Passion flower is a creeping vine that grows in Central and South America, as well as the southern U.S. Most people know about passion flower’s beautiful flowers and tasty fruit — but it is the leaves and stem that contain all of the plant’s medicinal properties.
Passion flower has been cultivated by Native Americans for centuries because of its healing benefits. The Ancient Aztecs also harvested passion flower. They used it as a remedy for insomnia and nervousness and passed on this lore to Europeans. Passion flower is still widely cultivated in Europe today, where it is used in herbal medicine.
Passion flower is a natural remedy for insomnia — similar in its effects to valerian and lemon balm. It is also effective in combating nervousness, restlessness and anxiety. Passion flower works by slowing your pulse and decreasing arterial pressure (or blood pressure). It quiets your respiratory system and pulmonary blood pressure, easing the effects of tension and stress. It is a potent enough treatment for anxiety that it has been used to treat those recovering from heroin addiction.
The next time you find yourself stressed out, having to deal with too many things, or feeling anxious about something you have not been able to resolve, passion flower may help to soothe those frazzled nerves.
In a double-blind randomized trial, researchers compared the effects of passion flower extract with oxazepam (an anti-anxiety drug) in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The study was performed on 36 out- patients diagnosed with GAD. Patients were split into two groups randomly. Eighteen participants received 45 drops of passion flower extract per day, and the other 18 were given 30 mg per day of oxazepam.
The trial lasted four weeks. Results showed that passion flower and oxazepam were equally effective in treating anxiety. But the researchers discovered that the use of passion flower extract caused fewer side effects. In particular, those on oxazepam experienced significantly more problems relating to job performance that those taking the passion flower extract. The researchers concluded that passion flower could be an effective drug in the treatment of anxiety, with a low impact in terms of side effects.
Passion flower has also been used in the treatment of pain; it is a natural analgesic. Passion flower could decrease your motor activity, relax muscles, and help to relieve tension that causes knots and spasms to develop. Because of this ability, passion flower is used as a common treatment for menstrual cramps. And if you suffer from stress-related digestive spasms and/or colitis, passion flower may be able to give you some relief from your symptoms.