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Scientific Name(s): Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult., Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. var. aphrodisiaca (G.H. Ward) Urb., Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. var. diffusa
Common Name(s): Damiana, Herba de la pastora, Mexican damiana, Old woman's broom, Rosemary

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 1, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical trial data are lacking to recommend use of T. diffusa for any indication.


Clinical studies of damiana use are lacking and do not provide a basis for dosage recommendations. No standardization of preparations exists.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Cyanogenic glycosides may be present; there is a risk of cyanide toxicity with high doses of damiana.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There is limited clinical information regarding adverse reactions associated with damiana use. The possibility of convulsions, especially in relation to excess alcohol consumption, exists. Damiana-induced hallucinations are unlikely.


Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicity with damiana use. T. diffusa contains potentially toxic chemicals, including arbutin, tannins, and cyanogenic glycosides.

Scientific Family

  • Turneraceae (turnera)


Damiana is a Mexican shrub found throughout the southern United States and South America. It has small, yellow-brown, aromatic leaves that are used medicinally when dried. The broadly lanceolate leaves are 10 to 25 mm in length, with 3 to 6 teeth along the margins. The red-brown twigs are often found mixed in the crude drug along with its spherical fruits.(Khan 2010, USDA 2021) A synonym is Turnera microphalli.


Aphrodisiac properties of the plant have been described for more than 300 years.(Rowland 2003) Traditionally, the Mayans used damiana to treat giddiness and balance problems and to regain strength after alcoholic and sexual excesses.(Szewczyk 2014) Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana lists damiana as a remedy for stomachache, tobacco-related lung disease, bladder and kidney infections, rheumatism, diabetes, and scorpion stings.(Duke 2002, Khan 2010, Szewczyk 2014)

Damiana was included in the first edition of the National Formulary in 1888 as an elixir and fluid extract. However, it was not included in the United States Pharmacopeia, and the elixir was removed from the National Formulary in 1916. The fluid extract and the crude drug (leaves) were listed in the National Formulary until 1947.(Szewczyk 2014) Damiana's current popularity is related to its purported aphrodisiac and hallucinogenic properties, despite a lack of documented evidence.(Rowland 2003)


Alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, steroids, saponins, flavonoids, tannins, carbohydrates (saccharides), and proteins have been identified in the plant.(Khan 2010, Kumar 2006, USDA 2021) Damiana contains a complex volatile oil (0.5% to 1%) that gives the plant its characteristic odor and taste. Analysis of the oil has identified a low boiling point fraction composed mainly of 1,8-cineol and pinenes, and a higher boiling point fraction consisting primarily of thymol and sesquiterpenes (eg, copaene, cadinene, calamenene).(Alcaraz-Meléndez 2004, Khan 2010) In addition, the plant contains gonzalitosin, damianin (a bitter, brown cyanogenic glycoside), apigenin, and arbutin.(Khan 2010, Kumar 2008) Methods of damiana leaf analysis and quantification have been defined.(Kumar 2008, Szewczyk 2014)

Uses and Pharmacology

Antihyperglycemic activity

Animal data

One study reported hypoglycemic effects in mice with oral administration of an aqueous extract of T. diffusa.(Szewczyk 2014)

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro data

Extracts and essential oils of T. diffusa have demonstrated activity against certain bacteria, including some mycobacteria.(Bueno 2011, Szewczyk 2014)

Antioxidant activity

In vitro data

Extracts of T. diffusa have demonstrated antioxidant activity.(Bueno 2011, Lucio-Gutiérrez 2012, Soriano-Melgar 2014, Wong-Paz 2015) In a study of male rats, damiana administration had a protective antioxidant effect against amitriptyline-induced testicular toxicity.(Tousson 2020)

Aphrodisiac and antiaromatase effects

Animal data

In studies of rodents, antiaromatase activity was demonstrated with damiana extract, indicating a possible role in maintaining testosterone levels and suppressing estrogen.(Szewczyk 2014, Zhao 2008) Limited studies in rodents have demonstrated positive effects of T. diffusa on sexual behavior.(Estrada-Reyes 2013, Estrada-Reyes 2009, Szewczyk 2014, Zhao 2008) In one study in sexually sluggish/impotent male rats, T. diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata, alone or in combination, improved copulatory performance.(Arletti 1999)

Clinical data

Clinical studies evaluating T. diffusa alone for effects on sexual function are lacking; available studies have evaluated nutritional combination products that, in addition to damiana, included agents such as Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng. While improvements in sexual response have been reported, a possible role for damiana could not be determined.(Rowland 2003, Szewczyk 2014)


In vitro data

Activity against human cancer cell lines has been demonstrated in vitro,(Avelino-Flores 2015, Garza-Juárez 2011, Torres-González 2011) and antiaromatase activity has been demonstrated.(Zhao 2008)

CNS effects

Animal data

The plant has induced anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in preclinical studies in rats and mice.(Brunetti 2020)

An anxiolytic effect was reported in mice given 25 mg/kg orally of a methanol extract of the aerial plant parts of T. diffusa; the effect was reported to be similar to oral diazepam 2 mg/kg.(Kumar 2005a, Kumar 2005b) In further studies in mice, apigenin 2 mg/kg extracted from damiana exhibited anxiolytic and analgesic effects. At higher dosages, apigenin extract produced sedative effects.(Kumar 2008, Kumar 2005a, Sarris 2013) In the hippocampus of rats, a hydroalcoholic extract of T. diffusa had no effect on cell death (apoptosis).(Bezerra 2013)


Animal and in vitro data

Modulation of interleukins and cytokines has been reported for arbutin, a chemical constituent of T. diffusa.(Taha 2012)


Clinical studies of damiana use are lacking and do not provide a basis for dosage recommendations.

No standardization of preparations exists.(Rowland 2003)

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Cyanogenic glycosides may be present; there is a risk of cyanide toxicity with high doses of damiana.(Duke 2002)


Clinical information is lacking.

Adverse Reactions

There is limited clinical information regarding adverse reactions associated with damiana use.(Duke 2002, Rowland 2003) No psychiatric or neurologic adverse effects related to damiana were reported in a review of the adverse effects associated with herbal aphrodisiacs.(Brunetti 2020)

The possibility of convulsions, especially in relation to excess alcohol consumption, exists.(Duke 2002, Szewczyk 2014) Damiana-induced hallucinations are unlikely. Damiana may have anxiolytic properties,(Duke 2002, Szewczyk 2014) and the leaves may have a laxative effect.(Duke 2002) Reports of urethral mucosa irritation, which could be mistaken for increased sexual sensitivity, may contribute to the belief in damiana's aphrodisiac effects.(Tyler 1983)


Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicity with damiana use. No acute toxicity occurred in mice administered damiana 1 g/kg orally; however, damiana 100 mg/kg administered intraperitoneally induced abdominal contractions in mice.(Szewczyk 2014) T. diffusa contains potentially toxic chemicals, including arbutin, tannins, and cyanogenic glycosides.(Szewczyk 2014)

Index Terms

  • Turnera microphalli



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Further information

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