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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
Drug class: Herbal products

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 21, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical studies evaluating the effect of T. diffusa are lacking. Studies in rodents suggest damiana has aphrodisiac and anxiolytic effects.


There are no recent clinical studies of damiana to provide dosage recommendations. Traditionally, damiana extract British Pharmaceutical Codex (BPC) has been used at a dosage of 0.3 to 0.6 g.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Documented adverse effects include cyanogenic glycosides and 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 also found throughout the southern United States and South America. It has small, yellow-brown, aromatic leaves that are used medicinally when dried. The leaves are broadly lanceolate, 10 to 25 mm in length and 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 2009, USDA 2015 A synonym includes Turnera microphalli.


Aphrodisiac properties of the plant have been described for more than 300 years.Rowland 2003 It was traditionally used by the Mayans 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 2009, Szewczyk 2014

Damiana was included in the first edition of the National Formulary (NF) in 1888 as an elixir and fluid extract. However, it was never included in the US Pharmacopeia and the elixir was removed from the NF in 1916. The fluid extract and the crude drug (leaves) were listed in the NF until 1947.Szewczyk 2014 Today, damiana's 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 2009, Kumar 2006, USDA 2015 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 (including copaene, cadinene, and calamenene).Alcaraz-Meléndez 2004, Khan 2009 In addition, the plant contains gonzalitosin, damianin (a bitter, brown cyanogenic glycoside), apigenin, and arbutin.Khan 2009, Kumar 2008 Methods of damiana leaf analysis and quantification have been defined.Kumar 2008, Szewczyk 2014

Uses and Pharmacology


Extracts of damiana have shown activity against certain bacteria, including mycobacteria and some Candida species.Bezerra 2013, Szewczyk 2014


Extracts of T. diffusa have demonstrated antioxidant activity.Bueno 2011, Lucio-Gutiérrez 2012, Soriano-Melgar 2014, Wong-Paz 2015


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 2007 Limited studies in rodents have demonstrated positive effects of T. diffusa on sexual behavior.Estrada-Reyes 2009, Estrada-Reyes 2013, Szewczyk 2014, Zhao 2008

Clinical data

Clinical studies evaluating T. diffusa alone (not in combination with other agents such as Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng) are lacking.Rowland 2003, Szewczyk 2014


Activity against human cancer cell lines has been demonstrated in vitro,Garza-Juárez 2011, Torres-González 2011 and antiaromatase activity has been demonstrated.Zhao 2007


Animal data

An anxiolytic effect has been 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.Arletti 1999, Kumar 2005 In further studies, apigenin 2 mg/kg extracted from damiana exhibited anxiolytic and analgesic effects in mice. At higher dosages, apigenin extract produced sedative effects.Kumar 2005, Sarris 2013 In the hippocampus of rats, a hydroalcoholic extract of T. diffusa had no effect on cell death (apoptosis).Kumar 2005

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of damiana for CNS effects, nor as a hallucinogen.


Modulation of interleukins and cytokines has been reported for arbutin, a chemical constituent of T. diffusa.Avelino-Flores 2015, Taha 2012


Clinical studies of damiana do not provide a basis for dosage recommendations.

Traditionally, damiana extract BPC has been used at a dosage of 0.3 to 0.6 g.Duke 2002 No standardization of preparations exists.Rowland 2003

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Documented adverse effects include cyanogenic glycosides and risk of cyanide toxicity with high doses of damiana.Duke 2002


Clinical information is lacking. One study reported hypoglycemic effects in mice with oral administration of an aqueous extract of T. diffusa.Duke 2002, Szewczyk 2014

Adverse Reactions

There is limited clinical information regarding adverse reactions associated with damiana use.Duke 2002, Rowland 2003

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 propertiesDuke 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 was found 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


