Passiflora Incarnata, or Passionflower, is a tropical climbing vine that grows in most tropical and semi-tropical climates in the Americas. Dating back as far as the Aztecs of modern-day Mexico, Passiflora was used as a sedative medication. Spanish Conquistadors discovered the plant during their conquest of Central and South America and took the plant back to Europe where it was widely cultivated. The plant did not make a resurgence into American Medicine until the 1800’s when it was re-imported from Europe.
As A Sleep Aid
The medicinal qualities of Passiflora would best be classified as hypnotic which simply means sleep inducing. Most studies suggest Passiflora may not strictly induce sleep but does encourage normal sleep patterns and helps users more easily fall asleep. In such cases, users don’t report any of the memory loss or dullness upon waking experienced by patients who have been prescribed a common hypnotic drug.
In a recent study conducted by a team of Italian researchers, Passiflora extract was found to produce reduced physical activity due to its sedative properties without any reduction in the subject’s brain function. Test subjects who saw results had an easier time falling asleep, could be woken up naturally at any time and did not experience any dulling of cerebral function.
The results of the limited testing done so far suggest Passiflora is most effective when used by patients who suffer from some kind of chronic fatigue or are in a weakened state due to some other disease. When used by persons with normal strength who did not have restless or wakeful sleep due to some kind of exhaustion did not generally experience the same results. Those with normal strength who did report improved sleep generally suffered from some kind of muscular spasms which interrupted normal sleep patterns.
In addition to Passiflora’s hypnotic properties, the plant has also been tied to antispasmodic effects useful beyond just helping cure related insomnia. The plant has been used to treat the side effects of convulsant drugs, to treat symptoms of diseases like tetanus and even to alleviate the muscular twitching of epilepsy. Passiflora has also been prescribed for common spasmodic problems like chronic hiccough.
How It Works
The numerous studies conducted on Passiflora and the evidence gathered over the last century or so of its use, lead most researchers to believe the active agents in the plant have a sedative effect on the reflex activity of the spinal cord. Passiflora has also been found to temporarily reduce pulse and arterial tension which leads some researchers to believe the plant can alter the vasomotor properties of the medulla oblongata.
More studies should be done to further prove, or disprove, the medicinal properties of Passiflora but it is worth considering when investigating the ingredients in an herbal sleep aid. The side effects associated with a prescription sleep aids can be dangerous to not only the user but those around them and no such side effects have been reported with Passiflora when taken in normal doses.