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Purple Passionflower and Anxiety: Can It Help You Calm Your Mind?

Written by Jim Duncan, MSW | Last updated:

Purple passionflower has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its sedative properties, but can it help you manage your anxiety symptoms? Read on to learn more about purple passionflower and anxiety, and if your genetics can play a role.

An Introduction to Purple Passionflower and Anxiety

You walk into the dentist’s office, having dreaded the appointment for weeks (or months, depending on the dentist). It’s finally time to get that root canal, and you’re feeling tense, jumpy, and frankly…anxious. If only you had remembered to take purple passionflower for anxiety.

Well, too late. It’s hard to get the picture of that hand looming over your face with a drill out of your head.

You sign in at the front desk, positive the pen in your hand is going to snap in half. The assistant smiles reassuringly at you, opens a door beneath the counter and pulls out a pint-sized container. She pushes it across the counter to you and hands you a spoon.

“Eat up,” she says. “It’ll calm those nerves right down.”

You take a seat in the waiting area, where a couple of other people are actively spooning up the contents, and check out the label. Inside the cold container is filled with passionfruit ice cream. What the heck. Who are you to turn down free ice cream?

If only this was really how it worked, right? In reality, you’d be more likely to get a cup of passionflower tea to calm your nerves instead of a pint of ice cream, but we can dream, can’t we?

What Is Anxiety?

First of all, anxiety is completely normal. It’s a stress response to impending danger. However, people with anxiety disorders have consistent, long-term stress responses over typical activities. This anxiety is frequent and intense enough to impact their daily life [1, 2].

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, tense, sweating, or trembling
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having increased breathing and/or heart rate
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Trouble sleeping or overly focused on worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Anxiety disorders are more common than any other mental health condition. Over 250 million people around the world are struggling with anxiety [3, 4].

What Causes Anxiety?

Your fear response is maintained and regulated by the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of your brain [5]. Certain stimuli come into the brain, your amygdala determines whether it deserves a fear response, and then responds accordingly if it does.

Frontal parts of the brain are involved in inhibiting this response, like the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex [5].

Pretend for a moment that you see the image of a bear. Your amygdala responds with something like, “OMG! It’s a bear!” It then signals to raise cortisol levels, and have you nearly jump out of your skin in surprise. That signal moves along to the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, who step in with, “Ok, slow down, dude! It’s a stuffed bear.”

Your brain is constantly receiving, evaluating, and responding to external stimuli. The problem comes for people who develop anxiety, when the amygdala becomes hyperactive and over responds to everything. Typical events become ongoing stressors.

Anxiety issues can also develop if those frontal brain sections don’t respond well enough to the amygdala. For those with anxiety disorders, the brain gets stuck in “on” mode for responding to fear.

An important risk factor for anxiety is genetics. Genes linked to anxiety can also influence:

  • Serotonin and dopamine levels
  • GABA
  • Stress hormones

Luckily, there are steps you can take to calm your mind. Let’s dig deeper into purple passionflower and anxiety.

How Does Purple Passionflower For Anxiety Work?

Passionflower is a tropical, flowering vine from which we get passionfruit, and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries for its sedative properties. Today, you can use purple passionflower for anxiety and sleep [6].

Purple passionflower

To be clear, anxiety has a number of causal elements and presents itself in numerous ways, so saying that any one thing is going to help across the board, would be wrong.

Passionflower, along with a number of other herbal extracts used to “calm” the brain, functions to block signals from the brain to the central nervous system. Blocking these signals is what functions to make you less anxious.

So, how does passionflower for anxiety work? Well, this herb actually contains some of this mind-calming compound called GABA.

Though, it’s more likely that passionflower’s usefulness comes from its binding to receptors in the brain to keep GABA from being broken down, so that more stays in your system to keep you calm [7].

How Are My Genetics Involved?

Genetic factors account for anywhere between 30-70% of the differences in anxiety rates. The list of genes potentially involved in anxiety is long, but because passionflower is directly involved with GABA, we’ll look at an associated gene variant in the GABRG2 gene.

This gene variant codes for one part of the GABA receptors, and may render GABA less effective. Passionflower may help by boosting your GABA levels to compensate [8, 9].

Please note: Passionflower is not safe for pregnant women. It can also interact with drugs for anxiety and depression. Make sure to consult your doctor before taking passionflower [6, 10, 11, 12].

Should You Try Purple Passionflower For Anxiety?

As we said before, there are many things that can be causing your anxiety. So, how can you find out if you should take passionflower for anxiety? Well, the answer may be hidden in your DNA.

We’ve discussed the GABRG2 gene and how it can influence your response to passionflower and anxiety, but there are many other genes that can also play a role.

For example, OXTR is another gene that has been associated with anxiety by reducing oxytocin levels. Depending on which variant you carry, getting a relaxing massage can help you manage your anxiety by boosting your oxytocin [13, 14, 15].

The SelfDecode Anxiety DNA Wellness Report looks at over 800,000 genetic markers to give you personalized recommendations based on your DNA. Not only that, but it will tell you what recommendations should work better for you specifically, so you can know what to prioritize to achieve a more balanced life.

Purple passionflower and anxiety DNA recommendations

Anxiety is a normal feeling, but if it’s hindering your everyday life, maybe it’s time to do something about it. If you want to tackle the root cause of your anxiety with a gene-based approach, you should check out SelfDecode.


About the Author

Jim Duncan

Jim completed his M.S.W. in Social Work Administration at Portland State University. He has always been interested in analyzing social issues, and he helped fund and start a program against domestic violence. He has also conducted many public speaking sessions about violence against women, and published 3 fiction novels. Inspired by SelfDecode’s mission to make precision health a reality, he decided to use his natural writing ability to help teach the world about the power and promise of genomics. His areas of interest include science-based writing,  astronomy, and genomics.


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