How Is Passion Flower Used to Treat Anxiety?

Effects of passion flower on social anxiety disorder

Close up of a gorgeous passion flower.
Charles Briscoe-Knight/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Passion flower (passiflora incarnata) is an herbal supplement used historically in treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures and hysteria. A perennial climbing vine native to southeastern North America, passion flower is now grown throughout Europe.

The herbal supplement is composed of the flowers, leaves and stems of the plant. When used in complementary medicine, passion flower is available as infusions, teas, liquid extracts and tinctures.

Although the safety and effectiveness of passion flower have not been adequately studied, evidence from limited animal and human research suggests that the supplement may be useful in treating anxiety, insomnia and nervous disorders. However, more rigorous scientific studies are needed to make firm conclusions about the effectiveness of passion flower for the treatment of anxiety problems, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Dosage Guidelines for Passion Flower

There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of passion flower in children. In addition, it is important to stress that these dosages are not prescriptions, but merely suggested guidelines. 

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

The same advice applies when using passion flower as does for any natural supplement: Read the product label and discuss with a doctor or other medical provider what dosage is suitable for you and your specific medical needs.

Be sure to tell the of any other medications you're taking or remedies you're using, even if only occasionally.

As with most herbal remedies or other medications, it's not a good idea to take passion flower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Medication Interactions with Passion Flower

As with any herbal remedy, there is always the possibility of interaction between passion flower and other treatments or medications.

There's a fairly comprehensive list of medications known to have possible interactions with passion flower. These include antihistamines, benzodiazepines, barbituates and narcotics. In addition, any antidepressant has the potential to interfere with its potency as well.

Take care if you are taking blood thinners or anti-inflammatory medications, as these have been shown to have possible passion flower interactions. Other herbal remedies that may cause issues with passion flower are kava kava and valerian root. Finally, substances like alcohol, caffeine and aspirin may not mix well with passion flower usage. 

To sum up, the standard caveats apply to passion flower that apply to any other new medication or treatment: If you are already taking or planning to take another medication or supplement, consult with a qualified healthcare provider about potential interactions. 

Side Effects of Passion Flower

Side effects have been rarely reported for passion flower but may include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat and mental slowing. When taking passion flower, make sure you don't drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how it affects you. 

In general, passion flower is considered safe and nontoxic.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, does not regulate the production of herbs and supplements. Most herbs and supplements are not thoroughly tested, and there is no guarantee regarding the ingredients or safety of the products.

If passion flower isn't working the way you need it to, or you want to try other options, there are many other supplements suggested for social anxiety disorder, such as chamomile, which several studies have shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and perhaps even acting as an antidepressant. Chamomile has been used for thousands of years, including by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans.

Another option that many with depression have found helpful is St. John's Wort. Research suggests that St. John’s Wort is useful in treating mild to moderate depression, but its value as a treatment for anxiety is still not established.

A Word From Verywell

If you live with social anxiety that is severe and debilitating, and have not yet sought a diagnosis or standard treatment, that should be your first line of defense before trying an alternative treatment such as passion flower.

Evidence-based treatments such as medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been proven effective to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety. There is no need to live with daily social anxiety—see your doctor about a referral to a qualified mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Sources:

Elsas SM, Rossi DJ, Raber J, White G, Seeley CA, Gregory WL, Mohr C, Pfankuch T, Soumyanath A. Passionflora incarnata L. (Passion flower) extracts Phytomedicine. 2010

National Library of Medicine. Passion Flower. Accessed September 3, 2008.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Passion Flower. Accessed September 3, 2008.

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