Passiflora incarnata: everything you need to know

The Officinal Passionflower, also known as Pomegranate Vine or Maypop, is a climbing plant of American origin. Its aerial parts are used to calm insomnia and anxiety. It is recognized in the French Pharmacopoeia. This passionflower belongs to the Passifloraceae family and the Passiflora genus.

Botanical Characteristics

The Officinal Passionflower is a perennial climbing plant. Its alternate leaves are three-lobed and bear glands at the top of the pubescent petiole.

  • Solitary flowers: pink or light purple in color, they have a crown of blue-purple filaments.
  • Edible fruit: an oblong-ovoid yellow-green berry.
  • Flowering: from June to September.

Environmental Protection

Passiflora incarnata naturally grows in the southeastern United States and Mexico. It is cultivated worldwide for its decorative appearance or medicinal properties.


Passionflowers contain beneficial compounds such as:

  • Flavonoids: mainly isovitexin and its derivatives.
  • Indole alkaloids: such as harmane, although their concentrations vary depending on the growing conditions.
  • Other phytochemical constituents: phenolic acids, coumarins, and essential oils with various aromas.

The officinal passionflower has a distinctive odor due to the presence of various aromatic compounds such as limonene and cumene.

Medical Effects and Changes

The Passiflora incarnata has been widely used as an anxiolytic and sedative for a long time. The active substances of this plant remain partially uncertain, although studies have suggested the role of compounds such as maltol and indole alkaloids.

  • Anxiolytic effectiveness: especially in SIPF galenic form.
  • Promising new compound: benzoflavone (BZF) appears to be effective in preventing drug dependency such as cannabis, morphine, or alcohol.

BZF acts without creating dependence during prolonged use. It is assumed that its mechanism of action involves enhanced aromatase inhibition, thereby helping to increase free testosterone and limit the withdrawal effects of drugs.

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A comparison between Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora edulis showed significant anxiolytic activity only for the former.


The Officinal Passionflower is known for its medicinal properties. Used by different cultures around the world, it is reputed for treating insomnia and anxiety in Europe.

  • In France: it is part of many homeopathic and phytotherapeutic preparations, often combined with other beneficial plants. For example, Euphytose combines valerian, officinal passionflower, hawthorn, and balm to help with minor sleep and anxiety disorders.
  • In Belgium: a study on a dry extract of Passionflower demonstrated positive effects on patients with moderate depression.
  • In the United States: the fruit of this plant is commonly consumed and cultivated in gardens to attract butterflies. It can be used as a substitute for the fruit Passiflora edulis in some culinary recipes.

The Passiflora incarnata is widely recognized in various global pharmacopoeias such as those of the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.

Side Effects

Passionflower can cause dizziness, confusion, and balance disturbances in some patients.

Passiflora, also known as passionflower, is a plant used in phytotherapy for its medicinal properties. Its leaves can vary in shape, with some being three-lobed and others five-lobed. Studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of Passiflora on general anxiety. This plant has shown promising results in treating anxiety, with comparative clinical trials to oxazepam.

Passiflora incarnata L., a specific species of passionflower, was the subject of a pharmacy thesis in 1983 to study its properties. Psychotropic herbs are also analyzed for their potential use in psychiatric disorders. In Mexico, some commonly used medicinal plants present both risks and benefits.

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It is important to note that passionflower is subject to authorization for commercialization and legal use. Research continues to be conducted on this plant to better understand its effects and therapeutic potential in various medical contexts.