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Integrative Therapies for Anxiety - Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

Scott Olson, ND

Passion Flower is an herb that has been used for anxiety, stress, and insomnia for hundreds of years. The herb's name comes from the resemblance of the corona of the flower to the fabled Crown of Thorns.

Passion Flower contains many active ingredients. The most widely studied of these constituents, maltol and ethymaltol, seem to be responsible for much of the anti-anxiety effects. In various research studies, maltol and ethymaltol have demonstrated central nervous system sedation (calming and relaxing), and at very high doses, anticonvulsant activity (decreased muscle spasms).

In a small human trial, Passion Flower was as successful at treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder as the prescription medication Oxazepam. Passion Flower took longer to start working than the prescription medication, but did not have the side-effect of poor job performance (due to grogginess) that is often associated with Oxazepam.

Most people do not experience side effects from Passion Flower when it is taken as recommended. Side effects have been reported in people who had allergic reactions to Passion Flower or who took extremely large doses of the herb.

Side Effects of Passion Flower

  • Agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Mild stomach upset
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)

 

Safety and Dosing

Passion Flower is considered very safe when taken as directed. The normal dose for Passion Flower is 200-300 mg of a standardized extract, twice a day.

Passion Flower has the potential to interfere with other drugs taken for anxiety and shouldn't be used with sedative-hypnotics (sleep aids or tranquilizing medicine), anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medicine), or MAO inhibitors (a type of antidepressants). Even though Passion Flower hasn't been shown to directly interfere with these drugs, it is best to avoid combining them.

There is always a potential for an allergic reaction to any medication, if you experience any itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate or any other symptom that worries you, stop using Passion Flower immediately.