other herbs that have the same effect, might cause too much sleepiness and drowsiness. Some of these herbs and supplements include 5-HTP, calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John's wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
- Passionflower might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs or supplements that have the same effect might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Some of these herbs and supplements include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lycium, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
- For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD):
- 45 drops of passionflower liquid extract daily.
- A specific tablet formulation 90 mg/day has also been used.
- For reducing symptoms associated with narcotic drug withdrawal: 60 drops of passionflower liquid extract in combination with 0.8 mg of clonidine.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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