The Health Benefits of Passionflower

Uses, Side Effects, and More

passion flower (passiflora incarnata)

Barrett & MacKay / All Canada Photos / Getty Images

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a plant that grows throughout certain regions in the world. In herbal medicine, passionflower's aerial parts have long been used to treat certain health conditions.

Commonly Known As

  • Passion flower
  • Apricot vine
  • Corona de cristo
  • Fleischfarbige
  • Fleur de la passion
  • Flor de passion
  • Maypop
  • Passion vine
  • Purple passion flower
  • Water lemon
  • Wild passion flower

Health Benefits

In alternative medicine, passionflower proponents claim the herb can help with:

To date, there is a lack of clinical evidence supporting the therapeutic use of passionflower. While passionflower has been used for centuries as a mild sedative by people around the world, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there is not sufficient scientific evidence to confirm its efficacy.

Some preliminary research cited by the NCCIH suggests that passionflower may show promise in treating health problems: anxiety and sleep disorders. However, the results are far from conclusive and need further testing to determine whether these claims have merit. And a small study from 2001 found that passion flower could help manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal, but acknowledged that more research is still needed.

Anxiety

In a study published in 2008, 60 patients were randomized to receive either passionflower or a placebo 90 minutes prior to surgery. Study results showed that those receiving passionflower had lower levels of anxiety, leading researchers to conclude that oral administration of passionflower may reduce anxiety without inducing sedation.

In a systematic review published in 2007, however, the authors concluded that randomized controlled trials examining the effectiveness of passionflower for anxiety were too few to permit any conclusions to be drawn. A systematic review published in 2013 reached similar conclusions. It found that the studies of the effects of products containing herbal preparations of passiflora had crucial weaknesses, and new clinical trials should be conducted with more rigorous methodology.

Opiate Withdrawal

In the 2001 study mentioned above, researchers assigned 65 people with opiate addiction to 14 days of treatment with passionflower extract plus clonidine (a medication used to treat withdrawal symptoms) or clonidine plus placebo. Study results showed that both options were equally effective in treating the physical symptoms of withdrawal syndrome. However, the passionflower plus clonidine showed a significant superiority over clonidine alone in managing mental health symptoms.

Additional studies on passionflower for opiate withdrawal are also lacking. Reviews of the use of passionflower for withdrawal published in 2013 and 2015 cite only the 2001 study and one other.

Possible Side Effects

Although passionflower is generally considered safe, incidences of the following adverse effects have been reported:

  • Rapid heart rhythm
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Vasculitis
  • Loss of coordination

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety and effects of using passionflower supplements for the long term. However, according to the NCCIH, consumption of passionflower is "generally considered to be safe but may cause drowsiness."

Passionflower may also produce harmful effects when combined with certain medications and substances including benzodiazepines, anticoagulants, and alcohol.

Additionally, there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the safe use of passionflower in any dose during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Dosage and Preparation

It's important to keep in mind that unlike FDA-approved medications, supplements haven't been tested for safety, and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. Due to this limited scientific data, passionflower should only be used under the guidance of your doctor or health care provider.

Be sure to consult with a medical professional about the recommended dosage as well. In the 2008 pre-operative anxiety study, participants were given 500 mg of passiflora incarnata 90 minutes prior to surgery. In the 2001 opioid withdrawal study, participants were given 60 drops of passiflora extract in addition to clonidine three times a day.

In some cases, the passionflower supplements may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking other medications has not been fully established.

What to Look For

Passionflower supplements are often available in powder form, which can be consumed as is or steeped to make tea. It is also sold as a liquid extract or tincture. 

It's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of passionflower, make sure to consult your doctor first.

Other Questions

Passionflower is also commonly used cosmetically as a skincare ingredient. Proponents claim it can treat many skin ailments, including dry, lackluster complexions and acne. Though research is emerging, more evidence is still needed to support these claims.

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