Popular American herb passionflower may alleviate stress through anxiety reduction.
Passionflower is a classification of over 500 flowering plants, one of which, Passiflora incarnata, is believed to possess such properties beneficial to stress relief as:
- Reducing anxiety. Passionflower has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety and promote calmness.
- Alleviating pain. Passionflower may have analgesic properties.
The passionflower group of flowering plants includes over 500 species, one of which – Passiflora incarnata – is known to possess health benefits. Also known as maypop, this passionflower plant is native to North America, and has been used by both Native Americans and later European settlers for its nootropic qualities.
More specifically, the leaves and roots of passionflower are traditionally esteemed for their ability to relax the body and were used to manage insomnia, hysteria, epilepsy, and pain.1
Passionflower’s calming effects are also responsible for its use as a stress reliever, sleep aid, and a supplement for brain health. It has been sold over-the-counter for more than century in the U.S.
How Passionflower Might Help With Stress
Promoting GABA activity
The most probable mechanism guiding the anxiolytic effects of passionflower is increased activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). As the key inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA lowers anxiety and promotes relaxation by reducing neuron firing.3 4 5 Chrysin, the standout biochemical in passionflower, has demonstrated a particular penchant for anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects by stimulating GABA.6 7 Stimulating the GABA response has also been reported to attenuate pain.8
Passionflower Benefits & Uses for Stress
Numerous research studies have noted the anxiolytic, sedative, and pain-relieving properties of passionflower, which may be applied in order to:
Collectively, these benefits may help relieve stress. An interesting use of passionflower in recent years has been as an adjuvant treatment for opiate withdrawal, based on the claim that its ability to trigger the GABAergic mechanism may counteract the GABA-inhibiting activity of opioids.
Animal research has demonstrated that passionflower may be able to:
- Promote sedation and induce sleep. Passionflower extracts were shown to impart anxiolytic and sedative effects that induced sleep in mice.12
- Reduce anxiety. Passionflower exhibited anxiolytic effects in mice and rats undergoing a variety of stress tests.13 14 15 16
Clinical studies repeatedly demonstrate the effectiveness of passionflower in reducing anxiety triggered by a wide-range of causes.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 36 patients with generalized anxiety disorder were given a placebo, 45 drops of passion flower extract, or 30 mg of oxazepam every day throughout a 4-week period. Both passionflower and oxazepam were effective at treating GAD compared to the placebo, although oxazepam led to some impairment of job performance.
- The study concluded that “Passiflora extract is an effective drug for the management of generalized anxiety disorder.”17
In this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind investigation, 65 opiate addicts were given a placebo, 0.8 mg of clonidine, or 60 drops of a passionflower extract every day for 14 days. Both clonidine and passionflower were found to treat physical symptoms of withdrawal equally effectively, but passionflower demonstrated a significant superiority over clonidine and the placebo in managing mental symptoms, including anxiety.
- The study concluded that “passiflora extract may be an effective adjuvant agent in the management of opiate withdrawal.”18
In this randomized, placebo-controlled investigation, 60 surgery patients were given either a control anxiolytic or 500 mg of passionflower as Passipy™ 90 minutes before surgery. Based on a numerical rating scale (NRS), patients who took passionflower had significantly lower anxiety levels than those taking the control.
- The study concluded that “oral premedication with Passiflora incarnata 500 mg reduces preoperative anxiety without inducing sedation or changing psychomotor function.”19
Dosage for Stress
- Passionflower dosage varies widely from one successful clinical study to the next, making dosage recommendations difficult.20
- Typical supplemental capsules come in 350 mg – 1050 mg doses, taken 2 – 3 times daily.
- Passionflower supplements can come in the form of tablets, capsules, teas, and liquid extracts and tinctures.
Supplements in Review Says
- Passionflower extract 350 – 400 mg for stress.
Passionflower may relieve stress by reducing anxiety. Early research indicates that passionflower can reduce anxiety – one of the central contributors to stress.
Start with 350 mg capsules of passionflower. The varying concentrations of bioactive ingredients in passionflower supplements makes it difficult to pinpoint optimal dosage. We suggest beginning with 350 mg capsules daily and increasing the dose from there on a per need basis.
- Miroddi M, et al. Passiflora incarnata L.: ethnopharmacology, clinical application, safety and evaluation of clinical trials. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Dec 12;150(3):791-804. ↩
- “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21”. ↩
- Grundmann O, et al. Anxiolytic activity of a phytochemically characterized Passiflora incarnata extract is mediated via the GABAergic system. Planta medica 2008, 74(15):1769-73. ↩
- Loli F, et al. Possible involvement of GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor in the anxiolytic-like effect induced by Passiflora actinia extracts in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;111:308-14. ↩
- Okita Y, Nakamura H, et al. Effects of vegetable containing gamma-aminobutyric acid on the cardiac autonomic nervous system in healthy young people. J Physiol Anthropol. 2009;28(3):101-7. ↩
- Elsas SM, et al. Passiflora incarnata L. (Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method. Phytomedicine. 2010 Oct;17(12):940-9. ↩
- Wolfman C, Viola H, et al. Possible anxiolytic effects of chrysin, a central benzodiazepine receptor ligand isolated from Passiflora caerulea. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1994;47:1-4. ↩
- Aman U, et al. Passiflora incarnata attenuation of neuropathic allodynia and vulvodynia apropos GABA-ergic and opioidergic antinociceptive and behavioural mechanisms. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;16:77. ↩
- Dhawan K, et al. Anxiolytic activity of aerial and underground parts of Passiflora incarnata. Fitoterapia 2001;72:922-6. ↩
- Krenn L. Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata L.)–a reliable herbal sedative. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2002;152(15-16):404-6. ↩
- “Passionflower”. University of Maryland Medical Center. ↩
- Soulimani R, et al. Behavioral effects of Passiflora incarnata L. and its indole alkaloid and flavonoid derivatives and maltol in the mouse. J Ethnopharmacol 1997;57:11-20. ↩
- Dhawan K, et al. Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus. J Ethnopharmacol 2001;78:165-70. ↩
- Grundmann O, et al. Anxiolytic effects of a passion flower (Passiflora incarnata L.) extract in the elevated plus maze in mice. Die Pharmazie. 2009;64(1):63-4. ↩
- Jawna-Zboinska K, et al. Passiflora incarnata L. Improves Spatial Memory, Reduces Stress, and Affects Neurotransmission in Rats. Phytother Res. 2016 May;30(5):781-9. ↩
- Brown E, et al. Evaluation of the anxiolytic effects of chrysin, a Passiflora incarnata extract, in the laboratory rat. AANA J. 2007 Oct;75(5):333-7. ↩
- Akhondzadeh S, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trials with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26:363-7. ↩
- Akhondzadeh S, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001 Oct;26(5):369-73. ↩
- Movafegh A, et al. Preoperative Oral Passiflora Incarnata Reduces Anxiety in Ambulatory Surgery Patients: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 2008 Jun;106(6):1728-32. ↩
- Dhawan K, et al. Comparative anxiolytic activity profile of various preparations of Passiflora incarnata linneaus: a comment on medicinal plants’ standardization. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):283-91. ↩
- Capasso A, et al. Experimental investigations of the synergistic-sedative effect of passiflora and kava. Acta Therapeutica. 1995;21:127-140. ↩