Every Herb Has a Story: Passionflower Benefits

| 11/30/2010 9:45:19 AM

R.BureshRandy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy, Oregon. www.oregonswildharvest.com 

Passionflower is an herb whose uses have little to do with its name. Rather than inducing feelings of passion, this herb is much more likely to make you calm, relaxed, and even sleepy. Passionflower gets its name from the beautiful flowers' radial filiments, which Christian missionaries likened to the crown of thorns used in Christ's crucifixion.

Passionflower's name derives from Christian symbolism.
Photo by Randy Buresh

Known for its fragrance and unique colorful flowers, passionflower was traditionally used as a calming herb. Today, the properties in passionflower still make it useful as a soothing sleep-aid and in supporting relaxation in times of stress. Scientists believe that passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA reduces the activity of some brain cells, inducing a greater state of relaxation. Passionflower is often combined with other herbs used for relaxation such asvalerian, lemon balm, skullcap, or kava. Some people apply a poultice of the root of passion flower to the skin for use as a topical remedy for healing of the skin.

Since passionflower is a nervine, meaning that it has an effect on the nervous system, it can intensify the effects of prescription sedatives. The two should not be taken simultaneously. 

Nervines like passionflower are considered complementary herbs to use along with adaptogens, like ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a unique herb in that it can have a very calming effect, but it can also energize a person when needed—the best of both worlds, all in one little herb.