Damiana (Turnera diffusa) has been used by both men and women as an herbal aphrodisiac since the ancient Mayan civilization (Balch and Bell, 2012). Scientific evidence that supports damiana’s so-called aphrodisiac properties is lacking; these properties have not been demonstrated in humans. However, studies evaluating damiana’s efficacy in male rats has indicated an improved sexual function (Edwards et al., 2015), making it worthy of further research.
Latin Name: Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca
Common Names: Old Woman’s Broom, Mexican Damiana, Mexican Holly, Goddess of Love, Love Leaf & Chanana.
Description: Damiana is a deciduous woody shrub that reaches a height of approximately 1-2 metres. A native of Mexico, it can also be found growing in Californaia and the Caribbean. Its leaves are 10-25 mm long, alternate, serrated and pale green in colour. The flowers grow from the leaf axils and are yellow trumpet shaped with 5 rounded petals.
It blossoms in early to late summer and is followed by fruits that taste similar to figs. The flowers and leaves smell like a cross between camphor and chamomile, and are bitter with resinous notes.
The name damiana is from the Greek daman or damia meaning ‘to tame or subdue’. It is the female version of Damian and infers that damiana is the wild one ‘who tames’.
Used in Mexico, Central America, and South America since the times of the ancient Aztec, it was also highly valued by the Mayans. It is believed that the indigenous Guaycura in the Baja region of Mexico were the first to use damiana. According to legend, the herb became wore widely distributed when the Guaycura began trading with the Aztecs.
Although its primary traditional use across cultures has been its noted effect on sexual desire it has also been valued as a relaxant, digestive stimulant and mood enhancer. In modern times it has also been used as a herbal smoke.
- As a tea Damiana is used as a tonic for the kidneys, the sexual organs and the nervous system.
- It has been used as a relaxant, digestive stimulant, mood enhancer & to increase sexual desire.
- In herbal medicine Damiana is used to treat headache, bedwetting, depression, nervous stomach, and constipation
- It has also been used to boost and maintain mental and physical stamina
- Often infused in alcohol to make liqueurs or cordials
- Made into a tincture
- Modern usage also includes use as a herbal smoke.
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1 lists specific indications for damiana as anxiety neurosis associated with impotency, and includes other indications such as depression, nervous dyspepsia, atonic constipation and coital inadequacy. Damiana has achieved some repute in the treatment of sexual impotence where it is used in conjunction with strychnine, phosphorus or some other stimulants in homoeopathic formulations 2. The leaf infusion of damiana has been used as a traditional remedy in the diseases related to the gastrointestinal and respiratory system 3, reproductive organs 4, and for the treatment of gonorrhoea in Latin American societies 5.
Damiana is listed as having the following Properties:
- Mild Purgative: – having a laxative effect
- Diuretic: – increases the excretion of water from bodies
- Tonic: – giving a feeling of vigour or well-being
- Stimulant: – helps to increase alertness and energy
- Aphrodisiac: – something that stimulates sexual desire.