Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a type of plant similar to the plant that produces passion fruit. The plant can be dried and used to make tea or other herbal supplements. It is traditionally used to treat anxiety and help with sleep.
Passion flower may work by increasing the efficiency of GABA, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain. GABA inhibits the activity of cells in the brain, so increasing its efficiency has an overall “slowing down” effect on the brain. This can relive anxiety, which is often experienced by people who have depression. It may also boost other chemicals in the brain that can affect mood (such as serotonin).
There is very little scientific evidence on passion flower for the treatment of depression. Most of the research on passion flower has focused on treating anxiety disorders.
One study compared the effects of passion flower to another herbal supplement (St John’s Wort) in women who had symptoms of menopause, including depression symptoms. Women who took the passion flower supplement experienced a reduction in menopause symptoms (including depression symptoms) after three and six weeks of treatment. However, the study did not have a control condition to compare to.
Passion flower has not been scientifically studied as a treatment for people who have clinical depression.
Herbal supplements, including passion flower, may have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. They should always be taken under the supervision of a health care professional. If you are thinking of taking passion flower, ask your doctor or pharmacist it if might interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking.
Passion flower should not be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Passion flower can be purchased as a tablet supplement or tea from natural health retailers.
Given the lack of evidence on passion flower, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016