A 2017 Statistics Canada report reveals that one-third of Canadian adults have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. The study looked at over 10,000 Canadians aged 18 to 79 over a six-year period.

Overall, one-third of adults are not sleeping the recommended amount, with 55% of women aged 18 to 64 and 43% of men reporting symptoms of insomnia. Seniors aged 65 to 79 averaged 7.24 hours per night with one-third sleeping less than the recommended seven hours. Adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night and seniors, aged 65 or older, should get between seven and eight hours.

Insufficient sleep can lead to poor health, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues, such as anxiety, irritability and depression.

Many Canadians are turning to natural sleep aids in an effort to improve their sleep quality. Several herbs have proven to reduce symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, including passionflower, valerian, lavender and chamomile.

Passionflower

Passionflower, also known as Passiflora, is native to the United States and Central and South America, but it also grows naturally in Australia and southeast Asia. It is an exotic, climbing vine flower with curly purple or blue tentacle-like petals. The Passiflora incarnata variety has been used to treat insomnia and anxiety by Europeans and their descendants since the 16th century and Native Americans and Aztecs before that. It received its name from Christian missionaries who arrived in South America in the 16th century and believed the flower resembled elements of the crucifixion of Christ.

Some researchers believe that passionflower combats anxiety and insomnia by increasing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits central nervous system activity to produce a calming effect.

While most studies related to passionflower’s influence on anxiety and insomnia have been conducted on animal subjects, there are some human studies that support its calming benefits.

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study , 41 participants, aged 18-35, were given passionflower tea or a placebo tea for one week and then the reverse in the second week. The effects of passionflower on their sleep were measured through daily sleep diaries and polysomnography to validate the diaries. Participants completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory on the seventh day of each round to measure their anxiety. The results showed that passionflower tea had a much better impact on sleep quality than the placebo tea.

In another clinical trial, patients suffering from insomnia were given either an herbal supplement containing passionflower and valerian or a 10 mg tablet of zolpidem at bedtime for two weeks. They recorded their total sleep time and sleep quality in a sleep diary, and their quality of life and daytime sleepiness was assessed by the Insomnia Severity Index and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Both groups experienced a significant improvement in total sleep time and quality, demonstrating that passionflower and valerian supplements were just as effective as zolpidem.

Passionflower can be ingested in several forms, including teas, liquid extracts, tinctures or infusions. While it’s always important to consult a medical professional before taking any new medications, including natural medications, the recommended dosages for adults are:

• Infusions: 2.5 g, 3 to 4 times daily
• Teas: Tea made from 4 to 8 g of dried herb, 1-4 times daily
• Liquid extract: 10 to 30 drops, 3 times daily
• Tincture: 10 to 60 drops, 3 times daily

Pregnant women should not use passionflower as it may induce contractions. The effects of passionflower on children have not been fully studied and it should only be administered to children under the care of a medical professional.

Additional Resources:

https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/passionflower

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323795.php

http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000267

https://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/passionflower-for-stress-anxiety-and-insomnia/

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-is-passion-flower-used-to-treat-anxiety-3024970

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