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Passionflower

Wikipedia: Passiflora_incarnata | Teaviews: passion-flower-tea 
Last Updated: Apr. 15, 2013 

About Passionflower

Striking purple flower with complex pattern, rounded white petals behind bright purple fringes, complex patterns in center, with green three-lobed leaves in the backgroundPassionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Photo © H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Passionflower or passion flower is an herb commonly used as a medicinal tea, for relaxation. Passionflower, used as an herb, generally refers to Passiflora incarnata, also called maypop, a plant growing as a vine, although there are numerous other plants in the Passiflora genus, also called passionflower, which are less commonly used, but share some similar chemical components.

Passionflower tea is produced from an infusion of the whole dried plant, including stems, leaves, root, and vine tendrils. The dried herb is also commonly included in herbal blends intended for medicinal use, usually those aimed to promote relaxation or reduce anxiety.

The passionflower plant also produces an edible fruit, called a maypop. The fruit lacks the strong medicinal properties of the herb; the fruit resembles the passionfruit, from the different species Passiflora edulis.

Medicinal effects for anxiety and other uses

Dried herb with straw-yellow stems and small, dark gray-green leaf pieces, on a white backgroundDried passionflower herb. Photo © Rillke (Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 3.0.
The effect of passionflower tea is considerably stronger than that of more casual "relaxing" teas such as chamomile or lemon balm, and for this reason, we classify it as a wellness tea rather than an herbal tea for beverage use. There are also more safety concerns with this herb at common doses, which are discussed below.

Harman molecular diagram
Harman, an alkaloid present in passionflower.
Passionflower has a long history of traditional use for a wide range of conditions. There is a reasonable body of scientific evidence lending some validity to its use, but the bulk of the research on this herb comes from studies on mice, so it is not fully clear which effects carry through to humans, and the degree to which they carry through. The anti-anxiety properties of passionflower have been better studied than other uses. One study of 60 adults undergoing surgery found that using passionflower before surgery reduced anxiety without causing sedation.[1] The herb seems to act similarly to the benzodiazepine class of medications. However, unlike these medications, passionflower does not seem to cause the problems of tolerance and dependency; one study on mice found not only that long-term passionflower use does not result in dependency, but that the herb is able to prevent or mitigate the effects of benzodiazepine dependency.[2]

Passionflower, as the name suggests, has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, to increase sexual desire. There is evidence from a study on mice that passionflower can have an aphrodisiac effect.[3]

Passionflower is also used as a cough suppressant; a study on mice also found evidence supporting antitussive (cough suppressant) effects, similar to codeine.[4]

Safety and side-effects

According to WebMD's page on passionflower, passionflower is not safe for use during pregnancy because it can cause uterine contractions. WebMD lists dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle action and coordination, altered consciousness, and inflamed blood vessels as potential side effects. There is also a single case of serious toxicity that may be attributable to passionflower use.

References:

1. Ali Movafegh et. al., Preoperative Oral Passiflora Incarnata Reduces Anxiety in Ambulatory Surgery Patients: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study , Anesthesia and Analgesia, Vol. 106, No. 6, pp. 1728-1732.

2. 2. Kamaldeep Dhawan et. al. Attenuation of benzodiazepine dependence in mice by a tri-substituted benzoflavone moiety of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus: A non-habit forming anxiolytic., J Pharm Pharmaceut Sci, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 215-222, 2003.

3. Kamaldeep Dhawan et. al., Aphrodisiac activity of methanol extract of leaves of Passiflora incarnata Linn. in mice, Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 401–403, April 2003.

4. Kamaldeep Dhawan et. al., Antitussive activity of the methanol extract of Passiflora incarnata leaves, Fitoterapia, Vol. 73, No. 5, August 2002, Pages 397–399.

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