TECHNICAL PLANT DATA
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Species: diffusa, aphrodisiaca
Synonyms: Turnera microphylla
Common Names: Damiana, damiane, oreganillo, the bourrique, Mexican damiana, Mexican holly,
damiana de Guerrero
Parts Used: Aerial parts, leaves
From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:
| DAMIANA |
| HERBAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIONS |
||Infusion: 1 cup 2-3 times daily
|reduces blood sugar
||Fluid Extract: 2-4 ml twice daily
||Capsules: 3-4 g twice daily
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.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
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."
Damiana's chemical composition is complex and its components have not been identified completely. The leaves contain up to 1% volatile oil that is comprised of at least 20 constituents (including 1,8-cineole, p-cymene, alpha- and beta-pinene, thymol, alpha-copaene, and calamene). Damiana leaves also contain tannins, flavonoids, beta-sitosterol, damianin (a brown, bitter substance), and the glycosides gonzalitosin, arbutin, and tetraphyllin B. Damiana has been reported to be non-toxic in humans and animals.
The main constituents of damiana include: Albuminoids, alpha-copaene, alpha-pinene, arbutin, barterin, beta-pinene, beta-sitosterol, calamenene, caoutchouc, chlorophyll, 1,8-cineole, cymene, cymol, damianin, essential oil, gamma-cadinene, gonzalitosin-i, hexacosanol-1, luteolin, quinovopyranosides, tannins, tetraphyllin b, thymol, triacontane, and trimethoxyflavones.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
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.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
With such an ancient history of traditional uses worldwide, it's not unusual that the plant appears in many books on herbal remedies published world wide. Damiana is also widely available in most health food and natural product stores in a variety of forms - from tea blends, capsules and tablets to liquid tinctures and extracts. Most herbalists prefer to use damiana in combination with other medicinal plants; therefore, it can be 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.
| DAMIANA PLANT SUMMARY |
Main Preparation Method: infusion or capsules |
Main Actions (in order):
aphrodisiac, antidepressant, central nervous system depressant, anti-anxiety, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions)
Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
- as a male and female sexual stimulant used to treat erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia
- to tone, balance, and strengthen the central nervous system and for emotional stress, depression, and anxiety
- as a general hormonal balancing
- for nervous stomach, colic, and dyspepsia
- for mood disorders (hypochondria, obsessive compulsive disorder, neurosis, paranoia, etc)
aphrodisiac, central nervous system depressant
Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
anti-anxiety, antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, cough suppressant, aperient (mild laxative), astringent, bitter digestive stimulant, diuretic, expectorant, hormonal, nervine (balances/calms nerves), tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions)
Cautions: May reduce the absorption of iron.
Traditional Preparation: The traditional remedy calls for 2-4 g of dried leaves infused in a cup of boiling water; 2-3 cups are taken daily. Alternatively, 2-4 ml of a liquid extract or 3-4 grams of powdered leaf in tablets or capsules taken twice daily can be substituted if desired.
- Damiana has demonstrated mild hypoglycemic effects in animals. Persons with diabetes and hypoglycemia should use this plant with caution, as blood sugar levels should be monitored accordingly for this possible effect.
- Damiana has a traditional use as an abortive and is contraindicated during pregnancy.
None reported, however, it might potentiate antidiabetic medications.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
||for childbirth, headache, menstrual irregularities, urinary insufficiency|
||for albuminuria, alcoholism, anorexia, asthenia, bronchitis, constipation, convalescence, debilitation, diabetes, diarrhea, digestive problems, dyspepsia, fertility problems, gallbladder disorders, indigestion, impotence, kidney problems, malaria, nervousness, nocturia, paralysis, respiratory ailments, rheumatism, syphilis, ulcers, urinary incontinence, vaginal discharge, weakness, and as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, and expectorant|
||as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, and menstrual stimulant|
||for anxiety, constipation, depression, dyspepsia, hypochondria, neurosis, sexual debility, thymus problems, water retention|
||for depression, nervous debility, and as an aphrodisiac|
||for colds, intestinal problems, venereal disease, and as an aphrodisiac|
||for asthma, bronchitis, colds, constipation, cough, diabetes, dysentery, dyspepsia, earaches, eye disorders, exhaustion, flu, headache, impotence, infections, infertility, inflammation, intestinal problems, malaria, menstrual disorders, nephritis, nervous disorders, neurosis, panacea, paralysis, stomachache, syphilis, urinary problems, vaginal dryness, weakness, and as an aphrodisiac, central nervous system depressant, astringent, diuretic, and expectorant|
|for asthma, asthenia, bronchitis, cystitis, depression, impotence, urethritis, and as an antiseptic, aphrodisiac, expectorant, laxative, and stimulant|
|for anxiety, constipation, cystitis, depression, frigidity, headaches, hypochondria, impotence, menstrual disorders, nervous disorders, sexual disorders, and as an adaptogen, aphrodisiac, diuretic, energizer, expectorant, stimulant and tonic|
||for anxiety, bladder problems, childbirth, colds, cough, constipation, cystitis, debilitation, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, headache, hot flashes, impotence, infections, malaria, menopause, menstruation, nephritis, nervousness, neurasthenia, paralysis, renitis, sexual inadequacies,stomachache, syphilis, tulcers, venereal disease, and as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic|
The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
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† The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the
Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant
database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not
intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.
Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.
Referenced Quotes on Damiana
4. "Medicinal Action and Uses: Mild purgative, diuretic, tonic, acting directly on the reproductive organs, stimulant, hypochondriastic, aphrodisiac."
5. "Relieves headaches, controls bed-wetting, and stimulates muscular contractions of intestinal tract. WARNING: Damiana interferes with iron absorption when taken internally."
6. "Actions. yang tonic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, stimulating nervine, mild laxative, urinary antiseptic; good for impotence in men and frigidity in women. Stimulating nervine, good for the male hormonal system; antidepressant."
7. "Almost all cultural traditions in the world have favourite herbs that have the reputation of increasing libido and of reversing impotence. For one of them, Damiana, such a reputation was even carried into its botanical name, Turnera aphrodisiaca. Actions: Nerve tonic, anti-depressant, urinary antiseptic, laxative. Indications: Damiana is an excellent strengthening remedy for the nervous system. It has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac. Whilst this may or may not be true, it has a definite tonic action on the central nervous and the hormonal system. The pharmacology of the plant suggests that the alkaloids could have a testosterone-like action (testosterone is a male hormone). As a useful anti-depressant, Damiana is considered to be a specific in cases of anxiety and depression where there is a sexual factor. It may be used to strengthen the male sexual system."
15. "Mexican damiana is classed as aphrodisiac, stimulant, tonic, and diuretic. The herb has been scientifically accepted in Mexico as a reliable remedy for exhaustion, catarrhal inflammation of the bladder, and cases of sexual impotence especially when caused by excesses. It is also used for orchitis (inflammation of a testicle) and spermatorrhea (involuntary emissions). The plant is said to exert a favorable influence on the spinal column, and some Mexican physicians employ it as a brain tonic. It is also prescribed in nephritis (kidney inflammation).
In England and Germany, damiana is used for its aphrodisiac properties. In Holland, medical herbalist Steinmetz states that the herb is so esteemed not only for its sexual enhancing qualities, but also for "its excellent effect on the reproductive organs."
Volatile oil (0.5 - 0.9%): chief components 1,8 cineole, alpha- and beta-pinene, p-cymene, as well as thymol, alpha-copene, gamma-cadinene, calamene.
Hydroquinone glycosides: arbutin (0.2-0.7%)
Cyanogenic glycosides: tetraphylline B (barterin)
INDICATIONS AND USAGE
Unproven Uses: Damiana preparations are used as an aphrodisiac and for prophylaxis and treatment of sexual disorders.
PRECAUTIONS AND ADVERSE REACTIONS
No health or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
Capsules - 380 mg, 384 mg, 395 mg, 450 mg
Fluid Extract - 1:1
Herbal Materia Medica, David L. Hoffmann B.Sc. (Hons), M.N.I.M.H.
"Actions: Nerve tonic, anti-depressant, urinary antiseptic, laxative.
Indications: Damiana is an excellent strengthening remedy for the
nervous system. It has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac. Whilst
this mayor may not be true, it has a definite tonic action on the central
nervous andthe hormonal system. As a useful anti-depressant, Damiana
is considered to be aspecific in cases of anxiety and depression where
there is a sexual factor. It may be used to strengthen the male sexual
Ellingwood describes this herb thus: (please note that the language is
that of Ellingwood, reflecting the time it was written) "A mild nerve tonic
claimed to be valuable in the treatment of sexual impotence. Some of our
physicians praise it highly for its influence in sexual neurasthenia, and it
is said to correct frigidity in the female. It had long enjoyed a local
reputation as a stimulant tonic of the sexual apparatus among the natives
of Mexico, before it attracted the attention of the profession. Besides its
peculiar action on the sexual appetite and function, it is a general tonic,
some what cathartic and is slightly cholagogue. The midwives and
women of loose morals of western Mexico also attribute emmenagogue
properties to it.
"Dr. Reid 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. It is
valuable in renal and cystic catarrh and in general irritation of the urinary
passages, through its influence in soothing irritation of mucous
membranes. This latter property renders it valuable in the treatment of
respiratory disorders, especially those accompanied with profuse
"In terms of the action of this remedy in its influence upon the
reproductive organs, Dr. Reid mentions dysmenorrhea, headache, at the
menstrual epoch, bad complexion, rough or discolored patches on the
skin with acne, especially of asevere type, depending upon uterine
irritation. Eruption resembling eczema, from insufficient menstruation. Dr.
Watkins gives as its further indications, delayed or suppressed
menstruation in young girls, irregularity at the beginning of menstruation,
amenorrhoea in very young girls. It will certainly allay sensitiveness of the
sympathetic nervous system to irritations caused by disorders of the
womb and ovaries. The remedy must be given in full doses, to accomplish
these results. From 5 to 10 grains of the extract is necessary 3 or 4
times a day, and persisted in."
