The dried flowers, leaves, and stems of passion flower are used to promote well-being, calm, and relaxation. The plant is traditionally used to fight anxiety and insomnia. When smoked, passion flower immediately causes feelings of sleepiness and is frequently used in herbal blends to cure insomnia.
Table of Contents
The passion flower is not only admired for its beauty and religious significance, but for its powerful sedative qualities.
Passiflora incarnata, also known as maypop, purple passion flower, true passion flower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, belongs to the Passifloraceae genus and is native to southern parts of America. It produces brilliant, showy flowers with a distinctive corona.
Traditionally used as a remedy for promoting calm and treating seizures, hysteria, and anxiety, passion flower is still renowned as a relaxant and sedative. It is used as a tea, supplement, and smokeable herb.
Passion flower was first used by the Aztecs of Mexico as a folk remedy for anxiety and insomnia. The Algonkian Indians in Virginia and Creek people in Florida were said to have eaten the fruits of the plant, as did the European settlers later on.
The flower was named when Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico in the 16th century and the priests and soldiers who accompanied him thought that the whitish-purple flowers of the vine symbolized the Passion of Christ. They believed the corona in the center of the flower was Christ’s crown of thorns, and the five stamens represented the number of Christ’s wounds. The flower’s tendrils were the whips used to beat him, and the five petals represent 10 of the apostles.1 The Spanish explorers believed that the passion flower was a symbol of Christ’s passion and therefore an indication of his ‘approval’ for their expedition.
The use of Passiflora as a medicine was first noted by a Spanish researcher Monardus in Peru in 1569. As well as a sedative, Native Americans used passionflower to treat boils, wounds, earaches, and liver problems.2
Later in America, passion flower became approved as a sedative and was sold over the counter as a sleep aid. However, science failed to prove its effectiveness and safety, and it was taken off the market in 1978.
When used in traditional medicine, passion flower is often combined with other herbs and used as a sedative to promote relaxation and calmness. Its flavonoids and alkaloids are believed to stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) in the same way as MAO inhibitors, a type of antidepressants that are no longer used due to the availability of antidepressants with few complications. 3
- Relieves anxiety and restlessness
Some researchers have claimed that Passiflora incarnata exhibits its effects by modulating the GABA system. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating communication between brain cells and plays an important role in behavior, cognition, and the body’s response to stress. Low levels of GABA have been linked to schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
It’s suggested that passionflower’s flavonoids bind to the benzodiazepine site of the GABAA receptor, increasing the concentration of GABA in the brain and producing a feeling of relaxation. 4
- Reduces anxiety before surgery
Some research shows that taking passion flower tea or tincture 30-90 minutes before surgery can reduce anxiety. Some reports claim it may be as effective as pharmaceutical treatments for pre-operative anxiety such as melatonin or midazolam. 5
- Reduces symptoms of opiates withdrawal
The anxiolytic effects of passion flower have made it a potential alternative to clonidine, a drug used in the detoxification of opiates. One study showed that taking passiflora alongside clonidine helped reduce negative side effects, making it a potential agent for managing withdrawal symptoms. 6
- Improves sleep
Animal studies have shown that passion flower extract significantly helps to increase total sleep time and significantly decrease wakefulness. Passion flower appears to shorten sleep latency and increase short-wave sleep, making it an effective sleep inducer and a potential remedy for insomnia. 7
- All-round relaxant
Passionflower’s anxiolytic properties have been used in treating other conditions aggravated by stress and anxiety, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pain, fibromyalgia, hypertension, asthma, and some gastrointestinal ailments.
You might be interested in this article about additional benefits of passion flower
Method of use / dosage
All the parts of the passion flower plant above the ground can be used as medicine.
Passion flower tea
Passionflower tea helps to soothe the nervous system, ease an anxious mind, relieve headaches, and promote restfulness. A teaspoon of fresh or dried leaves is added to boiling water for around 10 minutes and taken 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Passion flower supplements
Passion flower capsules of 400 mg extract have been used to treat anxiety, with a dosage of twice daily for 2-8 weeks. 8
Liquid extract can be given at a dosage of 45 drops daily for up to one month. For pre-surgery anxiety, 20 drops of a specific passion flower extract or 5ml passion flower syrup (containing 700 mg of passion flower extract) can be taken 30-90 minutes before the start of surgery.
