Damiana

Scientific Name(s): Turnera diffusa Willdenow et Schultes var. aphrodisiaca Urban. Also known as T. aphrodisiaca Ward. and T. microphylla Desv. Family: Turneraceae

Common Name(s): Damiana , herba de la pastora , Mexican damiana , old woman's broom , rosemary (not to be confused with the spice Rosmarinus officinalis L.)

Uses

Damiana is reportedly an aphrodisiac and hallucinogen.

Dosing

There are no recent clinical studies of damiana that provide a basis for dosage recommendations, though it has been studied in combination with other agents. Classical dosage of the leaf was 2 g.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects include cyanogenetic glycosides and risk of cyanide toxicity in high doses. Avoid use. 1

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Significant adverse effects have not been reported.

Toxicology

Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of this product.

Botany

Damiana is a Mexican shrub also found throughout the southern US and many parts of South America. It has small, yellow-brown aromatic leaves. The leaves are broadly lanceolate, 10 to 25 mm long with three to six teeth along the margins. The red-brown twigs are often found mixed in the crude drug along with the spherical fruits.

History

The scientific literature on the plant dates back more than 100 years when reports described its aphrodisiac effects. 2 Damiana history began with its early use by the Maya (under the name mizibcoc) in the treatment of giddiness and loss of balance. Its primary use in the last century has been as an aphrodisiac. 3 Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra, a Spanish missionary, first reported that the Mexican Indians made a drink from the damiana leaves, added sugar and drank it for its love-enhancing properties. In the 1870s, it was imported into the US as a tincture and advertised as a powerful aphrodisiac, to improve the sexual ability of the enfeebled and the aged and to provide increased activity to all the pelvic secretions. Suffice to say that in this patent medicine era, it enjoyed some success.

Damiana was admitted into the first edition of the National Formulary (NF) in 1888 as an elixir and fluid extract. However, it never made it into the US Pharmacopeia and the elixir was finally dropped from the NF in 1916. The fluid extract and the crude drug (leaves) were listed in the NF until 1947. Although some commercial companies continued to sell it to the American market, damiana had almost disappeared until the 1960s “hippy” movement brought it back into popularity.

Today, damiana has found its way into a number of herbal OTC products, in particular those claiming to induce a legal herbal “high.” In the Caribbean, damiana leaves are boiled in water and the vapors inhaled for the relief of headaches. Teas are said to aid in the control of bed wetting. 4

Chemistry

Damiana contains from 0.5% to 1% of a complex volatile oil that gives the plant its characteristic odor and taste. Analysis of the oil has identified a low-boiling fraction composed mainly of 1,8-cineol and pinenes, but their consistent presence in all forms of the plant has been disputed. 5 A fraction with a higher boiling point is believed to contain thymol and a number of sesquiterpenes. In addition, the plant contains gonzalitosin, a cyanogenic glycoside and a brown amorphous, bitter substance (damianin) among other components. 6

Uses and Pharmacology

Aphrodisiac

No substantive data is available to support the aphrodisiac effects of damiana. Although it has been postulated that the plant may contain the central nervous system stimulant caffeine, the aphrodisiac effect has not been attributed to any specific components. The volatile oil in damiana might be sufficiently irritating to the urethral mucous membranes to account for its so-called aphrodisiac effects. Despite containing a complex mixture of components, there is no evidence to support claims for an aphrodisiac effect. 3

Hallucinogen

Despite containing a complex mixture of components, there is no evidence to support claims for a hallucinogenic effect.

Dosage

There are no recent clinical studies of damiana that provide a basis for dosage recommendations, though it has been studied in combination with other agents. Classical dosage of the leaf was 2 g.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects include cyanogenetic glycosides and risk of cyanide toxicity in high doses. Avoid use. 1

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

No significant adverse effects have been reported in the literature. However, persons claiming to experience damiana-induced hallucinations should be monitored closely and the possibility of ingestion of other drugs should be considered.

Toxicology

Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of this product.

Bibliography

1. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD EDS. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
2. New York Alumni Association of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy: Meeting Minutes – August 3, 1875. Am J Pharm . 1875;47:426.
3. Tyler VE. Damiana: History of an Herbal Hoax. Pharmacy in History . 1983;25(2):55.
4. Eldridge J. Bush Medicine in the Exumas and Long Island Bahamas: A field study. Econ Bot . 1975;29(4):307.
5. Dominquez XA, Hinojosa M. Mexican medicinal plants. 28. Isolation of 5–hydroxy-7,3′4′-trimethoxyflavone from Turnera diffusa. Planta Med . 1976;30:68.
6. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics . New York: J. Wiley Interscience, 1980.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

Hide
(web4)