Passion Flower (Passiflora) is a plant with a specific flower appearance and plays a vital role in folk medicine worldwide, claiming to relieve anxiety and help sleep. And in empirical medicine, does passion flower really work? What are the proven benefits of passion flower? Are there any side effects after use? Let’s have a look at the details.
What is a passion flower?
Passiflora incarnata mentioned here belongs to Passifloraceae, a species of Passiflora. It is a perennial climbing plant native to the southeastern United States and has grown widely globally in tropical and subtropical regions.
Passiflora genus Passiflora has more than 500 varieties around the world, of which Passiflora edulis is the most famous member and an important tropical fruit.
The word Passiflora comes from the Latin “Passio” because, in 1529, the Spanish “Conquistador” described its flowers as symbolizing the “passion” of Christ.
Passion flower has long been used in folk medicine, and the above-ground parts (leaves, stems, roots, and fruits) are used in different forms. Besides being a food seasoning, it is also made into teas, liquid extracts, and remedies. In addition, it has received medical attention for sedative, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and sleep-inducing properties.
What are the proven benefits (curative effects) of passion flower?
Relives generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a syndrome of persistent anxiety or worries about events and thoughts that the patient often recognizes as excessive and inappropriate.
These concerns often trigger defensive and avoidant behaviors, and any activity considered dangerous, such as travel, may be delayed or not performed at all.
There are 6 major symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. There must be 3 symptoms present in the diagnosis.
The cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown, but traumatic life experiences, maladaptive, genetic influences, and neurological dysfunction have been suggested as possible underlying causes.
A preliminary randomized trial (4 weeks in 36 patients with a generalized anxiety disorder) used passion flower extract, and the other took the drug oxazepam.
Researchers found that both passion flower extract and oxazepam were therapeutically effective, with no significant difference between the two regimens at the end of the trial, but the drug group had more side effects (such as impaired work performance)
Passiflora extract may help relieve generalized anxiety disorder but is limited by the small sample size, and more large trials are needed to support it.
Improves sleep quality
Sleep is one of the most intuitive and basic physiological needs in life. It can maintain health, psychological stability, endocrine, and immune functions. In addition, it is crucial to maintain emotional, memory, and mental functions.
It is estimated that 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic sleep and arousal disorders. In addition, the incidence of insomnia is higher in women than in men (25% vs. 18%), and the prevalence of insomnia increases with age, affecting about 50% of the elderly.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study (a one-week study of 41 people with mild poor sleep quality) showed that drinking passion flower tea before bedtime (containing 2 g of passion fruit dry leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers) improved sleep quality.
For people with mild poor sleep quality, intake of passion flower tea may be of positive help.
Reduces preoperative anxiety
Many patients experience a lot of anxiety before surgery, which affects about 60% to 80% of surgical patients.
There are many reasons for preoperative anxiety, including fear of death caused by anesthesia or surgery and fear of surgery or postoperative pain.
Preoperative anxiety also often leads to difficulties in venous access, delayed mandibular relaxation and cough during anesthesia induction, autonomous fluctuation, and increased anesthesia demand.
In addition, it is associated with increased postoperative pain, nausea and vomiting, extended recovery time, and increased risk of infection.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 60 patients experiencing surgery showed that taking passion flower extract reduced preoperative anxiety significantly(measured by a numerical rating scale). But It did not help restore ventricular psychological variables and psychomotor function.
Oral taking of passion flower extract as a pre-treatment may reduce preoperative anxiety in outpatient surgery.
Helps to escape opioids
The opioid is a chemical substance extracted from the poppy plant. Nowadays, it is mainly used to make narcotic analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, heroin, and morphine.
Opioids can bind to the receptors inherent in the human brain. So, in addition to their effective analgesic ability, they can also produce feelings of euphoria, calm, and relaxation. Still, they can also be highly addictive if used for too long or too much.
Once addicted, more drugs are needed to achieve the same effect. If you stop taking drugs, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, runny nose, tears, cold and hot sweat, goosebumps, muscle pain, abdominal colic, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and slow reaction will appear.
A randomized double-blind controlled trial (14 weeks for 65 opioid addicts) was conducted. One group was treated with passion fruit extract + clonidine, and the other group was treated with a placebo plus clonidine.
Researchers found that both regimens were equally effective in treating physical symptoms of withdrawal syndrome. However, in treating mental symptoms, passion flower plus clonidine was significantly better than the subjects who used the drug alone.
Passion flower extract may be an effective adjuvant for opioid withdrawal treatment.
Effective for relieving menopausal symptoms
Menopause generally refers to the menopausal transition, or “perimenopause,” a clear period from the irregular menstrual cycle to the last menstrual cycle, characterized by the fluctuation of reproductive hormones.
The characteristics of this period include irregular menstruation, long duration of menstruation, a large amount of menstruation, amenorrhea, vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes), irritability, mood swings, insomnia, vaginal dryness, difficulty concentrating, incontinence, osteoporosis, depression, headache, and other symptoms.
A 6-week clinical study of 59 women with menopausal symptoms showed that passion flower and Hypericum extract helped relieve menopausal-related symptoms, especially vasomotor symptoms, insomnia, depression, anger, and headache.
Oral passion flower extract may be positive for the relief of female climacteric symptoms, but due to the small number of samples, it still needs to be further confirmed by more large-scale trials.
Does passion flower have side effects?
It is safe for most people to use passion fruit at an appropriate dose in the short term. For example, it is used for food seasoning, tea, or related extraction preparations. The reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, change of consciousness, coordination disorder, vasculitis, etc.
Safety precautions of passion flowers
- Pregnant women should not use passion flower because some chemicals in it may cause uterine contraction.
- Do not use it for lactating women and children, as the relevant safety is unknown.
- If you plan to take passion flower within two weeks before and after surgery, please consult your medical service provider to avoid possible adverse reactions or drug interactions.
- Do not use it together with sedatives (central nervous system inhibitors), which may enhance the drug effect. The relevant drug names include pentobarbital, phenobarbital, secobarbital, clonazepam, lorazepam and zolpidem.
Is there a recommended dose of passion fruit?
There is no best-recommended dose of passion fruit, and the dose used in relevant clinical trials is only for reference.
Anxiety: 400 mg passion fruit extract capsule twice a day for 2-8 weeks or 45 drops of liquid extract preparation per day for up to one month.