Passion Flower for Anxiety Relief?

passion flower for anxiety
Woman holding passion flowers. Andrea Golden/Moment/Getty Images

One of the most popular natural remedies for anxiety is passion flower, an herb said to promote relaxation.

Benefits of Passion Flower for Anxiety

Although few studies have tested passion flower's effects on situational anxiety (such as stage fright or anxiety about a job interview), there's some evidence that the herb may be of some benefit to people with anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder and social phobia).

In a 2010 research review published in Nutrition Journal, scientists looked at 24 studies (with a total of more than 2,000 participants) and found "strong evidence" for the use of passion flower to treat anxiety disorders. Earlier research indicates that passion flower may be similar to benzodiazepines (a class of medications commonly used to treat anxiety disorders) in terms of its effects on anxiety. And in animal-based research, researchers have determined that passion flower may influence gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. (A type of brain chemical, GABA is thought to promote relaxation by decreasing electrochemical activity in nerve cells.)

Passion flower also shows promise as a treatment for situational anxiety, according to a 2008 study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia. In an experiment involving 60 surgery patients, researchers found that those given passion flower 90 minutes before undergoing surgery had significantly lower levels of anxiety (compared to those given a placebo 90 minutes before surgery).

It's important to note that the National Institutes of Health warns against using passion flower prior to surgery, due to the herb's potential to increase anesthesia's effects on the brain.

Caveats

Passion flower may cause a number of side effects, including dizziness, confusion, and inflammation in the blood vessels.

What's more, passion flower may cause drowsiness when used along with anxiety medications (such as clonazepam and lorazepam) or other sedative herbs (such as kava and valerian). Use of passion flower should also be discontinued during pregnancy and at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of prolonged or regular use of passion flower. It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. Explore further information on supplements.

Using Passion Flower for Anxiety Relief

While passion flower may help relieve anxiety, using herbal medicine to self-treat anxiety disorders is not advised.

If you're experiencing any symptoms of anxiety disorders (such as constant worrying, restlessness, and trouble sleeping), it's important to consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. Your mental health care provider can also you advise you on how to safely incorporate passion flower into your anxiety treatment program. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Sources

Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M. "Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam." J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001 Oct;26(5):363-7.

Brown E, Hurd NS, McCall S, Ceremuga TE. "Evaluation of the anxiolytic effects of chrysin, a Passiflora incarnata extract, in the laboratory rat." AANA J. 2007 Oct;75(5):333-7.

Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. "Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review." Nutr J. 2010 Oct 7;9:42.

Miyasaka LS, Atallah AN, Soares BG. "Passiflora for anxiety disorder." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD004518.

Movafegh A, Alizadeh R, Hajimohamadi F, Esfehani F, Nejatfar M. "Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Anesth Analg. 2008 Jun;106(6):1728-32.

National Institutes of Health. "Passionflower: MedlinePlus Supplements". September 2010.

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