A tea derived from the beautiful passion flower can relieve stress and eliminate the need for over-the-counter and prescription sedatives. Passion flower has been used for centuries by Native Americans for its medicinal properties and its ability to soothe the mind. Herbalists have conducted extensive research on its calming effects and passionflower has steadily gained the respect of modern medical practitioners who have come to view it as a viable and safe option.

The passion flower vine, which can grow up to 30 feet long, produces large white and purple blooms and yellow-egg-shaped fruit. The tea is made from the crushed leaves and stems of the vine. Researchers believe that the alkaloids and flavonoids in passion flower tea have the ability to enhance the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA produces calming effects by limiting the activity of a selected group of brain cells.  Another chemical in passion tea called chrysin helps balance hormones, resulting in sedative effects that reduce stress, relax muscles and promote restful sleep.

Holistic practitioners frequently recommend passion flower tea as a natural, safe alternative to habit-forming prescription sedatives. Several studies have shown that passion flower tea can also increase blood circulation, lower blood pressure and relieve pain.

Passion flower tea is often combined with other herbs such as chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap and valerian. The tea is available in health food stores and online but you can also make your own. To make the tea, crush the leaves into a fine powder and place one teaspoon of the mixture into a tea ball. Put the tea ball into a cup or tea kettle and add eight ounces of boiling water.  Let it steep for 15 to 20 minutes and remove the tea ball. Many people prefer it warm but it also makes a delicious iced tea, especially in the summer. You might want to add a bit of stevia to sweeten it.  If you are using the tea for its sleep-inducing properties it is best to consume it about 30 minutes before going to bed.

Supplements containing passion flower are available in powder, capsule or extract form and can be purchased at health food stores and online. The supplements are considered safe when taken as directed but should not be used by pregnant women.

This is the time of year when soaring temperatures can start to make us feel a little crazy from the heat. Studies show that extreme heat can exacerbate anxiety and sleep disorders. If you are feeling anxious and hot under the collar, kick back with a tall, refreshing glass of cold passion flower tea and let Mother Nature’s magic soothe your jangled nerves.