Relax with Passionflower


This herb can ease your anxiety without severe side effects.

Health Claims
Researchers say passionflower (Pass/flora incarnata) alleviates anxiety and nervousness without triggering the dependence and withdrawal common to anti-anxiety prescription medications.

NATIVE PEOPLE IN NORTH, CENTRAL, and South America have used the leaves of this woody climbing vine as an anxiety-easer and sedative for centuries, and physicians in Europe commonly prescribe it for the same purposes. Recent studies have renewed American interest in the herb.

How It Works
Researchers don't know exactly how passionflower works, but they theorize that compounds in the plant, known as flavonoids and alkaloids, regulate the neurotransmitters in your nervous system that reduce anxiety. One flavonoid, called chrysin, calms your central nervous system and lowers your blood pressure.

Studies on passionflower's anxietyreducing abilities are limited but promising.

In a double-blind study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in 2001, 32 people suffering from general anxiety disorder were treated daily with either 45 drops of passionflower liquid extract or 30 mg of oxazepam, a common anti-anxiety drug. After four weeks, both groups showed a significant decrease in their anxiety symptoms. But none of the people taking passionflower reported severely impaired job performance, while 44 percent of the patients taking oxazepam did.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers gave passionflower extract to alcohol-addicted mice undergoing alcohol withdrawal. The herbal extract reduced the mice's withdrawal anxiety by up to 90 percent compared to mice that received no treatment.

How to Take It
Passionflower is available in capsule, liquid extract, and dried herb form.

To alleviate anxiety associated with a stressful situation, take 300 to 450 mg in capsule form at least one hour in advance, says Daniel Beilin, O.M.D., L.Ac., a doctor of Oriental and herbal medicine in Santa Cruz, Calif.

For chronic anxiety, Beilin recommends taking 300 to 450 mg up to three times daily. Or, take 30 drops of liquid passionflower extract in a few ounces of water or juice, one to three times a day, says Ray Sahelian, M.D., a physician in Marina Del Rey, Calif. To make an anxiety-easing tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the dried herb. Steep for 15 minutes, strain, and drink 1 cup twice a day, Beilin says.

You can buy passionflower in natural food stores and on websites, including and

Passionflower appears to be safe when taken in the recommended doses, but it may make you drowsy. Talk to your health care practitioner before using passionflower if you have a bleeding or clotting disorder or take sedative medications, including antihistamines and sleep aids; the herb can intensify their effects. Don't exceed recommended dosages and don't take the herb if you're pregnant or nursing.

The Bottom Line
Preliminary research suggests that passionflower is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety. Larger human studies would help confirm this.

PHOTO (COLOR): The leaves of this striking flower have calmed edgy nerves for centuries.


By Stephanie Chelf, Freelance writer in Boston.

reported by Marisa McCarthy

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