Turnera diffusa Willd. [Fam. Turneraceae]
Fresh Damiana leaf and flower, dried leaf tea; leaf extracts
– Breathing Disorders
– Central Nervous System Depressant
– Central Nervous System Stimulant
– Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
– Digestive Disorders
– Hormone Imbalances
– Menstrual Cycle Problems
Damiana, Turnera diffusa Willd., otherwise known as Turnera aphrodisiaca [Fam. Turneraceae], has been used traditionally as a culinary herb and medicine for many centuries in Mexico, Texas, Southern California and Central America. Damiana is a small shrub with aromatic leaves that naturally grows on dry, sunny, rocky hillsides. Historically, Damiana has been used to relieve anxiety, nervousness, mild depression, reduced libido and medical conditions having a sexual component. The herb is also used as a general tonic to improve wellness and as a supportive treatment in cases of sterility, impotence, diabetes, bladder infection and asthma. Damiana is said to possess mild sedative qualities and has historically been used for improving relaxation and to treat insomnia. Damiana has also been used traditionally to improve digestion and to treat constipation, having a mild laxative effect at higher dosages. A clinical trial on a combination product called YGD capsules, containing Damiana along with two herbs having high-caffeine content, documented significant weight loss in participants. The herbal preparation significantly delayed gastric emptying, reduced the time to perceived gastric fullness and induced significant weight loss over 45 days in overweight patients treated in a primary health care context. Historically, Damiana leaves are most well known for their use as an aphrodisiac by the native peoples of Mexico. Both the Mayans and Aztecs used Damiana as a sexual stimulant. Damiana was also burned ceremoniously to enable participants to see visions. Dr. James Duke notes in his book, The Green Pharmacy, that Damiana is particularly noted as an aphrodisiac for women, although he notes that no studies have confirmed the effectiveness. Herbalists also popularly recommend Damiana to help teenagers overcome shyness and self-consciousness associated with puberty and for treating sexual performance anxiety in adults. Livestock breeders also used Damiana in the 1930s.
Damiana contains: 0.5 – 1.0% essential oil containing cineole, alpha and beta pinenes, p-cymene, cymol, thymol and sesquiterpenes (alpha-copaene, cadinene and calamenene). The leaves also contain 8% chlorophyll, about 3.5% tannins, about 7% alkaloids, 13.5% gum, 15% protein; 6.5% resin; 6% starch; flavonoids, sugar; fatty oils; traces of acids, cyanogenic glycosides and trace amounts of phosphorus. The leaves are also said to contain arbutin. Damiana also contains the antitumor compounds beta-sitosterol, gonzalitosin I (5-hydroxy-7,3,4-trimethoxyflavone), resin and a bitter substance termed damianin. The bitter principle, damianin, is said to stimulate the nervous system and allow nerve messages to readily spread through the body, although this has not been proven.
Damiana is recommended with the dosage of one tablespoon of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Damiana leaves have been approved for food use and can be added to foods as a culinary herb or can be used as an herbal tea. One herbalist recommends against consuming more than one cup of Damiana tea, or one dropperful of the tincture, or two capsules daily, to avoid stressing the liver. Its effects on the liver are said to be cumulative. Damiana is generally considered safe, but best avoided in cases of urinary tract or liver disease.
Damiana is contraindicated in cases of urinary tract diseases or liver disease.
Damiana appears to be safe when taken occasionally to boost low libido. It has a long history of traditional medicinal and food use with no harmful side effects reported. However, no rigorous scientific studies have examined the effects of long-term use of this herb.
Alarcon-Aguilar FJ, Roman-Ramos R, Flores-Saenz JL, Aguirre-Garcia F. 2002. Investigation on the hypoglycaemic effects of extracts of four Mexican medicinal plants in normal and alloxan-diabetic mice. Phytother Res. 2002 Jun; 16(4): 383-6.
Andersen T, Fogh J. 2001. Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2001 Jun; 14(3): 243-50.
Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. Pp. 347-349. Rodale Press.
Duke JA. 1992. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 492.
Rowland DL, Tai W. 2003. A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. J. Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun; 29(3): 185-205.