Common name: Damiana
Other names: Damiana aphrodisiaca
Latin name: Turnera diffusa
Affinities: Nervous system
Actions: Nervine tonic, nervine trophorestorative, nervine relaxant, antidepressant, diuretic
Specific indications: Irritated genito-urinary mucous surfaces, pelvic inflammation, mild anxiety, mild depression, nervous debility
Diseases: Anxiety(3), depression(3)
Parts used: Leaves and stems
Energetics: Warming, drying
Characteristics: Damiana is a small shrub that grows throughout Mexico, Central and Southern America, and the Caribbean (Arletti et al., 1999).
History: Damiana has an ancient history of medicinal use with the Maya people reportedly using it for loss of balance and dizziness (Zhao et al., 2008). The Mexican Indians traditionally used its leaves to make an aphrodisiac drink. Damiana was used by the Eclectics, the American 19th century physicians, and Finley Ellingwood in his text, The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, wrote the herb is a ‘mild nerve tonic’ with applications in sexual impotence, frigidity, and inflammation of mucousal membranes (such as those of the urinary system) (Ellingwood, 1919). In this text, he also speaks of a physican of the time named Dr. Reid who ‘uses damiana in all conditions where a general tonic is needed, especially if there be enfeeblement of the central nervous system. He esteems it most highly, prescribing it constantly for this purpose.’.
Current applications: Thomas Bartram lists damiana as useful for physicial and nervous exhaustion (Bartram, 2013). Damiana’s classification as a sexual tonic may well be incorrect. Damiana is a mild nervine relaxant, it may be helpful in a sleep formula, but I would prefer other herbs such as valerian, lemon balm, skullcap, and passion flower.
Science: Damiana has been found to contain various compounds including flavonoids, terpenoids, and saccharides. However, very little work has been done examining the activity of damiana extracts and there are no human clinical studies. One study however, did find in an in vivo model that a combination of Damiana and Pfaffia paniculata enhanced sexual performance (Arletti et al., 1999). Another study, found a compound found in damiana called, arbutin, displayed anti-ulcer activity (Taha et al., 2012).
Dosage: Dose of tincture is 5-60 drops 2-3 times daily.
Research on models
Sexual stimulatory activity: Damiana and Pfaffia paniculata extracts were combined and found to enhance sexual performance in impotent or less potent in vivo models (Arletti et al., 1999).
Anti-ulcer activity: Damiana extracted arbutin was investigated using in vivo ulceration models and it was found to possess anti-ulcer activity (Taha et al., 2012).
Arletti, R., et al. “Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual behavior of male rats.” Psychopharmacology 143.1 (1999): 15-19.
Bartram, Thomas. Bartram’s encyclopedia of herbal medicine. Hachette UK, 2013.
Ellingwood, Finley. The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. 1919.
Taha, Manal Mohamed Elhassan, et al. “Gastroprotective activities of Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. revisited: Role of arbutin.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 141.1 (2012): 273-281.
Zhao, Jianping, et al. “Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa).” Journal of ethnopharmacology 120.3 (2008): 387-393.