Passion Flower and Sleep
Passion flower has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. Ancient medical practitioners knew first hand of the powers of passion flower and they often used it when treating patients. Modern science has finally caught up with the times. There is now impressive scientific research showing that passion flower is a great sleep aid for helping people fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve the quality of their sleep. More on the science below:
How does passion flower work for sleep?
Passion flower works in several ways to help with sleep. First of all, we need to remember that even though it’s only one plant, there are several different active ingredients involved.
The three major “families” of active ingredients in passion flower are: alkaloids, glycosides, flavanoids. The active ingredients all have unique functions and they work together synergistically.
The active ingredients in passion flower help with sleep in 3 major ways:
1. Passion flower increases the amount of GABA in the brain. GABA is the body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter; high levels of GABA are associated with reduced levels of anxiety. Lower levels of anxiety will calm a racing mind and help a person fall asleep. To give you an idea of the strength of its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, passion flower has been shown to be as effective as the major benzodiazepine drug, oxazepam (Serax). (Link to study below) Valium is another common benzodiazepine, and it also works to increase GABA. Even though it’s not a sleep drug per se, its anti-anxiety effects are often strong enough to give many people a very good and long sleep.
2. Passion flower is also known to be a useful muscle relaxer. When a person’s muscles are tense, it’s much more difficult for them to drift off to sleep. Passion flower will help relax all the major muscles in the body which in turn will help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a better quality of sleep.
3. Passion flower is well known for having analgesic (pain killing) properties. It is also an anti-inflammatory. Even if you aren’t in a lot of pain, the pain killing effects of passion flower may take your current level of pain to a slightly lower level, thus making you more comfortable and able to fall asleep a little more easily.
There are many different active ingredients inside the 3 families listed above. They all work together in very complex and synergistic ways to help improve a person’s sleep. The 3 ways mentioned above are just a few simple ways passion flower works its magic.
The science behind passion flower and sleep:
Passion flower has been scientifically shown to directly increase the quality of sleep. It has been shown to be as effective as certain powerful benzodiazepine (used for sleep and anxiety) medications. Passion flower has also been shown to significantly decrease anxiety in patients before surgery compared with a placebo, thus creating the right state of mind for a peaceful sleep.
We’ll discuss and link to these 3 studies now. All 3 studies provide a very promising scientific framework as to why passion flower makes an effective sleep aid.
Passion flower improves the quality of sleep:
This study looked at passion flower’s effects on sleep quality vs a placebo. This particular study used passion flower tea (the placebo was parsley tea).
There were 41 people in the study, each between 18 and 35 years old.
Everyone recorded their sleep quality in a diary for 7 straight days. They also underwent a polysomnography (PSG) test. A polysomnography is a well known scientific diagnostic sleep tool which measures several biophysiological sleep metrics like eye movements, muscle activity, heart activity, etc.
The results showed that passion flower significantly improved the quality of sleep as seen on both the sleep diaries and the polysomnography test.
Here is a link to the official study
This is a fascinating study showing the strength of passion flower and how well it could work for both sleep and anxiety. It looked at 36 patients with GAD (general anxiety disorder). This study compared the effects of passion flower to the effects of the powerful benzodiazepine drug Oxazepam (Serax).
Oxazepam is a benzo with a slower onset of action than other benzos like Valium. It helps people stay asleep rather than fall asleep. Learn more about Oxazepam
Although this study specifically looked at patients with anxiety disorder, it’s important to note that Oxazepam is often prescribed by doctors for patients with insomnia. There is a very strong link between anxiety and sleep disorders.
The results were very impressive. Both passion flower and Oxazepam were effective in treating anxiety. And they were equally effective, which is amazing. The difference was that passion flower had no negative side effects associated with it, whereas the Oxazepam group did experience negative side effects.
A specific sleep study on humans comparing passion flower to Oxazepam hasn’t been conducted yet, but there is very promising evidence to suggest that passion flower would be just as effective in this arena as well.
Read more on the “Passion flower vs Oxazepam” study.
This was an interesting double blind study of 60 people. The researchers were trying to see if passion flower was better than a placebo in reducing anxiety before surgery. Surgery is a very stressful event, so if this study can show passion flower can reduce anxiety even in this type of situation, it would indicate it’s quite powerful. The researchers used various sophisticated tests of psychomotor function to determine anxiety levels.
The results clearly showed the passion flower significantly reduced anxiety in patients about to undergo surgery.
Although this study measured anxiety rather than sleep directly, when combined with the results of the first 2 studies, we have an impressive bit of research illustrating how passion flower could be a great sleep aid in addition to being an anxiety reducing herb.
For more info, check out the “Passion flower reduces anxiety before surgery” study.
Passion flower has a lot of scientific evidence supporting its role as an effective sleep aid. Passion flower can work alone as an effective sleep aid, and it’s likely even more effective as a sleep aid when combined with other natural ingredients that have also been proven to help with sleep.
There are hundreds of different species of passion flower, and the parts of the plants used and the way the passion flower is processed varies a great deal between brands. It’s essential to pay attention to the type of passion flower you get and make sure it’s standardized to a high % of the “flavanoid” active ingredient family.