Passionflower vs. Valerian Root: 3 Key Similarities & Differences

Passionflower and valerian are two herbs that are often compared because of their proven ability to improve sleep quality. However, there are significant distinctions between these plants that you should …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Passionflower and valerian are two herbs that are often compared because of their proven ability to improve sleep quality.

However, there are significant distinctions between these plants that you should be aware of before making a selection.

In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between passionflower vs. valerian root, as well as their similarities.

comparisons of passionflower vs. valerian root

Passionflower Overview & Uses:

Passionflower is native to the tropical areas of the United States where the weather is hot.

The scientific name for passionflower is Passiflora incarnata.

Other common names for passionflower include:

  • maypop
  • purple passion flower
  • apricot vine
  • and old field apricot.

P. incarnata has many different health benefits.

We’ve listed the top research-backed benefits below.

1. May Improve Sleep Quality

Passionflower is popularly known as a sleep aid.

A clinical trial found that consuming one cup of passionflower tea nightly helped to provide sleep benefits. The researchers noted that study participants had better sleep quality and an improved feeling of refreshment upon waking.

Another clinical trial studied the impact of passionflower extract in individuals with insomnia. The findings showed that a small dose of 60mg passionflower extract could increase total sleep time.

The researchers noted that it appears that passionflower works to improve sleep efficiency while decreasing the likelihood of waking up during the night.

2. May Reduce Anxiety

A comparative trial looked at passionflower and oxazepam (a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety) in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. The study revealed that passionflower extract is as effective in reducing anxiety as oxazepam. However, as compared to oxazepam, passionflower has a lower incidence of job performance impairment.

Patients who received an oral dose of 500mg passionflower ninety minutes before surgery in a clinical study had significantly lower levels of anxiety.

Another study that examined anxiety leading up to a dental procedure showed that passionflower intake the night before surgery and the morning of (ninety minutes prior) helped to decrease anxiety levels.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of passionflower.

Valerian Overview & Uses:

Valerian is a strong-smelling herb that has been used for hundreds of years for its numerous health benefits.

Valerian root is primarily used to promote increased sleep quality. Clinical research shows that it helps to increase sleep quality and decrease sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep).

Although valerian root is often considered just a “sleep pill,” it has additional applications, such as anxiety relief, as well as general brain function support.

1. May Reduce Insomnia

Research shows that valerian root may be able to help to reduce insomnia.

A meta-analysis review of 60 studies showed that valerian is an effective supplement for promoting sleep. The researchers noted that valerian helped via two pathways, 1) it improved sleep quality and 2) it decreased sleep latency (i.e. the time it takes to fall asleep).

A human clinical trial involving 128 people found that taking 400mg of valerian root prior to sleep helped to reduce the time it took to fall asleep. It also helped to increase overall sleep quality.

2. May Reduce Stress

According to several studies, valerian, when combined with kava, might help reduce anxiety.

A clinical trial revealed that a mix of valerian and kava (Piper methysticum) can help people cope with stress. This study also discovered that this combination of valerian and kava reduced systolic blood pressure.

Taking valerian root and kava, according to another study, improved sleep quality and anxiety.

3. May Improve Brain Function

According to studies, valerian root might aid in the maintenance of brain health.

A clinical trial showed that valerian root can be beneficial in boosting brain function. In this study, 39 individuals were given either valerian or a placebo. The valerian group showed an incremental increase in the ability to focus as well as overall mental cognition.

Learn more about the health benefits of valerian root.

Passionflower vs. Valerian Root: Similarities & Differences

When it comes to comparing passionflower and valerian, there are many similarities between these two herbs.

First off, both valerian root and passionflower are calming herbs.

The key difference between the two is that valerian root is more beneficial for those that are looking to get better sleep at night. Whereas passionflower acts more like a nervous system relaxant, which can be especially helpful for individuals with high levels of stress or anxiety.

Passionflower vs. Valerian Root: Which is right for you?

You can think of passionflower as an anti-stress herb with the ability to support increased sleep quality. The sleep benefit is more of a secondary function.

Whereas with valerian root, its ability to increase sleep quality and reduce sleep latency is its main benefit. It also has an anxiolytic benefit, but this is more of a secondary function.

If you are stressed and need support in your ability to adapt to stress, then passionflower is the right choice. Its secondary sleep-supporting effects are icing on the cake.

If you primarily need help with getting better sleep quality, then valerian root is your best choice. It can help to increase deep REM sleep and help your body to wake up feeling refreshed.

Can You Take Passionflower and Valerian Together?

Yes, you can take valerian root and passionflower together.

These herbs do not have any known negative interactions when taken together.

In fact, these herbs may be a good combination to help increase sleep quality and reduce anxious thoughts.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

Herbs, like everything else, have the ability to interact negatively with your body.

Valerian root is generally well tolerated, especially at low-to-moderate doses.

There is one precaution with taking valerian root: it is not recommended that you take valerian root with central nervous system depressants and/or alcohol as it may increase their effects.

You can find a full safety profile review of valerian root here.

Passionflower is also generally well-tolerated and safe to consume.

Passionflower may increase the effects of sedatives, antispasmodics, and anxiolytics; therefore, they should be used together with caution.

You can find a safety profile review of passionflower here.

As with all herbal supplements, it’s best to run them by your personal doctor for feedback prior to ingestion.

Conclusion:

As you can see, both of these herbs are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

If you’re trying to decide between passionflower vs. valerian, consider taking a few weeks to experiment with each herb for yourself before making your final decision.

You might find that one works better than the other or vice versa! Or, try them together and see if you get a synergistic effect.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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