Smoking the dried leaves of passionflower are reported to produce a high similar to that of marijuana. It is also said to have a similar grassy smell, but an earthy flavor and pleasant, smooth smoke. Some sources recommend it as a complement to cannabis in order to balance out the stimulation from high-THC strains. 9
Smoking passion flower is also touted as an excellent alternative for those trying to quit nicotine.
Effects of smoking
Passionflower’s therapeutic effects are thought to be due to its beta-carboline alkaloids, which are CNS stimulants, serotonin antagonists, hallucinogens, and short-term MAO inhibitors. Concentrations of small doses of these substances such as harmaline (25-50mg) are shown to be mild cerebral stimulants, and can sometimes produce a drowsy or dreamy state for 1-2 hours. Larger doses (up to 750mg) may result in hallucinogenic effects. 10
In 1985, pseudonymous writers Gracie and Zarkov described their experiences with smoking extracts of passionflower, Syrian rue and Banisteriopsis Caapi in combination with synthetic DMT as “not particularly psychedelic or hallucinogenic. One feels calm.” 11
They also noted that the calming effect of smoking passion flower can produce a significant change in facial expression, lethargy in the limbs and some trembling. Higher dosages may lead to dizziness and nausea without an increase in the high. Some ‘hypnagogic’ visions can be noted, along with a noticeable antidepressant effect, possibly due to the combination of alkaloids. 12
The high comes on and stabilizes after about 5 to 10 minutes or smoking, but remains only a ‘foggy’ high.
Passion flower is generally safe when used as a tea, and can be consumed nightly for up to a week without side effects. It can also be safely taken as a medicine for up to 8 weeks.
Some common reported side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion, while there have also been reports of irregular muscle action, altered consciousness, nausea, rapid heart rate, vomiting and inflamed blood vessels.
Smoking passion flower may also lead to slowed reaction time and drowsiness, so it’s advisable to avoid driving or operating heavy equipment.
It should not be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Passiflora incarnata is not under any control in the United States or internationally. The leaves, flowers and extracts can be cultivated, bought, and distributed without a license or prescription.
- 1. Passionflower. [website]. Accessed June 28, 2020. https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/passionflower
- 2. Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies: A Comprehensive Guide to the Native American Tradition of Using Herbs and the Mind/Body/Spirit Connection for Improving Health and Well-being. [ebook]. Accessed June 28, 2020. https://tinyurl.com/yba8jsrp
- 3.Effects of Psychoactive Chemicals on Commercial Driver Health and Performance: Stimulants, Hypnotics, Nutritional, and Other Supplements. [ebook]. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://tinyurl.com/y9gp8oew
- 4.Effect of a medicinal plant (Passiflora incarnata L) on sleep. [research article]. Accessed June 28 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699852/
- 5.Herbal Medicine for Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review with Assessment of Potential Psycho-Oncologic Relevance. [research article]. Accessed June 28, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938102/
- 6.Passionflower in the Treatment of Opiates Withdrawal: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. [website]. Accessed June 27, 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11679027/
- 7.Effect of a medicinal plant (Passiflora incarnata L) on sleep. [research article]. Accessed June 28 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699852/
- 8.Passionflower. [wesbite]. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://www.rxlist.com/passion_flower/supplements.htm
- 9.Smoking Blends: The Best Supporting Herbs to Pair With Cannabis. [website]. Accessed June 29, 2020.
- 10.Tetrahydroharmine. [research article]. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/tetrahydroharmine
- 11.Three Beta-Carboline Containing Plants As Potentiators of Synthetic DMT and Other Indole Psychedelics. [research article]. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://users.aalto.fi/~saarit2/deoxy/gz_betac.htm
- 12.Passiflora. [website]. Accessed June 28, 2020. https://www.passionflow.co.uk/legal-highs/
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