Herbal Monograph – Passiflora (Passion Flower)



Passiflora comprises of about 500 different species however; the largest family is the Passion flower family. The species of this genus are distributed in the warm temperate and tropical regions of the World however; they are rare in Asia, Australia, and tropical Africa. Several species are grown in the tropics for their edible fruits, the most widely grown being Passiflora edulis Sims (Passion fruit or purple granadilla we all enjoy to eat!). Many other species are grown outdoors in the warmer parts of the world or in the glasshouses for their exotic flowers.



The History of Passiflora

The discovery of several th ousands years old seeds of Passiflora from the archaeological sites at Virginia and North America provides strong evidences of the pre-historic use of the fruits by the ancient ‘Red Indian’ people. The early European travellers in North America noted that Algonkian Indians in Virginia and Creek people in Florida ate fruits of Passiflora from cultivated as well as wild sources. The then European settlers also consumed the fruit and praised its flavour, thereby, suggesting the pre-historic consumption of Passiflora as a fruit crop.

The use of Passiflora as a medicine was lauded for the first time by a Spanish researcher Monardus in Peru in 1569 as the beautiful flowers of Passiflora appeared to him to be symbolic of the passion of Christ. Various species of Passiflora have been used extensively in the traditional system of therapeutics in many countries. The extract of Passiflora alata (fragrant granadilla) with aloes was reputed beneficial in the atrophy (shrinking) of various parts! In Brazil, the said species, known as ‘Maracuja’ has been put to use as an anxiolytic, sedative, diuretic and an analgesic, which reflects its most popluare usages today. Passiflora caerulea (blue Passion flower), native of Brazil and introduced into Britain in 17th century, is the most vigorous and tender species having traditional use of its fruit as a sedative and anxiolytic.


Anti Anxiety Agent

Chrysin, a naturally occurring chemical in Passiflora was found to activate certain receptors in the brain to induce a natural sedation, similar to pharmaceutical drugs such as diazepam. When administered to mice, chrysin prevented seizers, also confirming its powerful sedative qualities.

Passiflora tea has been reported to exhibit sedative effects in mice, rats and healthy human volunteers. In another report on its sedative effects, it was noted that the Passiflora Teas prolonged sleep time in mice and also partially blocked the adrenalin induced stimulant effects.

Sleeping Aid

Extracts and fluid extracts from the aerial parts from Passiflora are widely used as components of herbal sedatives. Many pharmacological investigations confirm the sedative effects of Passiflora. From some of the studies also anti-anxiety effects, which also aid in sleep has been found. Based on pharmacological data, the experiences of traditional use and the use in combinations Passiflora extracts are an important factor in the Phytotherapy of tenseness, restlessness and irritability with difficulty in falling asleep.

Morphine Addicts

Unfortunately, morphine addiction is becoming more and more common in Australia. Innovative methods of the withdrawal of morphine are sadly lacking as the addict cannot simply come off the drug without physical, mental and spiritual support. In studies done on addicted mice demonstrated that their withdrawal from morphine has made easier when taking Passiflora.

Smoking Cessation

Studies have been performed on smoking cessation by using four doses (1, 5, 10 and 20 mg/kg) of Passiflora in experimental mice. Mice were given nicotine, to imitate smoking for 7 days. At the end of the 7-days treatments, the mice were taken off nicotine (cod turkey) to mimic an abrupt cessation of smoking. Mice treated with 10 and 20 mg/kg dose of Passiflora did not exhibit significant withdrawal symptoms compared with the group of mice not given the Passiflora. It was evident that mice receiving the higher dosages of Passiflora treatments had no cravings when their nicotine supply was withdrawn abruptly.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Similar promising research has occurred in the treatment of alcoholism. Addicted mice were better off when they were administered Passiflora when coming off alcohol.

Increases in Libido

Studies have found that rats receiving Passiflora exhibited increased libido when they were allowed to interact with female rats. Additionally, the rats after 30-days of treatment with Passiflora had increased sperm count, greater fertilization potential as well as litter size, when they were allowed to interact with female rats of the similar strain.

The way Passiflora works in males is that it inhibits the conversion of Testosterone in to Oestrogen. The resulting higher levels of Testosterone improve libido, sperm count and greater fertility, while also improving ‘sexual performance’.

While this study is done in rats, similar physiology occurs in humans.

Drug Interactions with Passiflora

Although Passiflora, like any herbal medicine, can conflict with medications, no significant herb/drug interactions with Passiflora have been reported. As a precaution it is advised that before using this herb or any other herbal preparation, to consult your health care professional.

Therapeutic/safe dosages of Passiflora

Passiflora can be purchased in most health food stores around Australia. Apart from some individuals being sensitive to it, Passiflora is remarkably safe and can be consumed to up to 6 grams a day without adverse effects. However, most trials use 2-4g per day for the benefits listed in this article.

The Dosage and Duration of Taking Passiflora

Studies have found that short and long term consumption is beneficial for the treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety and increased testosterone levels. Medical supervision is essential when withdrawing from drugs.

Other herbs that can be used with Passiflora

As with many herbs, combinations can be used to add to the therapeutic value. The following is a list of herbs that can be prescribed with Passiflora to boost its therapeutic properties:

  • Valerian. This herb does help reduce anxiety however its proudest achievement is its ability to induce sleep in patients. In many ways its actions are similar to Passiflora however, in my opinion, Valerian may be a more potent inducer of sleep, where as Passion flower is more effective at reducing anxiety.

  • Hops. Best known for their use in the production of beer, hops also reduce anxiety and insomnia. While not as well researched as Valerian and Passion flower, Hops should not be overlooked by the stressed out individual or someone suffering from sleep problems.

    Zizyphus. A Chinese herb, Zizyphus has traditionally been used for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. However it may also be useful in the reduction of pain.

  • Chamomile. Chamomile is a calming herb that has a powerhouse of science backing its actions. Often used as a relaxant, Chamomile also sooths gastric upset and reduces pain and inflammation. Further, because Chamomile has mood elevating effects, it can help with mild depression.


Passiflora is a highly prized herb and has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. Clinical trials now support these uses and there is weighty scientific data that supports the medicinal uses of this herb. While Passiflora is generally regarded as safe, interactions between this herb and medical drugs are possible. If you are on medication of any kind, please check with your health care professional before taking any herbs.

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