sed as a mild sedative for nervous restlessness, anxiety, and sleep disorders
Used to relieve neuralgia
Used as an adjuvant agent in managing opiate withdrawal
A beautiful climbing plant, passion flower was introduced to Europe from the Americas by the Spanish in the 16th century. Afterwards it became popular in Western medicine as a tranquilizer and mild sedative.
Eclectic physicians of the early part of the last century, for example, found it "specially useful" to treat insomnia and restlessness.
The normative British Herbal Compendium describes passion flower as having sedative, anxiolytic, and antispasmodic actions. It goes on to list sleep disorders, restlessness, nervous stress, and anxiety as indications for the herb. Other uses include neuralgia and nervous tachycardia.
Health writer Michael Castleman tells of the remarkable scientific research that has confirmed the efficacy of passion flower: "Passionflower contains compounds that are indeed tranquilizing (maltol, flavonoids, and passiflorine, which is chemically similar to morphine). It also has substances that are potentially stimulating (harmala compounds). Various researchers have concluded that the herb has complex activity in the central nervous system, with an overall mild tranquilizing-sedative effect despite the presence of stimulants.
"The herb is clearly sedative in animals," Castleman continues, "and that effect has been confirmed by research in humans. French researchers gave 91 people with anxiety problems either medically inactive placebos or an herbal preparation containing passionflower and several other herbs... After 28 days, those taking the herb formula reported significantly greater anxiety relief."
Commission E, Germany's foremost herbal authority, has approved passion flower for use in cases of "nervous restlessness."
In his monograph on passion flower, leading herbalist David Hoffmann explains that, "Passionflower is the herb of choice for intransigent insomnia. It eases the transition into restful sleep without causing any next-day hangover. It may be used whenever an antispasmodic is indicated (for example, for Parkinson's disease, seizures, or hysteria). It can be effective for nerve pain, such as neuralgia, and the viral infection of nerves called shingles."
Citing corroborative studies, researcher Kerry Bone refers as well to passion flower's usefulness in helping to treat opiate withdrawal.
One clinical trial comparing passionflower with standard drug therapy (oxazepam) for anxiety found both to be equally efficacious. The only difference was that passionflower's effects were not fully realized until at least one week of treatment had passed.