Sleep Aid Herbs: Secrets to
Sleeping Well Using Passionflower

This is fourth in the series of natural herbal remedies that I call sleep aid herbs. And today we're going to talk passion, as in passionflower (sometimes you'll also see it spelled as passion flower).

Let's start with a little history.

Not surprisingly, native people of North, Central (Aztecs), and South America have been using sleep aid herbs for centuries. They were quite familiar with the sedative and anti-anxiety properties of passionflower.

But it was in 1569 that Spanish Conquistadors in Peru discovered and starting using passionflower.

When these explorers saw the flowers that were growing on the towering vines of passionflower (vines up to 30 feet high), they were fascinated by the fact that the flowers on this plant resembled a cross with a crown of thorns.

It was a reminder to them of the passion of Jesus Christ and they felt it was a sign from Christ that He supported their exploration.

Passiflora incarnata—or Passionflower—is one of the sleep aid herbs that have been used for centuries.

What are the effects of passionflower?

First of all, understand that this type of passionflower has the scientific name of passiflora incarnata. So don't confuse it with another species of passionflower called blue passion flower, which is not one of the sleep aid herbs.

As an herbal medicine, passiflora incarnata is used for nervous tension, anxiety, agitation, and insomnia relief. It's very popular in the United Kingdom as a mild sedative for providing safe, restful, deep sleep because it has a calming effect. 

In Germany, Commission E (equivalent to the FDA in the U.S.) has approved passionflower for insomnia and nervousness.

And speaking of safe, in the United States, passionflower does have Generally Recognized As Safe status from the FDA.

7 things that make this herbal
insomnia remedy unique.

All the various sleep aid herbs bring their own unique natural and alternative chemical quality to solving sleep problems. Passionflower is no different and has 7 unique qualities:

  1. It provides deep, restful sleep without the morning grogginess that can happen with drugs. In fact, sleep expert Hyla Cass, M.D. says that not only does passionflower provide deep, natural sleep, but it also helps improve concentration when you're awake.

  2. It may work for you when other sleep aid herbs fail. For example, some people don't get benefit from valerian as a sleep aid but they do when taking passionflower as an herbal sleep remedy.

  3. It can be blended with other sleep aid herbs for an even more effective herbal sleep aid.

  4. It can be helpful for mild cough.

  5. It fights cell-damaging free radicals that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

  6. It may be effective for some people if their high blood pressure is due to stress.

  7. Perhaps the most striking and unique thing about passionflower is just how effective it is for anxiety.

Although researchers aren't exactly sure how passionflower works for anxiety and as one of the sleep aid herbs, they suspect it's because the herb contains various flavanoids that relax nerves.

Here's an example. There were two studies done that compared the anti-anxiety benefits of passionflower versus prescription drugs.

The first was reported in the October 2001 Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. The study concluded this: "The results suggest that Passiflora extract is an effective drug for the management of generalized anxiety disorder, and the low incidence of impairment of job performance with Passiflora extract compared to oxazepam [a pharmaceutical antianxiety drug] is an advantage."

The second study (May-August 2003 issue of the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences) showed that using passionflower for anxiety did not run into the withdrawal problems that come with using diazepam, another pharmaceutical antianxiety drug.

How to take these treatment herbs

You can take the recommended adult dose of passionflower as a tea, in capsules, or drops in tinctures.

As for the capsules, you can take passion flower alone in supplements or in capsules that contain other sleep aid herbs. For anxiety, I've read recommendations anywhere from 300 to 500 milligrams of just passionflower in capsule form up to three times daily.

When consumed as a tea to reduce stress and anxiety, drink one cup of tea anywhere from one to three times daily to see how it affects you. Pour a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of the dried flowers and let it steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Tinctures contain different amounts, but typically, .5 to 2 ml three times daily is a common recommended amount.

Most importantly, for safety and effectiveness, always read product labels for dosage recommendations.

Side effects and precautions
of this sleep aid herb

Fortunately, not much to worry about using this herbal supplement as a sleep aid treatment because there are almost no known side effects.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Passion flower is generally considered to be a safe herb with few reported serious side effects. In cases of side effects, the products being used have rarely been tested for contamination, which may have been the cause."

In my reading, the only side effect I found was the possibility of additive effects when taken with other sedatives. So people who are taking other drugs for that purpose need to be aware that passionflower might increase the effect of sedation or drowsiness.

Also keep in mind that because passionflower does produce mild sedation, you'll want to be careful not to use it at times when you need to be alert.

And lastly, as with all the sleep aid herbs, don't take passionflower if you're pregnant. Speak with a qualified health care professional before considering any medicinal herbs. Other than that, use of passion flower as a natural sleep remedy is definitely worth checking out for getting a good night's sleep.

Natural sleep remedy with passionflower

New Zealand's Neuro-Natural Sleep is full of passionflower, green tea extract, valerian, hops, chamomile, and 44 other health and sleep-enhancing nutrients.

  • Formulated to help overcome insomnia

  • Reduces anxiety and stress

  • So potent, it doesn't even need melatonin

  • For sharpening the memory, it includes vinpocetine and huperzine-A 


Here’s the reference on the anti-anxiety
effects of passionflower

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001 Oct;26(5):363-7. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam.


Other articles you will find useful

Part 1: How to Use Herbal Sleep Aids as Herbal Remedies for Insomnia

Part 2: More Herbal Remedies for Insomnia...Turn Off Your Mind

Part 3: Herbs For Sleep-Hops

Part 5: An Herbal Sleep Remedy For Egyptian Mummies?

Part 6 of Herbal Sleep Remedies: Chamomile

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