Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) has been known in the subtropical America’s to improve mental and physical health for centuries. A beautiful flowering vine, its name is derived from the bloom resembling the crown of thorns Jesus was reported to wear at crucifixion. The plant was exported to Europe where it is cultivated today for its health properties. One action of passionflower is to stimulate the production of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) a neural chemical that acts to suppress the neurotransmitters that stimulate impulses. There are many positive effects on the mind and body due to this action. Available forms include infusions, liquid extracts, tinctures, teas, and a delicious juice.
Used alone, or in combination with other sleep aids, passionflower has been shown to induce restful sleep. Found to affect the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Librium, Valium, etc.) The effects are milder and produce no active metabolites. Passionflower is particularly useful for individuals that have difficulty falling asleep. Studies in France concluded that passionflower worked as well as Serax, a prescription benzodiazepine.
Passionflower contains two alkaloid compounds called harmane and harmaline that have actions similar to the monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors commonly prescribed by psychiatrists. Used for depression and anxiety, passionflower works without the significant side effects and dietary restrictions of prescription MAO drugs.
Restless leg syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions associated with muscle spasm benefit from passionflower. Suppressed hyperactive nerve impulses results in less irritability and reactivity of the muscle innervated by the nerve.
Attention Deficient Disorder With or Without Hyperactivity
A central finding in attention deficit disorder is the mental production of too many rapid thoughts in succession for the individual to process effectively. Passionflower has been shown to reduce cerebral generation of superfluous energy as an adjunct to other therapies.
Neuralgia (Nerve Pain)
Related to the GABA properties, passionflower has an effect on substance P, the chemical associated with pain perception. Passionflower can minimize discomfort associated with Herpes Zoster (Shingles), neuropathy from low back problems and other nerve related pain.
As an adjunctive therapy to anticonvulsants, passionflower can decrease cerebral activity. This can add benefits to existing drug therapy or decrease the amount of stronger pharmaceuticals and minimize side effects.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
A powerful antioxidant is contained within the passionflower plant. It has been revealed that a direct action on blood vessels causes them to relax, lowing blood pressure. Other potential applications under investigation include using this effect in pulmonary hypertension, angina, and peripheral vascular disease.
Nausea and Vomiting
Passionflower has a central nervous system effect on the nausea and vomiting center in the brain. It acts similarly to the action of ondansetron (Zofran).
Substance Abuse Withdrawal
The combination of effects makes passionflower an excellent natural palliative therapy to minimize the physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal. Blood pressure effects, sedative effects, antianxiety effects, as well as anti-nausea and anti-vomiting qualities significantly improve withdrawal events.
Laboratory tests confirm an inhibitory effect on certain forms of thyroid cancer. More investigation is necessary to determine if other forms of cancer can be mediated.
Hypogonadism (Low Testosterone)
Chryslin has been shown to decrease the metabolism of testosterone in the body. Passionflower conserves bioavailability of existing hormone; it does not increase production. This allows receptors more natural testosterone to improve sex drive, preserve muscle mass, and endurance. It decreases the chance of gynecomastia (breast enlargement) minimizing conversion to estrogen.
Nature has provided a multitude of natural benefits in Passionflower. It has few or no disadvantages. Discuss with your medical provider if currently on prescription medications.