Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
What is Passion Flower?
The term "passion flower" can stand for 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, which is the major species grown for its edible 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 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.
Passion flower is also known as passionflower, passion fruit, granadilla (species with edible fruit), water lemon, Maypop, apricot vine, wild passion flower (P. incarnatus), Jamaican honeysuckle (P. laurifolia), Herba passiflorae, "maracuja" (Brazil), and Maracuva (Peru).
What is it used for?
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). In Europe, passion flower has been used to treat pain, sleeplessness caused by nervous disorders, and nervous exhaustion. It has also been used for lung disorders (particularly asthma), inflammation, hemorrhoids, menopausal complaints, childhood attention disorders, and as a compress for burns.
Passion flower has many traditional uses and is especially promoted for use in anxiety; however, clinical trials supporting this or any other use are limited. Areas of research include use of passion flower as a source of dietary fiber in diabetes and for high blood pressure.
What is the recommended dosage?
There is no published information to support dosing. Clinical trials have used Passiflora extract 45 drops/day or 90 mg/day for anxiety.
Do not use during pregnancy.
Passion flower can stimulate the womb so it should not be used in pregnancy. Information is lacking for use during lactation.
None well documented.
Nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness have been reported with the use of passion flower, as well as heart irregularities. Hypersensitivity, occupational asthma, and inflammation of the nose have also occurred.
Information is limited and cannot be determined from one species to another. Certain Passiflora species have been shown to cause genetic damage, and to contain poisonous parts, and are also associated with liver, gall bladder, and pancreas toxicity.