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Passionflower: Everything You Need To Know


  1. What Is Passionflower?
  2. Effects And Entheogenic Use
  3. Natural Synergy
  4. Chemistry
  5. MAOI Warning

What is Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)?

Passionflower, or Passiflora incarnata in latin, derives its name from Christian theology relating to the crucifixion of Jesus. The passionflower is an evergreen climbing vine or bush that has been used for centuries for medical and entheogenic purposes.

The passionflower originates from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, although some species of passionflower are indigenous to the south-eastern parts of North America, and the Caribbean. During the time of the New World, botanists adventuring the Americas brought Passionflower back to Europe, and as a result, many species can also be found growing wild in warmer European regions, such as Spain and Italy.

The most striking part of the plant is the uniquely beautiful flower it produces. Although they vary species to species, they are all striking and uber trippy in appearance, with complex colour combinations of reds, purples, blues and yellows. The flowers are fairly unique in structure, and often require large bees, bats or hummingbirds to pollinate and breed. For example, the Sword-billed Hummingbird has co-evolved with certain passionflowers to have an extremely elongated beak in order to reach their nectar.

Although the flower is the most striking feature, it is the large green leaves and roots of the Passionflower that are used for their psychoactive and medicinal properties.

Passiflora incarnata 15x

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Effects and entheogenic use

The leaves and roots of the Passionflower have a long history of use amongst many Native Americans tribes, uses that were later adopted by European invaders. Pre-Columbian tribes used the passionflower primarily as medicine. When Spanish missionaries arrived, they considered the unique looking flower as a sign from God and a symbol of the passion of their Lord Saviour. That‘s where the name comes from.

In contemporary phytomedicine, Passiflora incarnata is still widely in use. Its sedative and soothing properties explain why it is often used for sleep disorders and insomnia. The herb doesn‘t cause any next-day hangover, which contributes to its popularity as a sleep aid. Also, passionflower acts against seizures, which is why it was used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease before more effective medication was discovered. It is also widely used to relieve anxiety, restlessness, a racing heart and headaches.

Taken by itself, passiflora incarnata triggers mild euphoria when smoked or ingested. However, even in high doses, passionflower does not seem to be strongly entheogenic by itself. Some have reported slight visual shifts, but most commonly the main effect is a euphoric sedation.

Natural synergy

Many use passionflower to potentiate other substances, most notably DMT and mushrooms. The MAOIs contained in passionflower mimic the mechanism of ayahuasca, thus increasing the effects of DMT. There is evidence that Passiflora involucrata was used by tribal groups in the amazon region an admixture plant for ayahuasca brews. However, the relatively low MAOI activity of Passionflower makes it difficult to use the plant as an ayahuasca analogue, but such reports are not unheard of.

To successfully activate oral doses of DMT, substantial amounts of p. incarnata would be needed, and there are few established guidelines at the moment. It is understood that passionflower can prolong the experience, and give it a euphoric spin.

Combining p. incarnata with magic mushrooms or truffles can greatly enhance their effect, specially when stronger passionflower extract is used.


Although the many of the psychoactive properties of the passionflower are still awaiting more research, a great deal is already known.

One of the major active compounds contained within passionflower is the alkaloid harmine, - the same alkaloid group also occurs naturally in Banisteriopsis caapi and the Syrian rue. Harmine acts as a natural MAO-A inhibitor, preventing the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Many pharmaceutical anti-depressant drugs are making use of this same MAOI mechanism, although synthetic MAOIs have been associated with more dangerous food and drug interactions.

In addition to harmala alkaloids, passionflower contains luteolin, chrysin and apigenin. How these substances work in synergy to create the relaxing and sedative effects is little understood.

Passionflower has also been found to contain large doses of GABA, which interact with GABA receptors in the body. GABA receptor activation reduces Central Nervous System activity, stopping it from becoming too “excitable” - this also explains some of the sedative effects Passionflower exhibits.

MAOI warning

Although passionflower is mild MAOI, dietary precautions should be followed. For more information about restricted items, please refer to the The Ayahuasca MAOI Diet.

Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Passionflower is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic in recommended doses. Because of its calming effect, passionflower can increase the sedative effects of prescription drugs, so avoid combinations with barbiturates, benzodiazepines, drugs for insomnia, or tricyclic antidepressants.

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