Ellingwood gives these specific indications: sexual impotence, sexual
neurasthenia, frigidity, renal catarrh, respiratory disorders,
dysmenorrhoea, headache at the menstrual epoch, bad complexion,
delayed or suppressed menstruation, amenorrhoea."
Third-Party Research on Damiana
All available third-party research on erva damiana can be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the third-party published research on damiana is shown below:
Libido & Sexual Stimulation Actions:
Estrada-Reyes, R., et al. "Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) recovers sexual behavior in sexually exhausted males." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jun 25;123(3):423-9.
Kumar, S., et al. "Pharmacognostic standardization of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward." J. Med. Food. 2006 Summer; 9(2): 254-60.
Rowland, D. L., et al. “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.
Arletti, R., et al. “Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats." Psychopharmacology. 1999; 143(1): 15–19.
Jiu, J. “A survey of some medicinal plants of Mexico for selected biological activity.” Lloydia. 1966; 29: 250–59.
Adaptogenic % Cellular Protective Actions:
Taha, M., et al. "Gastroprotective activities of Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. revisited: Role of arbutin."
J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 May 7;141(1):273-81.
Torres-González, L., et al. "Protective effect of four Mexican plants against CClv(4)-induced damage on the Huh7 human hepatoma cell line." Ann Hepatol. 2011 Jan-Mar;10(1):73-9.
Mendes, F., et al. "Brazilian plants as possible adaptogens: An ethnopharmacological survey of books edited in Brazil." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Feb 12; 109(3): 493-500.
Zhao, J., et al. "Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa)." J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Dec 8;120(3):387-93.
Zava, D. T., et al. “Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs and spices.” Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 1998; 217(3): 369–78.
Kumar, S., et al. "Estimation of Apigenin, an Anxiolytic Constituent, in Turnera aphrodisiaca." Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Nov;70(6):847-51.
Kumar, S., et al. "Pharmacological evaluation of Bioactive Principle of Turnera aphrodisiaca." Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Nov;70(6):740-4.
Kumar, S., et al. "Anti-anxiety activity studies of various extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward." J. Herb Pharmacother. 2005; 5(4): 13-21.
Kumar, S., et al. “Anti-anxiety activity studies on homoeopathic formulations of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward.” Evid. Based Complement. Alternat. Med. 2005 Mar; 2(1): 117-119.
Andersen, T., et al. “Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients.” J. Hum. Nutr. Diet. 2001; 14(3): 243–50.
Antispasmodic, Pain-Relieving & Vasodilator Actions:
Kumar, S., et al. "Pharmacological evaluation of Bioactive Principle of Turnera aphrodisiaca." Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Nov;70(6):740-4.
Hnatyszyn, O., et al. “Argentinian plant extracts with relaxant effect on the smooth muscle of the corpus cavernosum of guinea pig.” Phytomedicine. 2003 Nov; 10(8): 669-74.
Bueno, J., et al. "Composition of three essential oils, and their mammalian cell toxicity and antimycobacterial activity against drug resistant-tuberculosis and nontuberculous mycobacteria strains." Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Nov;6(11):1743-8.
Hernandez, T., et al. “Ethnobotany and antibacterial activity of some plants used in traditional medicine of Zapotitlan de las Salinas, Puebla (Mexico).” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Oct; 88(2-3):
Alarcon-Aguilara, F. J., et al. “Investigation on the hypoglycaemic effects of extracts of four Mexican medicinal plants in normal and alloxan-diabetic mice.” Phythother. Res. 2002; 16(4): 383–86.
Alarcon-Aguilara, F. J., et al. “Study of the anti-hyperglycemic effect of plants used as antidiabetics.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1998; 61(2): 101–10.
Lucio-Gutiérrez, J.., et al. "Multi-wavelength high-performance liquid chromatographic fingerprints and chemometrics to predict the antioxidant activity of Turnera diffusa as part of its quality control." J Chromatogr A. 2012 Apr 27;1235:68-76.
Garza-Juárez, A., et al. "Correlation between chromatographic fingerprint and antioxidant activity of Turnera diffusa (Damiana)." Planta Med. 2011 Jun;77(9):958-63.
Pérez-Meseguer, J., et al. "Development and validation of an HPLC-DAD analytical procedure for quality control of damiana (Turnera diffusa), using an antioxidant marker isolated from the plant." J AOAC Int. 2010 Jul-Aug;93(4):1161-8.
Alcaraz-Melendez, L., et al. "Analysis of essential oils from wild and micropropagated plants of damiana (Turnera diffusa)." Fitoterapia. 2004 Dec; 75(7-8): 696-701.
Godoi, A., et al. "Application of low-pressure gas chromatography-ion-trap mass spectrometry to the analysis of the essential oil of Turnera diffusa (Ward.) Urb." J. Chromatogr A. 2004 Feb; 1027(1-2): 127-30.
Auterhoff, H., et al. "Contents of damiana drugs." Arch. Pharm. Ber. Dtsch. Pharm. Ges. 1968; 301(7): 537-44.
* The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the
Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant
database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.
© Copyrighted 1996
to present by Leslie Taylor, Milam County, TX 77857.
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Last updated 12-17-2012