Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca)

It’s scientific name, Turnera aphrodisiaca, says it all. Its recorded use can be traced as far back as the ancient Maya. Its recent focus has also been to enhance sexual quality for both women and men – and it is said to be especially good for frigidity in women. The Dutch scientists and doctors have noted how impressed they are with Damiana’s positive effects on the deeper female reproductive organs. German doctors use it (as did the ancient Mayans) to calm mental hyperactivity and restore balanced nervous strength when there is enfeeblement of the central nervous system.

It is also said to be effective against bedwetting, hinting at its fortification of nerve processes in the urogenital area. In addition, it is soothing to irritated urinary passages. The same soothing qualities render it equally valuable for soothing the irritated mucous membranes in respiratory disorders. Damiana supports a positive attitude, crowding out depression. It may be especially valuable where there is a sexual factor involved in the anxiety and depression. Other references make note of Damiana’s usefulness for menstrual headache, to liven-up a poor complexion, and for acne.

Damiana grows up to be a small-sized bush which contains volatile oils, from which thymol, a copaene and calamine have been isolated. It also contains damianin resins and gum. This herb is usually used to help improve sexual function and drive. It was originally used medicinally by Native Americans in Central America. Thymol is used to fight athletes bronchitis, emphysema, foot, fungus, intestinal worms, jaw tumors, lung tumors, Parkinson’s disease, rejuvenate sexual organs, increase sperm count, strengthen female eggs, combat nervousness, exhaustion, combat frigidity, hot flashes, menopause and prostate problems.

Quoted from Raintree Nutrition

Damiana is a small shrub that grows 1-2 m high and bears aromatic, serrate leaves that are 10-25 cm long. Small yellow flowers bloom in early to late summer which are followed by small fruits with a sweet smell and fig-like flavor. The medicinal part of the plant is its leaves, which are harvested during the flowering season. Damiana is found throughout Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, as well as in parts of South America. Turnera diffusa and T. aphrodisiaca are generally regarded as the same plant in herbal commerce. A closely-related species, T. ulmifolia, is similar in appearance, but it has different traditional medicinal uses. The botanical Latin name of the plant, Turnera aphrodisiaca, describes its ancient use as an aphrodisiac.

Damiana was recorded to be used as an aphrodisiac in the ancient Mayan civilization, as well as for “giddiness and loss of balance.” A Spanish missionary first reported that the Mexican Indians made a drink from the damiana leaves, added sugar, and drank it for its purported power to enhance lovemaking. Damiana has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine throughout the world. It is thought to act as an aphrodisiac, antidepressant, tonic, diuretic, cough-suppressant, and mild laxative. It has been used for such conditions as depression, anxiety, sexual inadequacy, debilitation, bed-wetting, menstrual irregularities, gastric ulcers, and constipation.

In Mexico, the plant also is used for asthma, bronchitis, neurosis, diabetes, dysentery, dyspepsia, headaches, paralysis, nephrosis, spermatorrhea, stomachache, and syphilis. Damiana first was recorded with aphrodisiac effects in scientific literature over 100 years ago. From 1888 to 1947 damiana leaf and damiana elixirs were listed in the National Formulary in the United States. For more than a century damiana’s use has been associated with improving sexual function in both males and females. Dr. James Balch reports in his book Prescription for Nutritional Healing that damiana “relieves headaches, controls bed-wetting, and stimulates muscular contractions of the intestinal tract…”

The leaves are used in Germany to relieve excess mental activity and nervous debility, and as a tonic for the hormonal and central nervous systems. E. F. Steinmetz states that in Holland, damiana is renowned for its sexual-enhancing qualities and its positive effects on the reproductive organs. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia cites indications for the use of damiana for “anxiety neurosis with a predominant sexual factor, depression, nervous dyspepsia, atonic constipation, and coital inadequacy.” Only one clinical study has been conducted to validate the traditional use of the plant for sexual dysfunction and impotence. In 1999, a group of researchers in Italy administered damiana to both sexually potent and sexually sluggish (or impotent) rats.

The extract had no effect on sexually potent rats but, in the others, it increased the percentage of rats achieving ejaculation and made them more sexually active. A U.S. patent was awarded in 2002 for a combination of herbs, including damiana, to “overcome natural inhibitors of human sexual response and allow for improved response and psychological effects.” Another U.S. patent was awarded for an herbal combination for females, with inventors reporting that damiana could”… relieve anxiety, depression, headaches during menstruation, and exhaustion. Damiana also helps to balance female hormone levels and control hot flashes.”

A 1998 in vitro clinical study reported that components in damiana bound to progesterone receptors in cultured human breast cancer cells, leading researchers to surmise that it had a neutral or anti-estrogenic activity. Central nervous system depressant activity has been attributed to damiana and verified by research. Damiana also has been used in combination with other plants for its thermogenic activity. Two U.S. patents have been filed on oral appetite suppressants containing damiana, citing its inclusion as an anti-anxiety and thermogenic substance. Damiana’s traditional use for diabetes has been studied by scientists as well. In 1984, Mexican researchers reported the hypoglycemic activity of the plant when a leaf infusion was given to diabetic mice.

This effect was re-verified in Mexico when the plant was prepared in the traditional manner (as an infusion) and given orally to hyperglycemic rats. This study reported that damiana reduced blood glucose levels as well. A more recent (2002) study however, reported that an ethanol extract of damiana evidenced no hypoglycemic activity. These conflicting studies suggest that the active “hypoglycemic” chemicals in damiana may be extracted in the traditional (hot water) process, and are lost or not extracted in alcohol. With such an ancient history of traditional uses worldwide, it’s not unusual that the plant appears in many books on herbal remedies published worldwide. Damiana is found in quite a few herbal combination formulas for sexual potency, weight loss, depression, hormonal balancing, and overall tonics. Most of the damiana sold in herbal commerce today originates from Mexican and Latin American cultivation projects.

The above text has been quoted from the book, Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest

Author: Jevari Oberon