|purple passion flower
Habitat: grows in partially shaded dry areas, and
along fences and woods of the United States.
Description: It has a long vine which grows for 30
feet in length and bears alternate, serrate leaves with finely toothed lobes.
The flowers are white with purple centers developing in the leaf axils,
blooming from May to July. The fruit is a smooth, yellow, ovate berry
containing numerous seeds.
Plant - dried, collected after some of the berries have
Flower - dried
* For definition of some of the above terms
see the dictionary section of this book.
Passion flower has a mild sedative effect that encourages
sleep. This property has been well-substantiated in numerous studies on animals
and humans. Nervous symptoms and cramps that inhibit sleep are alleviated by
ingestion of the herb, and leading quickly to restful uninterrupted and deep
sleep. When Spanish explorers first encountered the Indians of Peru and Brazil,
they found this plant used in native folk medicine as a sedative. They took it
back to Spain, from whence it gradually spread throughout Europe. It was in
Europe that the leaves of the plant first found use as a sedative and
sleep-inducing substance. Interestingly, its sedative effect was not noted by
American until lately.
Today, more than 400 species of passion flower are found
throughout the world. The active constituents of passion flower can be broadly
classified as alkaloids and flavonoids, supported in their actions by a variety
of other constituents, including amino acids, sugars, coumarins, and alcohols
A decoction of passion flower has been successfully used
in bronchial asthma. It has been used in Europe and America as a topical
treatment for burns; compresses of the herb have a marked effect on
The leaves of Passiflora edulis are used in South America
as a diuretic and for hemorrhoidal inflammations. In Brazil, Passiflora
incarnata is used as an antispasmodic and sedative. In North America, passion
flower is often used as an analgesic and anticonvulsant, with some success
noticed in cases of tetanus. In Italy, a combination of passion flower,
belladonna, and lobelia is used to treat asthma. In Poland, a proprietary drug
for treating excitability, contains an extract of passion flower.
Numerous homeopathic drugs contain passion flower; it is
possible that the main sedative activity of the plant is truly homeopathic in
nature, being in that respect a function of the harman alkaloid constituents
otherwise stimulant in nature.
Passion flower has been commonly used in the treatment of
nervous, high-strung, easily excited children; cardiovascular neuroses;
bronchial asthma; coronary illness; circulation weakness; insomnia; problems
experienced during menopause; concentration problems in school children; and in
geriatrics. There is some experimental support for these applications.
Passion flower appears completely nontoxic, and has been
approved for food use by the FDA.
Passion flower has related analgesic, sedative,
sleep-inducing, and spasmolytic effects.
The major pharmacological effect of passion flower, first
observed nearly a hundred years ago and consistently reported ever since, is a
sedative property. The analgesic property of this herb was also observed, and
doctors had success treating the sleeplessness experienced by neurasthenic and
hysteric patients, as well as that caused by nervous exhaustion. Early
investigators noticed that the herb worked best when sleeplessness could be
traced to an inflammation of the brain; passion flower appeared to act as an
analgesic and was free from side effects. Later in this century, investigators
discovered that the flavonoid fraction was more effective. However, other tests
showed that the most effective sedative activity was obtained from a
combination of both the flavonoids and the alkaloids.
Early research indicated that an extract of passion flower
was effective against the disturbance of menopause, and as agent against the
sleeplessness that occurred during convalescence from the flu. The herb had no
side effects, and appeared to induce a normal peaceful sleep. Observations on
the day following administration revealed no depression of body or mind, in
contrast to the morning-after effects usually experienced with narcotic
Passion flower is one of the main constituents of a German
sleeping pill called Vita-Dor. This product, also containing aprobarbital,
valerian root, hops, mellissa, and thiamine, is highly effective in inducing
and maintaining sleep throughout the night. A recent Romanian patent was issued
for a sedative chewing gum that contains passion flower extract in a base of
several vitamins. Many other examples of the widespread application of passion
flower in Europe could be cited; however, American recognition of the sedative
effects of passion flower has lagged seriously behind.
Some of passion flower's main constituents are the harmine
and harman alkaloids (passiflorine, aribine, loturine, yageine, etc.). In man
small doses (about 3-6 mg) stimulate the central nervous system, much like
coffee and tea (black). In larger doses (15-35 mg), these alkaloids produce a
strong motoric restlessness followed by drowsiness. Still larger doses
intensify the motoric activity and cause hallucinations, convulsions, and
vomiting. Oral doses of 300-400 mg will produce marked psychotic symptoms,
replete with hallucinations, followed by pronounced central nervous system
depression. Hence, passion flower is sometimes used as a mild hallucinogen.
Since large doses of pure harman alkaloids are needed to produce psychoactive
symptoms of any merit, use of the whole plant probably has no such observable
Pharmacological investigations in animals indicate that
relatively large doses of harman derivatives excite the central nervous system,
producing hallucinations and convulsions that appear to be of extrapyramidal
origin. These effects do not agree with the properties of the whole plant.
Harman alkaloids arrest spasms in smooth muscle, lower the blood pressure, and
expand the coronary vessels, effects which have also been observed in whole
herb extracts and appear occasionally in the folk literature. A
centrally-depressive chemical, a gamma-pyrone derivative called maltol, has
been isolated from passion flower and shown to have mild sedative properties in
mice; maltol could offset the stimulant properties of harman alkaloids, but it
is unlikely that it account for all sedative effects observed in humans.
Presently, the active principle in passion flower remains
unknown. It has been verified that the herb's alkaloid fraction is sedative,
the flavonoid fraction (also containing some harman) is active, and a
combination of the two is most active.
Passion flower should be used with caution in conjunction
with CNS-depressants or stimulants.
Specifically, this herb should not be used at all in
conjunction with the potent CNS-depressant analgesic, methotrimeprazine.
To minimize central nervous system depression and possible
synergism, it would be wise to avoid using passion flower with procarbazine
The neuromuscular relaxing action of passion flower may be
enhanced by the use of certain aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as
In the absence of other hard data, it may be assumed that
observable interactions occur between the many central nervous system drugs and
the psychoactive principles in this herb.
No toxicity of passion flower has been noted, although
harman alkaloids have demonstrated toxic effects (as discussed in the Method of