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Herb of the Month: Passionflower

Passionflower is a beautiful calming herb found in abundance in North and South America, and often used in formulas targeting mild anxiety and sleep. Its alkaloid constituents harman and harmine are thought to be two of the more potent components responsible for its actions, but it also contains a wide range of compounds including various flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol and chrysin, maltol, coumarin derivatives, phytosterols, and small amounts of essential oils.

Due to it’s largely anxiolytic and sedative actions, the herb has been extensively studied with regard to its use in a wide range of conditions including sleeplessness, mild anxiety, stress and restlessness.

Did You Know?                

The herb Passiflora incarnarta, more commonly known as Passionflower, is so named because, according to legend, the corona of the flower itself was thought to resemble the crown of thorns worn by Christ during his crucifixion.


Being a folk remedy for mild anxiety, it’s no surprise that Passionflower and its anxiolytic properties have been the focus of many studies and exclusively investigated. The mechanism of action appears to be actioned by the constituents Harman and harmaline, which are thought to reduce monoamine oxidase, whilst its maltol and gamma-pyrone derivatives help activate gamma-amino-butyric-acid (GABA) receptors - resulting in suppression of central nervous system over-stimulation.


Passionflower is also known for its sedative properties, and as such has long been used as an aid for sleeplessness. Current evidence supports this activity and traditional use also suggests that consumption of Passionflower in tea form actually yields sleep benefits for adults experiencing fluctuations in sleep quality and quantity.


Although in its early stages, Passionflower has also been discovered to exert some anti-inflammatory action thanks to its phytonutrient and antioxidant content. Its high levels of phenolic compounds showed potent antioxidant activity. It is suggested that passionflower mediates the inflammatory response by affecting histamine, serotonin pathways, and reduction of neutrophil migration.

In traditional herbal medicine Passionflower is more likely to be used in conjunction with other herbs to make full use of its understated, yet wonderfully calming properties. But the list mentioned above by no means covers all its potential benefits, and fits in with a wide range of herbal formulas to assist various conditions. Despite this, its powerful action makes a wonderful tea to take to soothe the nervous system at night, so it’s a herb that can truly shine on its own as well.


A Movafegh et al. Preoperative Oral Passiflora Incarnata Reduces Anxiety in Ambulatory Surgery Patients: A Double-Blind Placebo- Controlled Study. Int Anesthesia Res Soc Vol 106 (6) 2008

A Ngan, R Condiut. A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Investigation of the Effects of Passiflora incarnate (passionflower) Herbal Tea on Subjective Sleep Quality. Phytotherapy Res Vol 25(8): Feb 2011

S Akhondzadeh et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized control trial with oxazepam. Vol 26(5): Oct 2001

Silva R O et al. Polysaccharide fraction isolated from Passiflora inhibits the inflammatory response and the oxidative stress in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol; 6(7) 1017-27: Jul 2015

Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs & Natural Supplements – An evidence-based guide Vol 2. Elsevier Australia 2015