Carolinas HealthCare System

Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Herb

Search Health Information   

Passionflower

Also listed as: Passiflora incarnata; Maypop

Overview
Plant Description
Parts Used
Available Forms
 
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) was used traditionally in the Americas and later in Europe as a calming herb for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. It is still used today to treat anxiety and insomnia. Scientists believe passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed.

The effects of passionflower tend to be milder than valerian (Valeriana officinalis) or kava (Piper methysticum), 2 other herbs used to treat anxiety. Passionflower is often combined with valerian, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), or other calming herbs. Few scientific studies have tested passionflower as a treatment for anxiety or insomnia, however, and since passionflower is often combined with other calming herbs, it is difficult to tell what effects passionflower has on its own.

One study of 36 people with generalized anxiety disorder found that passionflower was as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms. However, the study lacked a placebo group, so it is not considered to be definitive. In another study of 91 people with anxiety symptoms, researchers found that an herbal European product containing passionflower and other herbal sedatives significantly reduced symptoms compared to placebo. A more recent study found that patients who were given passionflower before surgery had less anxiety, but recovered from anesthesia just as quickly, than those given placebo.

Plant Description

Native to southeastern parts of the Americas, passionflower is now grown throughout Europe. It is a perennial climbing vine with herbaceous shoots and a sturdy woody stem that grows to a length of nearly 10 meters (about 32 feet). Each flower has 5 white petals and 5 sepals that vary in color from magenta to blue. According to folklore, passionflower got its name because its corona resembles the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion. The passionflower's ripe fruit is an egg-shaped berry that may be yellow or purple. Some kinds of passionfruit are edible.

Parts Used

The above ground parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) of the passionflower are used for medicinal purposes.

Available Forms

Available forms include the following:

  • Infusions
  • Teas
  • Liquid extracts
  • Tinctures

How to Take It

Pediatric

No studies have examined the effects of passionflower in children, so do not give passionflower to a child without a doctor's supervision. Adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight.

Adult

The following are examples of forms and doses used for adults. Speak to your doctor for specific recommendations for your condition:

  • Tea: Steep 0.5 - 2 g (about 1 tsp.) of dried herb in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. For anxiety, drink 3 - 4 cups per day. For insomnia, drink one cup an hour before going to bed.
  • Fluid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol): 10 - 20 drops, 3 times a day
  • Tincture (1:5 in 45% alcohol): 10 - 45 drops, 3 times a day

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

For others, passionflower is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic in recommended doses.

Possible Interactions

Passionflower may interact with the following medications:

Sedatives (drugs that cause sleepiness) -- Because of its calming effect, passionflower may make the effects of sedative medications stronger. These medications include:

  • Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium)
  • Drugs for insomnia, such as zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), eszopiclone (Lunesta), ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil), amoxapine, doxepin (Sinequan), and nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Antiplatelets and anticoagulants (blood thinners) -- Passionflower may increase the amount of time blood needs to clot, so it could make the effects of blood thinning medications stronger and increase your risk of bleeding. Blood thinning drugs include:

  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Aspirin

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors or MAOIs) -- MAO inhibitors are an older class of antidepressants that are not often prescribed now. Theoretically, passionflower might increase the effects of MAO inhibitors, as well as their side effects, which can be dangerous. These drugs include:

  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)

Supporting Research

Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26(5):369-373.

Akhondzadeh S. Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26(5):369-373.

Barbosa PR, Valvassori SS, Bordignon CL Jr, Kappel VD, Martins MR, Gavioli EC, et al. The aqueous extracts of Passiflora alata and Passiflora edulis reduce anxiety-related behaviors without affecting memory process in rats. J Med Food. 2008 Jun;11(2):282-8.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:293-296.

Dhawan K, Kumar S, Sharma A. Anxiolytic activity of aerial and underground parts of Passifloraincarnata. Fitoterapia. 2001;72:922-6.

Dhawan K, Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001;78:165-70.

Elsas SM, Rossi DJ, Raber J, White G, Seeley CA, Gregory WL, Mohr C, Pfankuch T, Soumyanath A. Passionflora incarnata L. (Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(12):940-9.

Ernst E, ed. Passionflower. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Edinburgh: Mosby; 2001:140-141.

Grundmann O, Wang J, McGregor GP, Butterweck V. Anxiolytic Activity of a Phytochemically Characterized Passiflora incarnata Extract is Mediated via the GABAergic System. Planta Med. 2008 Dec;74(15):1769-73.

Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010;9:42.

Larzelere MM, Wiseman P. Anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Prim Care. 2002 Jun;29(2):339-60, vii. Review.

Miyasaka L, Atallah A, Soares B. Passiflora for anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD004518.

Movafegh A, Alizadeh R, Hajimohamadi F, Esfehani F, Nejatfar M. Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Anesth Analg. 2008 Jun;106(6):1728-32.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc; 2002;294-297.

Sarris J. Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Phytother Res. 2007 Aug;21(8):703-16. Review.

Soulimani R, Younos C, Jarmouni S, Bousta D, Misslin R, Mortier F. Behavioural effects of

Watson RR, Zibadi S, Rafatpanah H, Jabbari F, Ghasemi R, Ghafari J, et al. Oral administration of the purple passion fruit peel extract reduces wheeze and cough and improves shortness of breath in adults with asthma. Nutr Res. 2008 Mar;28(3):166-71.


Review Date: 6/23/2011
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
RELATED INFORMATION
Herbs with Similar Side Effects
View List by Side Effect
Herbs with Similar Uses
View List by Use
Herbs with Similar Warnings
View List by Warning
Uses of this Herb
Anxiety
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Insomnia
Seizure disorders
Drugs that Interact
Summary
Learn More About
Herbal medicine
About Carolinas HealthCare System
Who We Are
Leadership
Community Benefit
Corporate Financial Information
Diversity and Inclusion
Annual Report
Foundation
Patient Links
Pay Your Bill
Hospital Pre-Registration
Patient Rights
Privacy Policy
Financial Assistance
Quality & Value Reports
Insurance
Careers
Join Carolinas HealthCare System
Physician Careers

For Employees
Carolinas Connect
Connect with Us
Watch Carolinas HealthCare on YoutubeFollow Carolinas HealthCare on TwitterLike Carolinas HealthCare on FacebookContact Carolinas HealthCareJoin Carolinas HealthCare on LinkedInGo to our mobile website.