Ingredient Spotlight: Passion Flower
Ingredient Spotlight: Passion FlowerWith its seductive name, it's no wonder the passion flower would be an important element of our relaxing supplement, Unwind. Passion flower, or Passiflora incarnata, one of the 500 species of passion flower, has long been used as a sedative, used to treat anxiety, and for its anti-inflammatory properties. Let's learn a little more about its history, the science behind it, and how R3SET uses it to help people master their stress response.
The History of Passion FlowerMany cultures have used passion flower therapeutically for centuries to treat a wide array of conditions. Native Americans used it to treat wounds, infections, and pain. In Europe, passion flower was used to treat restlessness, agitation, and anxiety. In India, it’s an herb used in the Ayurveda for a list of maladies. In Turkey, Nigeria, and a handful of other countries it's been used to treat insomnia. In South America, it has been used to treat everything from migraines to hypertension to bronchitis and numerous things in between. The first medically recorded use of this herb was in 1569 by a Spanish researcher, Monardus, who was visiting Peru. It only continued to grow in popularity around the world as the centuries wore on, and of course, found its ways to several clinical studies in recent years.
Fun Fact: European settlers in Virginia and Florida even ate passion flower as a fruit.
The Sleep-Happy Science Behind PassifloraNow that we've taken a quick walk down memory lane to glimpse passion flower's impressive past, let's look at the scientific data that supports therapeutic applications of the herb, specifically in reducing harmful stress and promoting relaxation and sleep quality. Fifteen pre-clinical and clinical trials have assessed the anxiety-reducing and sleep-promoting potential of passion flower extracts. We've condensed a short summary of some of the findings here because not everyone loves reading medical journals (we do!), but the conclusions are just too compelling to miss.
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) has a long history of use as a sedative and to treat anxiety (Kim et. al., 2017). It is a common ingredient in traditional herbal medicine that is rich in phytochemicals such as flavonoids and alkaloids, which are recognized for their tranquilizing and anti-inflammatory properties. There is scientific evidence that phytochemical compounds extracted from passion flower roots, leaves, stems, and flowers may decrease anxiety via interaction with the GABA(A) receptor in laboratory experiments, and thereby promotes a calming and sedative effect (Patel et. al., 2009).
Animal studies have also shown that chrysin, a predominant phytochemical in passion flower, reduced inflammation in brain cells by downregulating proinflammatory cytokines in the CNS (Yao et. al., 2014). Because stress is well known to cause inflammation and disrupt the sleep cycle, the anti-inflammatory and sedative compounds abundant in passion flower may have diverse soothing properties.
Passion flower also works well in concert with other herbs. To investigate the synergistic effects of passion flower with other traditional herbs, researchers used a polyherbal oral formulation (80mg passion flower, 300mg valerian, 30mg hops) in patients with primary insomnia, which demonstrated significant improvement in total sleep time and quality, similar to the effects of conventional sedative pharmaceuticals, without inducing adverse side effects (Maroo et. al., 2013). Dietary intake of passion flower was well-tolerated in all clinical trials. It is important to note that consuming high serving sizes of passion flower extracts resulted in sedation and therefore confounded potential sleep-promoting benefits (Patel et. al., 2009).