Passionflower for Insomnia and Anxiety

Passionflower- Passiflora incarnate
Passionflower- Passiflora incarnate

Passionflower is a well-known botanical used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia related to nervousness. Native people of the Americas as well as physicians in Europe, have used it for centuries as a sedative.

Passionflower is believed to increase levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain, leading to an overall feeling of relaxation. This may lead to an enhanced ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. As the effects of passionflower don’t linger, it has not been linked to a sense of groggy or foggy feelings upon waking.

Current research has also shown efficacy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.  In a study passionflower was compared to the benzodiazepine oxazepam (Serax) in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and was shown to be as effective without affecting job performance.

Passion Flower is a perennial climbing vine with woody stems that grow to be nearly 32 feet and is native to the southeastern parts of the Americas. The flowers have five white petals with sepals that vary from magenta to blue. Folklore has it that the corona resembles the crown of thorns Jesus wore during his crucifixion leading to the naming of the plant. The parts used for medicine are the flowers, leaves and stems.

Passionflower (fresh or dried) can be taken as a tea infusion, liquid extract or tincture. Drink one cup of tea one hour before bed for insomnia and 3-4 cups throughout the day for anxiety.

Caution should be exercised when taking sedatives or monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s), passionflower is not recommended as it may increase the effects and side effects of these medications due to the calming properties. It may also increase the clotting time of blood so it is not recommended to use with blood thinners and is considered a uterine stimulant so should not be consumed during pregnancy.

Always remember to contact your healthcare provider when considering the use of botanical medicine as a possible treatment option and the medical considerations. To find a healthcare provider near you, click on NUNM’s Provider Tool.

Written By Michelle Williams, NCNM Naturopathic Medicine and Chinese Medicine Program, NCNM Edited by Dr. Elise Schroeder


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Tilgner, Sharol M., ND. Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth. Ed. Louis Fiore. 2nd ed. Pleasant Hill: Wise Acres LLC, 2009. 132. Print.