Using passion flower for sleep

Passion flower  (Passiflora incarnata) is a plant native to the southern United States, Central and South America. For centuries the Native Americans and Aztecs have appreciated it’s healing qualities. It is known for it’s “calming” effect and has been used to treat anxiety, insomnia,seizures, and hysteria.

The name passion flower is thought to have come from the Spanish missionaries who discovered it in the 16th century. The flower in the centre of the plant was said to resemble the crown of thorns that Jesus wore at the crucifixion.

Limited scientific trials have been performed to date, but the herb appears to function as a relaxant by suppressing the nervous system, reducing muscle spasms.  Passionflower has also been used to treat seizures, hysteria, severe hay fever and asthma ADHD, high blood pressure and fibromyalgia. Prior to 1978 the herb had been available in the USA as an over the country sedative and aid for sleep problems. It was removed to give time for testing but was never reinstated for sale in over the counter products.

Often passion flower is combined with other natural sleep remedies and sold as over the counter (OTC) treatments for anxiety, insomnia and other sleep disorders. It’s common to find these natural sleep aids containing a combination of valerian root, lemon balm, St John’s Wort, chamomile and lavender flower.

Treatment has shown to be effective for both adults and children, in fact in Germany it is used in a special sedative tea for children. When used to treat sleep or mild anxiety problems, passionflower has been shown to be non-addictive.


As with any medicines, you should always read the product instructions and labelling. Recommended dosages vary, but as a guideline, you can take 2-5 g of the herbal remedy as a tea, 3-5 times a day. Spread your cups throughout the day and have one a half-hour before going to bed. Dosages for tinctures vary but typically you would take 0.5 to 2 ml taken three times per day.

Passion flower tea

As with many natural sleep remedies, you can enjoy passion flower in as an infusion or tea. Simply drop a tea bag into a cup of boiling water for a relaxing hot beverage. You can also buy passion flower tea in loose form, just make sure you full strain it before you pour a cup.

Passion flower extract

If you’re not a great tea drinker, you cold try passion flower extract. This is available in either a tincture, liquid extract or as capsules. In liquid format you can put a few drops in some water or juice or straight in your mouth. Capsules come in various sizes so always check the labelling.

Side effects

There have been few reported negative side effects from using passion flower herbs as a herbal sleep aid. Some of the adverse reaction reported include mild dizziness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, and rapid heartbeat. Pregnant women should steer clear of using passion flower as it has not been fully clinically tested.

Photo by Loving Jazz Photography

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