By Jamie Legaspi; First Year Project Manager
As many pharmacy students know, school can be overwhelmingly stressful and sleep-depriving. But what if there was a natural product that could be used to relieve some of that stress and help us get a better night’s rest? The answer may be Passiflora incarnata, otherwise known as passion flower, but there isn’t much evidence. Read on to learn what we found.
The term “passion flower” encompasses many of the species of the Passiflora genus, from beautiful flowers to edible fruits. The passion flower was discovered in 1959 in Peru by Spanish explorers. The scientific and common names come from the fact that these explorers believed that the flowers symbolized the passion of Christ, and assumed they were a sign of Christ’s approval of their experiences. Now, passion flower can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, from Virginia to Florida and even as far west as Texas and Missouri.
Passion flower was traditionally used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. Although not FDA approved, today it is still used for its sedative and anxiolytic effects. There are several theories about how passionflower actually works. Some scientists believe that passionflower increases the levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) inside the brain, which lowers the activity of some brain cells, contributing to the relaxation effect. Other scientists believe its activity is mainly due to the alkaloids and flavonoids, which inhibit monoamine oxidase.
There are various forms through which passionflower is available, such as infusions, teas, liquid extracts, and tinctures. The NYU Langone Medical Center suggests making one cup of tea three times a day by soaking one teaspoon of dried leaves for 10 to 15 minutes. There is not sufficient evidence to validate the use of passionflower in pediatric patients, so it is recommended to talk to the child’s pediatrician before giving it.
However, this natural product may be too good to be true. Before students go looking for passionflower products, it should be noted that more research needs to be done on its safety and efficacy, as there is little clinical data to support the use of passionflower for these medical uses. Passionflower may have interactions with certain medications such as sedatives, antiplatelets and anticoagulants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. These interactions have not been well documented, along with contraindications, side effects, and toxicities. Until further research is done on this natural remedy, students will just have to stick with other natural remedies or nonpharmacologic ways of dealing with stress and insomnia.