If you suffer from insomnia or anxiety, valerian and passion flower are two plant extracts that may benefit your symptoms. While passion flower and valerian are not palatable enough to be ingested in food, infusions and dried extracts of these two herbal medicines are popular for reducing nervous restlessness, improving sleep and reducing stress. Consult a medical herbalist and a physician before using herbal products to verify their safety for your particular condition.
Valerian root and passion flower have been used for centuries as herbal tonics for the nervous system. 16th century physician and herbalist Dr Culpeper recommended valerian to be used for their relaxing and sleep-promoting properties. Passion flower was discovered by Spanish Explorers in Peru in 1569. Both plants are approved in Germany by the German Commission E to be used singularly or in combination for sleep and nervous restlessness, and they are widely available in supplements for stress and sleep. Valerian and passion flower can be combined in the form of tinctures, infused oils, glycetracts, and herbal tea preparations.
Valerian root is a traditional herbal sleep remedy with a unpleasant taste and odor that has become increasingly popular in recent years as a supplement for sleep disorders, insomnia and anxiety. Essential oils found in the roots affect benzodiazapene receptors in the body, and thus help relax the nervous system. In a meta-analysis review published in "The American Journal of Medicine" in 2006, researchers from the University of California pooled together results from 16 clinical trials investigating the effects of valerian root. Valerian root was significantly effective for improving the quality of sleep in 1093 patients without creating negative side effects such as drowsiness or sedation.
The flowers, leaves and fruit of passion flower contain various phytochemicals that are responsible for the herb's medicinal properties. Powerful antioxidants include quercetin, luteolin, rutin and apigenin; sedative chemicals found in the flowers and leaves include chrysin, passiflorine and harmala alkaloids. A review published in "The Journal of Ethnopharmacology" in 2001 compared various studies investigating passion flower extract. Scientists from Panjab University in India reported that passion flower exhibited significant anti-anxiety and sedative actions in mice, but its effects have not yet been investigated by itself in humans.
Safety and Toxicity
Valerian and passion flower are considered safe, non-toxic and well-tolerated by the majority of the population. According to Drug Information Online, valerian root has a wide safety of margin and passion flower has no known toxicity or safety issues. However, some members of the population may experience headaches or digestive upsets after taking valerian products. Both extracts may interfere with prescription medications, so you should always consult your doctor before purchasing valerian or passion flower products. Do not take valerian and passion flower if you are pregnant, as they may stimulate uterine contractions.
- "Culpeper's Complete Herbal"; Dr Culeper; 1998 reprint
- "The Complete German E Commission Monographs"; The American Botanical Council; 1998
- "The Journal of Ethnopharmacology"; Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus; K. Dhawan, et al; 2001
- "The American Journal of Medicine"; Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis; S. Bent, et al; 2006
- "Drug Information Online": Valerian
- "Drug Information Online": Passion Flower