Alcaraz-Meléndez L, Delgado-Rodríguez J, Real-Cosío S. Analysis of essential oils from wild and micropropagated plants of damiana (Turnera diffusa). Fitoterapia. 2004;75(7-8):696-701.15567246
Arletti R, Benelli A, Cavazzuti E, Scarpetta G, Bertolini A. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999;143(1):15-19.10227074
Avelino-Flores Mdel C, Cruz-López Mdel C, Jiménez-Montejo FE, Reyes-Leyva J. Cytotoxic activity of the methanolic extract of Turnera diffusa Willd on breast cancer cells. J Med Food. 2015;18(3):299-305.25299247
Bezerra AG, Smaili SS, Lopes GS, Carlini EA. Effects of Panax ginseng, Turnera diffusa and Heteropterys tomentosa extracts on hippocampal apoptosis of aged rats. Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2013;11(2):163-167.23843055
Bueno J, Escobar P, Martínez JR, Leal SM, Stashenko EE. 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;6(11):1743-1748.22224302
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of medicinal herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Estrada-Reyes R, Carro-Juárez M, Martínez-Mota L. Pro-sexual effects of Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) in male rats involves the nitric oxide pathway. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013;146(1):164-172.2329845510.1016/j.jep.2012.12.025
Estrada-Reyes R, Ortiz-López P, Gutiérrez-Ortiz J, Martínez-Mota L. Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) recovers sexual behavior in sexually exhausted males. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;123(3):423-429.1950127410.1016/j.jep.2009.03.032
Garza-Juárez A, Salazar-Cavazos Mde L, Salazar-Aranda R, Pérez-Meseguer J, de Torres NW. Correlation between chromatographic fingerprint and antioxidant activity of Turnera diffusa (Damiana). Planta Med. 2011;77(9):958-963.2125918610.1055/s-0030-1250684
Khan I, Abourashed E. Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2009.
Kumar S, Madaan R, Sharma A. Estimation of apigenin, an anxiolytic constituent, in Turnera aphrodisiaca. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008;70(6):847-851.2136946210.4103/0250-474X.49143
Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety activity studies on homoeopathic formulations of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(1):117-119.
Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety activity studies of various extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J Herb Pharmacother. 2005;5(4):13-21.
Kumar S, Taneja R, Sharma A. Pharmacognostic standardization of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J Med Food. 2006;9(2):254-260.16822212
Lucio-Gutiérrez JR, Garza-Juárez A, Coello 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;1235:68-76.2240553710.1016/j.chroma.2012.02.042
Rowland D, Tai W. A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003;29(3):185-205.12851124
Sarris J, McIntyre E, Camfield DA. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, Part 1: a review of preclinical studies. CNS Drugs. 2013;27(3):207-219.2343625510.1007/s40263-013-0044-3
Soriano-Melgar Lde A, Alcaraz-Meléndez L, Méndez-Rodríguez LC, Puente ME, Rivera-Cabrera F, Zenteno-Savín T. Antioxidant responses of damiana (Turnera diffusa Willd) to exposure to artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation in an in vitro model; part ii; UV-B radiation. Nutr Hosp. 2014;29(5):1116-1122.2495199310.3305/nh.2014.29.5.7092
Szewczyk K, Zidorn C. Ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and bioactivity of the genus Turnera (Passifloraceae) with a focus on damiana--Turnera diffusa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014;152(3):424-443.2446830510.1016/j.jep.2014.01.019
Taha MM, Salga MS, Ali HM, Abdulla MA, Abdelwahab SI, Hadi AH. Gastroprotective activities of Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. revisited: Role of arbutin. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;141(1):273-281.2237408110.1016/j.jep.2012.02.030
Torres-González L, Muñoz-Espinosa LE, Rivas-Estilla AM, et al. Protective effect of four Mexican plants against CCl4-induced damage on the Huh7 human hepatoma cell line. Ann Hepatol. 2011;10(1):73-79.21301013
Turnera diffusa. USDA. NRCS. The PLANTS Database (, 2015). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. 2015.
Tyler VE. Damiana - history of herbal hoax. Pharm Hist. 1983; 25(2):55-60.11611156
Wong-Paz JE, Contreras-Esquivel JC, Rodríguez-Herrera R, et al. Total phenolic content, in vitro antioxidant activity and chemical composition of plant extracts from semiarid Mexican region. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2015;8(2):104-111.2590202310.1016/S1995-7645(14)60299-6
Zhao J, Dasmahapatra AK, Khan SI, Khan IA. Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa). J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;120(3):387-393.
Zhao J, Pawar RS, Ali Z, Khan IA. Phytochemical investigation of Turnera diffusa. J Nat Prod. 2007;70(2):289-292.


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