Is passion flower good for anxiety?

Passion flower, also known on its Latin name as Passiflora incarnata, is a perennial climbing shrub widely spread in South America, United States (southeastern region), eastern and southern Asia. There are about 400 varieties that can be found all over the world; some of them have been naturalized and today they grow in Europe (Spain, Sweden), Australia, and even New Zealand.

Medicinal use of passion flower

Passion flower has been used for centuries in the treatment of various medical conditions related to the nervous system. These days, Passiflora herbal supplements contain different parts of the plant such as stems, leaves, and flowers.

It is believed that passion flower is an effective herbal remedy for:

  • chronic insomnia (due to its powerful tranquilizing effect)

  • asthma and cough

  • anxiety

  • seizures

  • high blood pressure

  • rapid heartbeat

  • substance withdrawal (cannabis, alcohol, nicotine)

  • irritable bowel syndrome

How do passion flower supplements work

The active components are:

  • harman and harmaline alkaloids that act similarly to monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs represent a class of medications prescribed for treating depression. They inhibit the activity of the enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which decreases the level of three important neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) in the brain. The activity of these neurotransmitters has an important influence on mood balance, quality of sleep, concentration, and anxious feelings.

  • flavonoids (chrysin) that play a positive role in alleviating anxiety symptoms

Passion flower has a relaxing effect on the nervous system without developing the risk of becoming addicted during a long term use. Moreover, it is useful for addicted individuals to better coping with the withdrawal symptoms.

Passion flower is marketed in the following forms:

  • capsules

  • tea

  • tincture

  • fluid extract

  • herbal rinse (external use for hemorrhoids)

  • different formulations that include herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian

  • chewing gum with sedative effect

The passion flower supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Their composition usually contains about 0.01% harman and harmaline alkaloids and at least 0.8% flavonoids.

Recommended dosage for anxiety

  • fluid extract: 10-30 drops, three times a day

  • tea: one teaspoon of dried herb used in infusions 3-4 times daily for acute anxiety and stress periods

The last cup with tea should be taken one hour before going to bed. It is advisable to reduce the daily number of cups after the first week of administration.

  • tincture: 10-45 drops, three times per day

  • capsules: once or twice a day depending on the pill’s volume and potency

  • pediatric use: the dosage is calculated considering the child’s weight

The side effects are very rare and generally occur when the doses are too high and are taken for too long:

  • feeling drowsy

  • mental slowing

  • fatigue

  • nausea

  • confusion


  • not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • passion flower interacts with:

  • pain killers (ibuprofen, aspirin)

  • benzodiazepines

  • blood thinners (increased risk of bleeding)

  • anti-histamines

  • narcotics

  • antidepressants

Evidence about passion flower and anxiety

1. 32 people, who were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, participated to a medical trial that involved the administration of daily doses with passion flower extract (45 drops) to the first group, and 30 mg oxazepam to the second group. Both groups showed a considerable decrease of anxiety signs after four weeks of treatment. Compared to oxazepam, passion flower had a slower onset but the low incidence of side effects was considered a real gain for patients.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.

2. Another study, made on 60 persons who were going to undergo a surgical procedure, revealed that a single dose of passion flower extract helped the target group of patients to be less anxious than the one who received placebo.

3. An analysis published in the Nutrition Journal in 2010 examined the results provided by 24 studies about the effectiveness of herbal supplements in treating anxiety disorders. The researchers came to the conclusion that passion flower is an herbal remedy that does work against acute and chronic anxiety.


Passion flower supplements represent a popular natural remedy used both in North America and Europe. In general, the products are considered nontoxic and safe. Although the mechanism of action of passion flower requires more research, the clinical trials clearly indicate that this plant has potent effects on the nervous system by reducing nervousness, anxiety symptoms and improving sleep as well.

However, before self-treating your anxiety with passion flower, it is desirable to consult your health care practitioner especially when you are on other medications.