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Nutrient - Passionflower - A Herbal Focus

By Debbie Paddington Dip ION

Passionflower, also known as Passiflora, Passiflorina, Passiflore Officinale, apricot vine or passion vine, is part of the Passifloraceae family. The plant is native to southeastern parts of America, but is now found throughout Europe. The passionflower plant was discovered in 1569 by Spanish explorers in Peru who saw the flowers as symbolic of the passion of Christ, and therefore a sign of Christ's approval of their efforts. The folklore surrounding this plant possibly dates further into the past, since passionflower got its name because its corona resembles the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion. 

Passionflower was popular with the Victorians, but became less fashionable in the early twentieth century. Today, passionflower has a worldwide interest, not only as a beautiful flower for gardens and conservatories, but also for its medicinal properties. The medicinal parts are found in the whole, or cut, dried herb and fresh aerial parts of the plant, and are attributed primarily to the alkaloid and flavonoid content.

Passionflower has a traditional use in Europe and America as a calming herb, for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as mild anxiety. Scientists believe that passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, more commonly known as GABA, in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making people more relaxed. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorders in Britain. Anxiety can affect us all at different times and in different ways; it is a normal part of life that can alert us to danger and make us more careful. However, some people suffer with more generalised anxiety, which may persist whether or not the cause is clear to the sufferer, and can interfere with daily life. Typical symptoms of generalised anxiety may include, irritability, constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns, insomnia, shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, muscle tension and muscle aches.

GABA activity is reduced in people with mood and anxiety disorders, and drugs that increase GABA activity are commonly prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, researchers studied the effect of passionflower on people who suffer from generalised anxiety and found some positive results.

Passionflower can be taken before or after a stressful event to provide a natural calming effect.

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