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Herbal Monograph

Herb  Passion Flower     (Passiflora incarnata, Passifloracae)

Other Names:  granadilla, maypop, passion vine.  (2); Maypops  (57)

Character/Energetics:   bitter, cool   (6)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  heart, liver (6);  nerves and circulation    (14)

Part(s) used:   whole or cut dried herb, or fresh aerial parts (2); aerial portions (6); dried leaves  (9)                                                                                                  

Identification & Harvesting:  The axillary stem grows up to 3 inches and bears one flower.  Flowers have 5 petals white to pale red, 2-4 inches diameter.  A perennial vine on a strong woody stem reaching 10 m. in length.  Vine is initially angular, later grey and rounded with longitudinally striated bark.  Leaves alternate, serrate, and finely hairy.  Grows wild in Western Hemisphere in temperate to tropical zones;  cultivated in Europe as an ornamental.  Yellow pulp from the berry is edible;  fruit grows to the size of an apple.  Flowering shoots are cut 10 cm above ground, usually after formation of first fruit.  Air dry or in a hay drier.  For maximum flavonoid content, harvest biennially;  however this is subject to controversy.    (2)

If the foliage alone is to be collected, this should happen just before the flowers bloom, between May and July. The foliage may be collected with the fruit after flowering. It should be dried in the shade.    (9)  

Found in fields from Virginia to southern Illinois and southeast Kansas, south to Florida and Texas.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Flavonoids up to 2.5%:  incl. C-glycosylflavones, isovitexin-2”-glucoside, schaftoside, isoschaftoside, isoorientin, isoorientin-2”-glucoside, vicenin-2, lucenin-2;  cyanogenic glycosides:  gynocardine less than .1%;  trace volatile oils;  frequently postulated presence of harmaline alkaloids could not be confirmed.    (2)

Alkaloids including passiflorine, harman, harmine and harmol and flavonic derivatives   (6)                  …flavone glycosides; sterols     (8)

Research indicates a synergistic complex of principles, probably flavonoids, responsible for its action.  But more research is needed.    (61)

Actions:    a motility-inhibiting effect has been observed in animal tests.    (2)

nervine, sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anodyne   (6)  (9)

Primarily antispasmodic, sedative;  also diaphoretic.    (14)

sedative, hypnotic, anodyne, antispasmodic;  calms the nervous system, promotes sleep.    (15)

Antispasmodic, sedative, narcotic.    (57)

Demonstrated antispasmodic, sedative, hypotensive, calmative.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Used for nervous agitation, mild insomnia and nervous gastrointestinal complaints. In folk medicine, it is used internally for depressive states such as hysteria, agitation and insomnia and externally for hemorrhoids.  (2)

It treats sleeplessness, chronic insomnia, Parkinson’s disease,

seizures, epilepsy, hysteria, neuraIgia, shingles, anxiety, and nervous tension. The fruit is rich in flavonoids and is diuretic and a nutritive tonic.   (6)

Passion Flower is one of the most effective herbs for treating intransigent insomnia.

It aids the transition into a restful sleep without any ‘narcotic’ hangover. It may be used wherever an anti-spasmodic is required, for example in Parkinson’s disease, seizures and hysteria. It can be quite effective in nerve pain such as neuralgia and the viral infection of nerves called shingles. It may be used in asthma where there is some associated tension. (9)

Internal uses —  back tension, coughs, eye tension, headaches, hiccups, insomnia, nervous tension, respiratory stimulant:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion.  Convulsions, hypertension, muscular twitching, spasms:  tincture, fluid extract.  Fevers:  infusion*.  Bradycardia during high fever:  tincture*, fluid extract*, infusion*.

External uses — rheumatic pains:  poultice.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Passion flower is most commonly used for nervous conditions without pain, such as insomnia, restlessness, hysteria and nervous heachaces.  It tones the sympathetic nervous system.  Passion flower is indicated in childhood nervous problems such as muscle twitching and irritability.  In elderly people, it is good for sciatica and nerve debility.  (14)

A remedy in nervous, irritative and neuralgic pains with debility, and also in nervous headache, hysteria, spasms and convulsions.    (57)

Used for nervous tension, esp. in sleep disturbances or anxiety arising from restlessness.   (61)

Combinations:    For insomnia it will combine well with Valerian, Hops and Jamaica Dogwood, especially if part of a whole approach to the problem. To ease muscular spasm, colic and pain it can be tried either by itself, with the herbs just mentioned, or Cramp Bark.   (9)                                                   

Add lavender and chamomile to infusion if desired.    (15)

More research is needed, particularly on combinations with other herbs.    (61)

Precautions:    No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages  (2); avoid high doses in pregnancy  (15); Contains trace amounts of harman alkaloids that contradict MAOI antidepressants.  Otherwise, no side effects or hazards have been reported.    (61)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Infusion:  steep 5-15 min.;  1 cup during the day.  Tincture:  15-60 drops in water as needed.  Fluid extract:  10-20 drops as needed.  Powder:  1-2 #0 capsules (3-10 grains) as needed.    (14)


Dosage:     standard infusion or 3‑9 gms.; tincture,10‑30 drops     (6)                            

                  Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and let infuse for 15 minutes. Drink a cup in the evening for sleeplessness, and a cup twice a day for other conditions.

                   Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture and use the same way as the infusion.    (9)

Liquid extract dose, 10-20 drops.    (57)

Steep 1/2 tsp dried herb in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min;  divide into 3 daily doses.  Tincture 20-40 drops up to 4 x daily.    (61)

General Notes



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 1015

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 355

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 221

(9) The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman, pgs. 71-72

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 155-56

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 164-65, 182

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 262

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 152-53


PHOTO: Wikipedia