Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as passionflower, is a climbing plant that is native to the tropics and occurs naturally from Missouri to Virginia, Arkansas, and Florida.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
The plant brings forth large, beautiful purplish flowers with prominent stamens and styles. These flowers are not only intricately shaped but also have many health benefits including helping calm anxious people and insomniacs.
Indigenous Americans were the first people to discover and successfully use the passionflower to deal with anxiety and insomnia. Soon, settlers got wind of the wonderful plant used by locals to help people deal with frayed nerves and lack of sleep.
With time, passionflower became a renowned sedative and was marketed as a perfect sleep aid in the US until 1978 when it was discouraged by authorities for lack of proof that it was effective. Since then, the passionflower has been studied and tested to find out its full potential in helping with anxiety and insomnia.
While the ride to fame for passionflower seemed to have been stopped or slowed down, the setback was only temporary. Recently, passionflower supplements have been gaining traction as more people turn to natural cures to avoid or deal with negative side-effects associated with pharmaceutical products.
At a basic level, passionflower is known to contain flavonoids such as benzoflavone and chrysin. These are said to be the primary components that reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
Benzoflavone and chrysin are said to be highly effective in enhancing the amount of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a naturally-occurring amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Normally, neurotransmitters work as messengers. Specifically, GABA functions as an inhibitor by blocking certain brain signals or impulses which reduces activity in the nervous system thus effectively promoting a sense of calmness and inducing sleep.
Surprisingly, benzoflavone and chrysin in passionflowers are said to be as effective as prescription anti-anxiety drugs commonly known as benzodiazepines. In 2007, a study involving 198 participants compared the effectiveness of passionflower and basic prescription drugs used to reduce anxiety. The study concluded that extracts from the flower were as effective as the drugs. However, the study noted that since it involved a small number of participants, more research was required to make better conclusions about the plant.
In another study published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, participants who took a dose of an herbal infusion made from passionflower reported improvements in their sleep pattern after 7 days. Drawing from these results, researchers concluded that passionflower was great in assisting adults suffering from insomnia fall and stay asleep.
Judging from the above studies, passionflower is great at resolving anxiety and insomnia. However, research is ongoing to find out the full effects of passionflower against anxiety, insomnia and other health problems affecting humanity.