Some Things Do Not Belong Together

by Jeanine Adinaro on March 2, 2011

in General Health

So pretty, so potent

A culinary expert friend of mine, Sarah, once told me the story of being invited to a colleague’s house for home-brew night. He had two exciting new creations for everyone to share. First on the list was passion flower beer. She reported it to be light and fruity. I believe her quote was, “like spring-time in a bottle.” The other beverage of note was a fortified blueberry wine which, “paired well with the strawberry shortcake.”

And this is the point that things went a bit awry. Even though Sarah and the other guests had not had a lot of alcohol to drink, they suddenly found themselves practically incapacitated. Not just intoxicated, but stumbling, falling, and practically incoherent. Luckily Sarah only lived across the street. And though she does not remember how she got home, she awoke the next morning with a terrible headache in the comfort of her own bathroom. Sarah felt the amount of inebriation she experienced was disproportionate to the amount of alcohol she consumed. The other guests agreed.

Upon further research, the culprit was determined to be the combination of passion flower and alcohol. Passion flower is often touted for its stress reducing benefits. As it happens, the mechanism of action is very similar to MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs. While not nearly as popular since the advent of SSRI antidepressant drugs, MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs have been used for decades, always carrying the caution that they should not be consumed with alcohol. Passion flower should carry a similar warning. Probably the passion flower beer alone would have been fine, but when combined with the fortified blueberry wine, Sarah and the other guests had unknowingly entered into a very potent combination.

I ran across a blog touting the stress reducing effects of passion flower. I was happy to see that it came with a word of caution, specifically that passion flower extracts should never be combined with MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs. But I feel like the warning fell a little short. The warning should have gone on to include not combing passion flower extract with any of the various stuffs, including common foods to avoid when taking MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs.

I think this is yet another fine example of why statements like, “It’s a natural plant so it’s safe” should be considered carefully.

Photo by andrecarol

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: