When considering all of the possible ways to treat our anxiety, many of us are drawn to the possibility of herbal options. But do natural remedies for anxiety actually exist, or are they merely over-optimistic placebos? Can purple passion flower help anxiety?
Studies suggest that purple passion flower can be an effective natural remedy for anxiety and sleep disorders. Compared to other anxiety remedies, passionflower is relatively mild and should be safe to use on a daily basis. Passionflower can be taken as a tincture or in the form of herbal tea.
So, purple passionflower can definitely work for some people. But is it the best option for you – or does your anxiety disorder warrant a different kind of remedy?
Keep reading, and let’s figure it out together!
What is Purple Passion Flower?
Known use of passionflower dates back to the Native Americans of ancient Peru, who used it to treat a variety of wounds and medical conditions. In the 15th and 16th centuries, passionflower was introduced to the Spanish Christian missionaries by the Natives. The missionaries then gave the flower it’s Latin name, passiflora incarnata, believing the flowers resembled symbolic imagery from Christianity.
Passiflora incarnata, also commonly referred to as “purple passion flower,” or simply “passionflower,” is known for its potential ability to decrease anxiety and depression naturally. Passiflora incarnata is not to be confused with passiflora edulis, the closely related plant from which passionfruit grows. There are a variety of other plants that are closely related to this plant, such as passiflora foetida, but most of the scientific studies on anxiolytic effects tested the passiflora incarnata species; this is the only passionflower we will be referring to throughout the rest of this article.
Passionflower has been used for its medicinal benefits in the United States since the 1800s. Today, it is legally sold in the United States as a flavor additive, for mild relief of mental stress, and as a sleep aid. The FDA classifies passionflower to be “Generally Regarded as Safe” (GRAS).
Benefits of Purple Passion Flower for Anxiety
The goal when choosing a supplement to help with your anxiety should be to choose the most conservative option possible. This is where purple passionflower really shines.
While supplements like phenibut may be more effective for moderate to severe stress, such supplements should not be used on a daily basis. To misuse the stronger, artificial supplement options is far more likely to lead to issues of dependency and abuse. If your anxiety can be managed with the use of a weaker, more natural supplement option – that is the route you should take.
Passionflower may be less potent than many other anxiety supplements, but it is a natural alternative, and is far less likely to cause dependency or side effects.
Passionflower does not appear to be addictive and is likely safe to use on a regular basis. This makes passionflower an excellent option for those suffering from mild, general, or daily anxiety, or to take the edge off of panic attacks and panic disorder.
Studies on this herbal supplement have illuminated numerous anxiety-reducing benefits.
Potential Benefits of Passionflower
Let's take a closer look at some of the more significant benefits in detail...
Passionflower for Anxiety Reduction
This double-blind study in preoperative surgery patients measured the relative anxiety levels of preoperative patients with and without passionflower supplementation. The findings revealed that passionflower was, in fact, effective at decreasing the anxiety levels of preoperative surgery patients. This suggests that, at the very least, supplementation may be a good option for calming one’s nerves prior to medical procedures (just make sure your doctor is aware of it).
The broader implication of this study could be that passionflower seems to be effective at decreasing anxiety in general vs a placebo.
Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Passionflower
This next double-blind study compared the effectiveness of passionflower at treating generalized anxiety vs the effectiveness of a popular prescription benzodiazepine. I actually found the results of this study to be shocking, as passionflower was found to be just as effective at treating generalized anxiety as the prescription medication was. Better yet, passionflower actually has a bit of an advantage over the tested benzodiazepine, since it comes with a lower incidence of impairment of job performance.
If you take anything from this article, it should probably be the results of that study. This has huge implications for the potential of using passionflower for anxiety. Most stronger supplements are not safe to use on a daily basis; passionflower may provide a fantastic and natural, herbal alternative to generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder – since it is likely much safer to use on a daily basis.
Does Passionflower Help You Sleep?
Studies suggest that passionflower can serve as an effective sleep aid. Studies on rats have shown passionflower to be effective at decreasing wakefulness and increasing slow wave sleep. Meanwhile, a study on humans showed that drinking passionflower tea before bed increased the subjective quality of their sleep vs a placebo control.
These studies suggest that taking purple passionflower for sleep can be an effective tool against insomnia and may increase the quality of our sleep.
How Does Passionflower Work?
It is believed that passionflower works by increasing the brain’s natural levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and it’s responsible for helping to calm and relax your nerves by decreasing neural activity. Most anxiety medications affect GABA or bind to the GABA receptors, so an increase to overall natural anxiety levels can definitely account for an increased feeling of relaxation and decreased anxiety.
