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Is Passionflower Good for Insomnia? (Study Summary)

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Passionflower is one of the more common sleeping aids that you’ll find in over the counter sleep supplements.

It’s been used historically as a sedative, but there aren’t too many studies backing up claims of sleep improvement.

I’m going to walk you through the current research on passionflower and insomnia, and then you can decide if it’s convincing enough for you or not.

The Effect of Passionflower Tea on Sleep Quality

The most robust study that I’ve seen on passionflower to date was a double-blind, placebo controlled study looking at the effect of passionflower herbal tea on sleep quality (1).

The results were underwhelming. The only significant difference between the passionflower and placebo group was seen in sleep quality, which saw a small improvement (<10% on a 5 point scale).

There was no significant difference in sleep efficiency or total sleep time.

Reasons to Believe That Passionflower Could Improve Sleep

The above study shows that it’s worth researching passionflower more, although it’s unlikely to be some miracle cure for insomnia.

One study had subjects with anxiety take passionflower extract daily, and saw improvements in anxiety levels (2):

Intake of Passionflower extract (200 mg/day for 12 weeks) improved several emotional parameters related to daytime social and mental activities. Passionflower extract was suggested to be useful for improving anxiety.

Since anxiety is an insomnia risk factor, this could potentially explain the mechanism behind any effects that passionflower has on sleep.

The Effect of Passionflower Extract on Insomnia Disorder

Another study also looked at the effects of passionflower extract in patients with insomnia (3).

Again, the results were not too exciting. After 2 weeks:

Sleep efficiency and wake after sleep onset (WASO) significantly improved in the Passionflower group but there was no difference compared with the placebo group.

This is the exact reason that placebo groups are important in studies.

Many subjects experience a placebo effect, which results in improvement not from the intervention in question. In this case, people taking passionflower extract saw benefits in sleep efficiency, but so did the placebo group.

Passionflower vs Sleep Medication

Herbal ingredients like passionflower can often be combined with other herbal medicines safely and improve effects further.

A 2013 research team compared a mixture of valerian and passionflower against zolpidem (aka Ambien, a sleep medication) (4).

They found:

There was significant improvement in total sleep time, sleep latency, number of nightly awakenings and insomnia severity index scores in both groups. However, no statistically significant difference was observed between the groups.

In other words, the herbal mixture was just as effective as the sleep medication, but it has a much lower risk of side effects.

How much of this positive result can be attributed to passionflower is unknown. Valerian root can improve insomnia, but it typically has a mild impact, so it seems like both of them likely played a role here.

Summary: Passionflower and Insomnia

If anything, passionflower has a small positive effect on insomnia.

The research we looked at showed either no effect, or a small improvement on aspects of sleep quality.

More research is needed to have a high level of confidence in the effects of passionflower. Additionally, we saw that combining passionflower with other herbal sleep aids may improve the overall effect on sleep quality.

Regardless, herbal supplements are not a substitute for professional treatment for those with insomnia (as they don’t actually treat the root cause). At best, they can be a small part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

References

  1. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality
  2. Passionflower Extract Improves Diurnal Quality of Life in Japanese Subjects with Anxiety
  3. Effects of Passiflora incarnata Linnaeus on polysomnographic sleep parameters in subjects with insomnia disorder
  4. Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: a randomized controlled trial

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.