30 Oct Herbal Spotlight: Passionflower
Passiflora, or Passionflower, is a plant native to North, Central, and South America. While primarily tropical, some of its 400 species can grow in colder climates. The name passion flower dates back to the seventeenth century. Spanish explorers learned about passionflower from native Peruvians. They named these plants for their resemblance to a crucifix. In Christian traditions, “the Passion” is a term used to describe the final period of Jesus Christ’s life, including his crucifixion, thus you get Passion Flower.
Medical use of Passionflower did not begin until the late nineteenth century in the United States. Passionflower was used to treat nervous restlessness and gastrointestinal spasms. Passionflower supports the nervous system by promoting calm and reducing anxiety. The herb boosts the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which lowers brain activity, promoting relaxation and improving sleep. Passionflower is an effective analgesic, helping to alleviate pain. European botanical literature involving the flower suggests that the flower is most potent when combined with Valerian and Lemon Balm Leaf due to their sedative properties.
Passiflora has a depressant effect on activity in the central nervous system and is hypotensive—meaning that its sedative and soothing properties help to lower blood pressure, prevent tachycardia, and ease insomnia. It can be effective treatment for nerve pain such as neuralgia and the viral infection of nerves called shingles. Many of the flavonoids, such as apigenin, are well-known for pharmacological activity, particularly antispasmodic and anti inflammatory activities. It appears to boost the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. This compound lowers brain activity, which may help you relax and sleep better. It is a very successful aid in the transition to a restful sleep without any ‘narcotic’ hangover.