What are the Side Effects of Purple Passion Flower?
Potential side effects of purple passion flower include:
While passionflower is generally regarded as safe by the FDA, there have not exactly been an extensive amount of studies on this supplement in humans. For that reason, you should always be cautious, especially when trying passionflower for the first time.
If you are taking any other medications, you should first consult with your doctor to make sure there is no risk of potential undesired drug interactions. Some suggestions have been made that passionflower may have interactions with anti-depressants, although there do not seem to be any clear reports of this actually happening.
You should not take passionflower while pregnant, as it may induce contractions.
How to Use Passionflower for Anxiety
When to Use Passionflower
As always, a friendly reminder that I am not your doctor and cannot advise you on how to use any medication or supplement. I will, however, tell you how I like to use passionflower, and about my own personal experiences with the herb.
When dealing with anxiety-inducing situations, I always try to use the mildest supplement at the lowest dosage that will comfortably get me through it. Using too powerful a supplement or too high of a dosage is counterintuitive to the process of actually beating anxiety in the long run. For those who haven’t already checked it out, I review a full list of anxiety supplements here. Some of these are better suited for certain situations than others, so read up and make sure that you are choosing the right tool for the job.
The beauty of passionflower is its mildness. No, I wouldn’t recommend a low dosage of this herbal supplement for taking on the severe anxiety of a phobia; however, it is an excellent choice for taking on more mild or daily anxiety. It's my top recommendation for generalized anxiety disorder, as it can safely be used at a low dosage on a daily basis. This trait also makes it well suited for anyone who has seemingly random panic attacks, or panic disorder, on a fairly regular basis.
Additionally, I’ve found purple passion flower to be extremely useful for helping with anxiety symptoms of withdrawal from stronger supplements or medications. It can really take the edge off of the mild “hangxiety” that sometimes follows a day or two after drinking alcohol or high-dose phenibut use.
Passionflower can also be a great herbal remedy to calm nerves before certain medical procedures. If you’re anxious about a dental procedure or operation, this natural supplement could help to relax you while posing a lower risk of drug interactions (Please, run this by your doctor to be safe and ensure there are no undesired drug interactions).
Finally, passionflower is a fantastic sleep aid. A cup of tea before bed is all it really takes to enjoy the benefits. As an added bonus, I’ve found that it really helps me with certain aspects of work. For example, I’m drinking a cup of passionflower tea as I write this article and I find that it really helps me to sit still long enough to enter flow state and get writing; as opposed to feeling hyperactive and constantly checking my phone or fidgeting around with the objects on my desk.
How Quickly Does Passionflower Work?
There is little to no research to be found online about how long passionflower actually takes to work. It will likely depend on the method of consumption. In my own experience, primarily with tea or tinctures, I have found that passionflower seems to work within a few minutes of ingestion. I believe I typically feel the full effects in less than, say, 20 minutes or so; just another reason it could be a great natural remedy for panic attacks.
If you’re taking passionflower as a supplement for help with sleeping, you may experience additional benefits after a week or so of supplementing with passionflower each day.
Is Passionflower Addictive?
It is currently believed that passionflower has a very low risk, if any, for addiction. As with anything, you should “start low and go slow” when using passionflower. Do not take too high a dose, or take it too often, until you have assessed how your mind and body respond to its effects.
Is it Safe to Take Passionflower Every Day?
I wasn’t able to find any solid scientific research around this question. I can tell you that, as someone who is very in-tune with my body, I usually notice immediately when I start to suffer any sort of dependency, withdrawal symptoms, or GABA imbalances. I have consumed passionflower in tea form quite a bit, for long stretches at a time, and never felt any sort of negative effects from its regular use or from ceasing use of it.
Where to Buy Passion Flower
I recommend my favorite tea for anxiety, including tea with passionflower, on this article about my favorite anxiety-reducing teas. This is, in my opinion, the easiest and most enjoyable way to take passionflower.
If you prefer an alternative method, passionflower is also available in passionflower tincture, capsules, or tablets. This may be more convenient for some, but I personally think the tea is the way to go; I also feel that the tea form of passionflower kicks in the fastest.
I guess another option is learning how to make passionflower tea by brewing your own dried tea leaves in hot water… but this seems like extra work to me. If a straight passion flower supplement is not for you, I highly recommend this stress-relieving tea. This tea includes many natural anti-anxiety herbs in low doses. It works like a charm to take the edge off of mild anxiety.
I take mine with Stevia and it tastes delicious. However you decide to take passionflower, I hope you enjoy it!