Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) was used traditionally " >

Passionflower

Passionflower

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) was used traditionally in the Americas and later in Europe as a "calming" herb for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. It is still used today to treat anxiety and insomnia. Although scientists aren't sure, it is believed that passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you more relaxed.

Passionflower tends to have effects that aren't as strong as valerian (Valeriana officinalis) or kava (Piper methysticum), two other herbs used to treat anxiety. Passionflower is often combined with valerian, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), or other calming herbs. Few scientific studies have tested passionflower as a treatment for anxiety or insomnia, however. And because it is often combined with other calming herbs, it is difficult to tell what the effects of passionflower alone might be.

One study of 36 people with generalized anxiety disorder found that passionflower was as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms. However, the study lacked a placebo group, so it is not considered to be definitive. In another study of 91 people with anxiety symptoms, researchers found that an herbal European product containing passionflower and other herbal sedatives significantly reduced symptoms compared to placebo. A more recent study found that patients who were given passionflower before surgery had less anxiety, but recovered from anesthesia just as quickly, than those given placebo.

Plant Description:

Native to southeastern parts of the Americas, passionflower is now grown throughout Europe. It is a perennial climbing vine with herbaceous shoots and a sturdy woody stem that grows to a length of nearly 10 meters (about 32 feet). Each flower has 5 white petals and 5 sepals that vary in color from magenta to blue. According to folklore, passionflower got its name because its corona resembles the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion. The passionflower's ripe fruit is an egg-shaped berry that may be yellow or purple. Some kinds of passionfruit are edible.

 


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