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Panic Disorder and Passionflower

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Traditionally, indigenous peoples used passionflower primarily as a mild sedative. Because of these sedative effects, passionflower is sometimes used as an herbal treatment for panic disorder as well as for generalized anxiety disorder.

Effect of Passionflower on Panic Disorder

Since people with panic disorder often suffer from anxiety and need help quieting their minds and relaxing, the sedative effects of passionflower can be helpful.

Read more details about Passionflower.

Research Evidence on Passionflower

A 4-week, double-blind study of 36 individuals with anxiety (specifically, generalized anxiety disorder) compared the herb passionflower to the standard drug oxazepam.35 Oxazepam worked more quickly, but by the end of the 4-week trial, both treatments proved equally effective. Furthermore, passionflower showed a comparative advantage in terms of side-effects: use of oxazepam was associated with more impairment of job performance. And, in a placebo-controlled trial involving 60 surgical patients, passionflower significantly reduced anxiety up to 90 minutes prior to surgery.64 The only other supporting evidence for passionflower comes from animal studies.45

Safety Issues

Passionflower is on the FDA's GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list.

The alkaloids harman and harmaline found in passionflower have been found to act somewhat like the drugs known as MAO inhibitors and also to stimulate the uterus, 1 but whether whole passionflower has these effects remains unknown. Passionflower might increase the action of sedative medications. 2 Finally, there are five case reports from Norway of individuals becoming temporarily mentally impaired from a combination herbal product containing passionflower. 3 It is not clear whether the other ingredients may have played a role.

Safety has not been established for pregnant or nursing mothers, very young children, or those with severe liver or kidney disease.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Sedative medications : Passionflower might exaggerate their effect.

References

  1. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:206.
  2. Speroni E, Billi R, Mercati V, et al. Sedative effects of crude extract of Passiflora incarnata after oral administration. Phytother Res. 1996;10:S92-S94.
  3. Solbakken AM, Rorbakken G, Gundersen T. Nature medicine as intoxicant [in Norwegian; English abstract]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1997;117:1140-1141.
  1. Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26:363-367.
  1. Dhawan K, Kumar S, Sharma A. Comparative anxiolytic activity profile of various preparations of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus: a comment on medicinal plants’ standardization. J Altern Complement Med. 2002;8:283-291.
  1. Movafegh A, Alizadeh R, Hajimohamadi F, et al. Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Anesth Analg. 2008;106:1728-1732.

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