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Passion Flower & St John's Wort for Anxiety & Depression

by
author image Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith has been writing professionally since 2000. She has written and published several articles on various websites including FITDAY and HealthNews and worked with start-up companies to establish content for their websites. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies with concentrations in English and creative writing from Bowling Green State University.
Passion Flower & St John's Wort for Anxiety & Depression
St John's Wart Photo Credit iosifbudau/iStock/Getty Images

When you suffer from anxiety and depression, they often affect daily functions and can be quite debilitating. Typically, the methods used to control the symptoms of these conditions are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. There are, however, alternative treatments that may help to ease the symptoms when used in conjunction with more traditional methods. Two of these options are passion flower and St. John's wort. Although these are herbal supplements that are thought to have effects on both anxiety and depression, there is not much scientific evidence to support their effectiveness or results in treating these conditions.

Description

Native to southeastern parts of the Americas, passion flower is now grown throughout Europe. It is a perennial climbing vine with herbaceous shoots and a sturdy woody stem that grows to a length of nearly 32 feet. It is believed that using passion flower may relieve the symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders.

St. John's Wort is a perennial herb that grows wild in different areas throughout the world. It is typically used to aid in various emotional problems such as mild depression, sleep problems and lack of concentration.

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Benefits

University of Maryland Medical Center's review of the properties of passion flower and its effectiveness states that, although scientists are not sure, it is believed that passion flower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you more relaxed.

St. John's Wort is most effective in treating signs of mild depression. According to an article written by EBSCO Health Library, St. John's wort has proven more effective than placebos and as effective as medications as a treatment for depression. You may also find that taking both passion flower and St.John's Wort can help to relieve stress as well.

Side Effects

The National Standard Research Collaboration writes that passion flower is generally considered to be a safe herb with few reported serious side effects. In cases of side effects, the products being used have rarely been tested for contamination, which may have been the cause. Cyanide poisoning has been associated with passiflora fruit, but this has not been proven in human studies. Rapid heart rhythm, nausea and vomiting have been reported. Side effects may also include drowsiness or sedation and mental slowing. Patients should use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery. Passion flower may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding and affect blood tests that measure blood clotting. While instances of these side effects are relatively low, they do present reason for taking precautions when taking this product.

St. John's wort is unlikely to carry any major side effects when taken short term, but you may experience such problems as dizziness, confusion and coordination issues. Do not take either of these herbal supplements if you are pregnant or nursing.

Dosing

The National Standard Collaboration states that you should take 0.5 to 2g of passion flower in its dry state three to four times a day to achieve the best results. For St. John's wort, your doctor may recommend taking 300mg per day either as a liquid extract or in a solid tablet form. When taking these supplements, take them exactly as directed, as taking too much may result in adverse reactions.

It is important to note that while these dosing instructions have been reported by the National Standard Collaboration to be considered the most effective at reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and other emotional and mental disorders; passion flower and St. John's wort are dietary supplements and their use has not been approved by the FDA. Ask your physician's advice when considering taking either of these products.

Expert Insight

Steven D. Ehrlich, M.D., at the University of Maryland Medical Center, writes that in a study of 91 people with anxiety symptoms, researchers found that an herbal European product containing passion flower and other herbal sedatives significantly reduced depression symptoms compared to placebo.

An article written by EBSCO Health Library states that there is evidence from animal and human studies that suggests it is the hyperforin in St. John's wort that raises the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, making it an effective treatment against depression.

Considerations

While there has been very little research done on the effectiveness of both passion flower and St. John's wort in the treatment of anxiety and depression symptoms, some evidence suggests that when taken as directed by a physician, both have a positive effect on these conditions. It is important to consider the potential for side effects and to discontinue use of these products if you have any problems when taking them.

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