Things I’m excited about: Passionflower extract. It’s the first herb that made me fall hard for herbal medicine, and with good reason: it helped me get off meds for anxiety-related insomnia. Which I thought would NEVER happen. The secret to its effectiveness is that it works on the same pathway as many anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines (via GABA-reuptake modulation, meaning it enhances the effects of the calming molecule GABA so it can hang around longer.) And that’s exciting because while benzos are incredibly effective drugs for issues like anxiety, seizures, and insomnia, they come with some very un-fun side effects like impairing your memory, depression, disturbed sleep, and confusion.
There have been several human studies conducted with passionflower, particularly in the realm of anxiety disorders (which is AWESOME, because plants rarely get that kind of spotlight or funding!) A 2001 Iranian study using Passionflower extract found the plant was as effective at reducing anxiety as the benzo Oxazepam, WITHOUT the side effects that come along with the drug. That’s huge!
A number of studies were conducted looking at the plant's effects on preoperative anxiety, and all showed significant benefit compared to placebo (meaning it worked better than no medicine) and non-inferiority to pharmaceutical options (meaning it worked just as well.) A very cool double-blind study was done showing Passiflora given 30 minutes before dental surgery reduced subjective anxiety along with things like blood pressure and heart rate to the same extent as the benzo Midazolam. But, again, with fewer cognitive side effects, which is always phenomenal news.
Personally, I’m excited to see where the research goes with passionflower and other herbs like it to help individuals cope with addiction. There’s so much potential. If you’re interested in seeing if a nervine plant extract like passionflower is right for you, talk to your local Naturopath!
*Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Botanical medicine and nutriceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained herbal medicine practitioner, licensed Naturopathic Doctor, or licensed Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine before attempting treatment.
Sarris, J. (2007). Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Phytotherapy Research, 21(8), 703-716. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6055