Herbal preparations and the benefits of passionflower for anxiety may provide a safe, effective alternative to standard psychiatric medications
You should not be surprised to be seeing an uptick in the number of your patients reporting symptoms of anxiety or stress. Anxiety can leave your patients struggling to meet deadlines and focus on tasks in the work environment, as well as feeling overwhelmed by daily household maintenance chores or at-home childcare. Unfortunately, depending on the mechanism of action, standard anxiety medications can come with a whole host of unpleasant side effects, most often nausea, headache, dizziness, or excessive drowsiness. Fortunately, herbal alternatives has proven fruitful, particularly the benefits of passionflower for anxiety symptoms (Passiflora incarnata).
Let’s take a closer look first at some statistics about anxiety during the current pandemic, and then at some research into the benefits of passionflower extract in treating symptoms of anxiety disorders.
How common is anxiety in the general population?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a survey of respondents, taken from June 24-30, 2020, showed that almost 41% reported at least one adverse mental health behavior attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.1
Of these, almost 31% were some type of anxiety or depressive disorder, and 26% were some type of stress- or trauma-related symptom. Furthermore, there was also a sharp increase in self reported symptoms of anxiety disorders between April and June of 2019, and the same time period in 2020.1
Passionflower’s mechanism of action
Given this sizeable increase in cases of anxiety, it should not be surprising that more people are looking toward herbal remedies, such as passionflower, which has been used for centuries to treat anxiety and insomnia, as well as regulate mood.
Some researchers have suggested that certain food supplements, such as passionflower, may naturally increase the body’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm the brain and fight off symptoms of anxiety.2-3
Research on the benefits of passionflower for anxiety
A 2020 review article summed up the current state of research into the active ingredients, mechanisms of action, and clinical uses for passionflower.4 In looking at the combined findings of a group of smaller studies, the researchers noted several patterns of similarities.
The research papers that were analyzed in terms of passionflower’s mechanism of action seemed to follow the GABA model, as noted above. The results in the smaller papers all found most side effects to be milder than those from psychiatric medications and mainly included drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting.4
In terms of efficacy, most of the smaller studies the researchers examined compared passionflower to standard psychiatric medications given to treat anxiety, including mexazolam, oxazepam, and clonidine. In these cases, the benefits of passionflower for anxiety produced similar results to psychiatric medications, but with fewer or less severe side effects. Furthermore, even if passionflower did not work as well as a psychiatric medication, the improved side effect profile was still viewed in a positive light.4
Despite the fact that the pandemic situation is definitely improving, things may still be somewhat uncertain, both for you and your patients. Fortunately, herbal preparations and the benefits of passionflower for anxiety may provide a safe, effective alternative to standard psychiatric medications.
- Czeisler MÉ, Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, June 24-30, 2020. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69:1049-1057.
- Boonstra E, de Kleijn R, Colzato LS, et al. Neurotransmitters as food supplements: The effects of GABA on brain and behavior. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6:1520.
- Elsas SM, Rossi DJ, Raber J, 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):940-949.
- da Fonseca LR, Rodrigues RA, Ramos AS, et al. Herbal medicinal products from Passiflora for anxiety: An unexploited potential. ScientificWorldJournal. 2020;2020:6598434.