Passion Flower

Scientific names: Passiflora incarnata, occasionally P. lutea.

Common names: Passion flower also is known as passion fruit, granadilla (species with edible fruit); water lemon; Maypop, apricot vine, wild passion flower (P. incarnatus); and Jamaican honeysuckle (P. laurifolia).

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Passion Flower?

The term “passion flower” connotes many of the approximately 400 species of the genus Passiflora, which primarily are vines. Some of the species are noted for their showy flowers, others for their edible fruit. Common species include P. incarnata, P. edulis, P. alata, P. laurifolia, and P. quadrangularis. Those with edible fruit include P. incarnata, P. edulis, and P. quadrangularis, the last being one of the major species grown for its fruit. Passiflora species are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas. In the US, P. incarnata is found from Virginia to Florida and as far west as Missouri and Texas. The flowers of Passiflora have 5 petals, sepals, and stamens, 3 stigmas, and a crown of filaments. The fruit is egg-shaped, has a pulpy consistency, and includes many small seeds.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The passion flower was discovered in 1569 by Spanish explorers in Peru who saw the flowers as symbolic of the passion of Christ, and therefore a sign of Christ's approval of their efforts. This is the origin of the scientific and common names. The folklore surrounding this plant possibly dates further into the past. The floral parts are thought to represent the elements of the crucifixion (3 styles represent 3 nails, 5 stamens for the 5 wounds, the ovary looks like a hammer, the corona is the crown of thorns, the petals represent the 10 true apostles, and the white and bluish purple colors are those of purity and heaven).

Passion flower has been used to treat sleep disorders and historically in homeopathic medicine to treat pain, insomnia related to neurasthenia or hysteria, and nervous exhaustion.

Overview

The pharmacological activity of Passiflora is attributed primarily to the alkaloids and falvonoids. The harmala alkaloids inhibit monoamine oxidase, which may account for part of their pharmacologic effects. Harmala alkaloids include harmine, harmaline, and harmalol. Different parts of the plant and different species have varying amounts of the active alkaloids. The official passion flower is considered to be P. incarnate, which is used for the drug.

Anti-anxiety/Sedative effects

Passiflora exhibits sedative and anti-anxiety activity in laboratory animals. Human studies of Passiflora, in combination products, have also demonstrated anti-anxiety and sedative properties. One study of short duration showed contradictory results. While early studies show some promise, more studies are needed to prove the tranquilizing and sedative properties of Passiflora in humans.

Miscellaneous uses

Passion flower's ability to reduce anxiety makes it potentially useful for asthma, palpitations and other cardiac rhythm abnormalities, high blood pressure, insomnia, neurosis, nervousness, pain relief, and other related conditions. While there are some indications of its effectiveness, little clinical research is available to validate these medical uses. Other uses of passion flower include herbal treatment for menopausal complaints, for its antimicrobial activity, and as a flavored syrup to mask drug taste.

What is the recommended dosage?

No clinical trials of passion flower as a single agent have been reported. Therefore, the daily dose of 4 to 8 g currently is not supported.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use. Passion flower is a known uterine stimulant.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Though no adverse effects of passion flower have been reported, large doses may result in CNS depression.

Toxicities

No major clinical trials have been conducted to assess the plant's toxicity.

References

  1. Passion Flower. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 19, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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