Medically reviewed: June 7, 2018
What is Damiana?
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 red-brown twigs often are found mixed in the crude drug along with the spherical fruits.
Turnera diffusa, T. aphrodisiaca, T. microphylla
Damiana also is known as herba de la pastora, Mexican damiana, old woman's broom, and rosemary (not to be confused with the spice Rosmarinus officinalis)
What is it used for?
The scientific literature on the plant dates back more than 100 years when reports described its aphrodisiac effects. 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. 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 finally was 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. 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 a hallucinogenic effect.
What is the recommended 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.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Documented adverse effects include risk of cyanide toxicity (due to cyanogenetic glycosides components) in high doses. Avoid use.
None well documented.
Significant adverse effects have not been reported.
Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of this product.