Both the passion flower and ashwagandha are plants used as herbal medicines for a variety of ailments, from insomnia, muscle spasms, anxiety, inflammation and skin problems to fertility problems in men and women. However, according to the Physicians Desk Reference, the passion flower and ashwagandha each have chemicals that help to promote relaxation and sleep, so together can complement and amplify the effect.
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated many herbal medicines for their interactions with other herbs, drugs or foods, it is important to consult with your doctor before use.
The passion flower or Passiflora incarnata, has a long history as a "calming" herb or sedative in the Americas and Europe, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People have used the leaves, stems and petals of the passion flower in tinctures and teas as well as applied them to the skin for burns, pain and inflammation. Passion flower is often combined with other calming herbs, such as valerian, kava, chamomile, hops and ashwagandha.
The passion flower is also called Grenadille, Passiflora, apricot vine, passion vine, Jamaican honeysuckle and Maypop.
Ashwagandha, or Withania somniferum, whose root and berry are employed to make medicines, has traditionally been used in India, where it is known as "Indian ginseng." According to the University of Michigan Health System, researchers have explored the possibilities of the withanolides of Ashwagandha for supporting immune system function, and battling inflammation and cancer.
The name ashwagandha comes from Sanskrit and means "horse smell," possibly because the root of the plant has a similar odour.
Another name for ashwagandha is winter cherry, but it should not be confused with Physalis alkekengi, which shares that name.
Passion flower and ashwagandha can relax you and help prevent sleeplessness. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that evidence from animal and human trials for passion flower as a sedative remains unclear and further research is required. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to prove the effectiveness of ashwagandha to reduce stress, fight tumours or alter the immune system. However, the chemical compounds in ashwagandha might calm the brain, lower blood pressure, reduce swelling and aid the immune system. The University of Maryland says that some studies show ashwagandha might help with anaphyaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
According to the Physicians Desk Reference, employing passion flower and ashwagandha in small doses for short-term use appear to be safe. However, do not use passion flower or ashwagandha if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid passion flower if you have high blood pressure or blood vessel disease. Ashwagandha can stimulate the immune system, so avoid ashwagandha if you have an autoimmune disease. Also, avoid ashwagandha if you have hyperthyroidism. The NIH says that passion flower and ashwagandha can cause drowsiness, so taking them along with other medications that cause drowsiness, or with alcohol, compounds the effect. Because passion flower and ashwagandha can affect the central nervous system, the NIH recommends that you stop use two weeks prior to surgery.
Talk to your doctor, nurse or a medical professional before using an herbal medicine. Let your doctor know about your allergies and other medications you are taking.
A combination of passion flower and ashwagandha can help with relaxation and insomnia. Consult with your physician first.
- "Natural Health, Natural Medicine"; Andrew Weil; 2004