Does Passionflower Tea Work and is it Safe? Here's What You Need to Know
On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz recommended that women over 40 who experience mood swings that will not easily correct itself can help bring back normal hormonal balance to their mood by drinking one cup of Passionflower tea a day. Dr. Oz explained that this has to do with the fact that the pituitary gland - which is responsible for controlling hormone levels - changes as a woman ages and is the reason why younger women are better able to recover from a bad mood brought on by stress more quickly than older women.
According to The Dr. Oz Show website, Passionflower tea possesses a flavonoid compound called “chrysin,” which is believed to have calming benefits and works best for someone who has anxiety, suffers from circular thinking or has obsessive thoughts. The recommended dose is one cup taken just before bedtime to calm your mind.
Reportedly, Passionflower got its name back in 1569 when Spanish explorers “discovered” the plant and believed that the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion and was a sign of his Holy approval for their exploration.
Today, Passionflower is widely advertised on the internet as a combination herbal ingredient for many products promoted as mild and natural herbal sedatives used for inducing calmness and relaxation. In fact, some extracts or portions of the Passionflower can be found in German chamomile, kava, and the sleep aid valerian that Dr. Andrew Weil says that he uses for relaxing sleep.
So where’s the scientific evidence supporting Passionflower tea as a natural way to soothe jittered nerves or alleviate a bad mood swing? As it turns out there have been a number of studies looking at whether or not Passionflower has therapeutic effects and benefits.
Two of the most recent studies within the past 2 years tested the effectiveness of Passionflower as a sleep aid and as an anxiety reducer in controlled studies monitoring sleep subject volunteers and patients about to undergo spinal anesthesia respectively.
In the sleep study under double-blind conditions, 41 test subjects were given for 1 week either a Passionflower tea or a placebo tea that was consumed before bedtime each night. The effects of the Passionflower and placebo teas on the participants were recorded with sleep diaries kept by the test subjects and with polysomnography (PSG) monitoring. Polysomnography is a diagnostic test of which a number of physiologic variables such as brain electrical activity, eye and jaw muscle movement, leg muscle movement and respiratory effort are measured and recorded during sleep.
After the 1-week test, a 7-day washout period was instituted followed by the participants being switched on their tea type and then measured a second time for one week to see if or how taking the test tea over a placebo tea makes any difference on an individual.
What the researchers reported finding was that their data showed that drinking low doses of Passionflower tea can result in short-term subjective sleep benefits for healthy adults who experience mild fluctuations in sleep quality.
In a similar type of study using 60 patients aged 25-55 years old who were about to undergo spinal anesthesia, Passionflower tea and a placebo tea were pitted against each other to determine if Passionflower tea can reduce anxiety in patients just before undergoing a spinal tap procedure.
Data was collected that consisted of specialized tests that assessed patient anxiety, sedation and psychomotor function. What the researchers found was that drinking Passionflower tea just before undergoing spinal anesthesia in comparison to a placebo tea, statistically reduced anxiety in patients and without changing psychomotor function test results, sedation levels, or hemodynamics as other sedatives are at risk of doing.
The safety of Passionflower tea is regarded as generally safe as long as doses are kept to a reasonable amount such as a cup a day. There are some reports that too much Passionflower tea or an extract of the plant can result in dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle action, altered consciousness, and inflamed blood vessels. At least one report lists that it did cause a rapid heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm in one person who took it.
Passionflower tea is contraindicated in women who are pregnant because it contains a compound that may induce uterine contractions. Several sources also advise nursing mothers to not drink Passionflower tea due to studies are lacking as to whether exposure to Passionflower tea through breast milk can affect an infant’s health and development.
For informative health articles about other teas and whether they are harmful or not, click-on the following titled links:
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“Passiflora incarnata Linneaus as an anxiolytic before spinal anesthesia” Journal of Anesthesia 2012 Feb; 26(1):39-44; Aslanargun, P et al.
“A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality” Phytotherapy Research 2011 Aug; 25(8):1153-9; Ngan A. and Conduit R.