Botanical Name: Turnera diffusa.
Other Common Names: Damiane, oreganillo, the bourrique, Mexican damiana, Mexican holly, damiana de Guerrero, damina.
Family Name: TURNERACEAE
TCM Name: Da Mi A
Also Known As: Yang Jin Hua (Damiana Flower)
Meridians: Kidney, Liver
Key Actions: Lifts the Spirit, Calms Shen, Tonifies Kidney Yang, Strengthens Jing (Essence), Harmonizes Menses
Medicinal Uses: Insomnia, anxiety, depression, low energy, low back pain, copious clear urine, cold limbs, edema, poor appetite, nocturnal emission, bed-wetting, dribbling, impotence, premature ejaculation, improves sexual stamina and desire, nervous exhaustion, depression, re-balances hormonal shifts associated with menopause, irregular menses, cramping, PMS.
Habitat: Damiana is a small shrub with aromatic leaves that grows in Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies. Although it is still found in the wild in certain areas, most of the damiana used in herbal remedies today comes from Mexican and Latin American herb ranches.
Plant Parts Used: The leaves of the damiana plant are used for medicinal purposes. They are usually dried but can be used fresh as well. The dried herb is used as a tea or tincture, or it can be smoked or burned as incense.
Constituents: Tannis, Flavinoids, Beta-sitosterol, Damianin, Arbutin, Tetraphylin B, Thymol, Albuminoids, Volatile oils, Alpha-copaene, Alpha-pinene, Barterin, Cymol.
Taste: Bitter, Pungent,
Energy: Neutral & Dry
Systems & Organs Affected: Stomach, Liver, Nervous System, Pituitary
Key Actions: Aphrodisiac, Antidepressant, Tonic, Diuretic, Adaptogen, Sedating, Cough Suppressant, Mild Laxative, Relaxant, Digestive, Antibiotic, Analgesic, Cordial, Alterant
Medicinal Uses: Depression, anxiety, sexual inadequacy, insomnia, coughs, lung infections, bed-wetting, menstrual irregularities, headaches, neurosis, diabetes, weak digestion, poor appetite, fatigue, dysentery, stomach ache, mood disorders.
Combines Well With: Another nervine herb; Oatstraw, but it also blends beautifully with other such tonic herbs such as Rosemary, Withania, Skullcap, Oatstraw, Ginkgo, Bacopa and Ginseng.
Science on Damiana
Damiana has not had any clinical studies on humans to assess its effects (what we are interested in proving is rather difficult to measure at the best of times) but nevertheless there have still been some intriguing laboratory tests.
~ Damiana was tested for its relative capacity to compete with estradiol and progesterone binding to intracellular receptors for progesterone (PR) and estradiol (ER) in intact human breast cancer cells. Damiana was one of the six highest PR-binding herbs and spices commonly consumed. Some herbs and spices high in phytoestrogens and phytoprogestins were further tested for bioactivity based on their ability to regulate cell growth rate in ER (+) and ER (-) breast cancer cell lines and to induce or inhibit the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase, an end product of progesterone action, in PR (+) cells. In general, PR-binding extracts were neutral or antagonists (Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, Blen M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998;217:369-78)
~ An extract of Damiana induced relaxation in smooth muscle from the corpus cavernosum – the part of the penis involved in erectile function (Hnatyszyn O et al: From the International Congress & 48th Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant Research & International Society for Ethnopharmacology, Zurich, Sept 3-7, 2000, abstract P2A/39)
~ Oral administration of Damiana (0.25-1 ml/kg) demonstrated a stimulating effect on the sexual behaviour of male rats. Copulatory performance was improved in sexually sluggish or impotent animals but not in potent animals (Arletti R, Benelli A, Cavazzuti E, et al. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1999;143:15-9)
The leaves contain substances like essential oil, resins, tannins, starch, arbutin, barterin and a bitter substance known as damianin. Damiana has been shown to help boost energy and reduce the effects of exhaustion.
This herb is traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. Modern research supports this use as well. It is shown to increase sperm count in males and the strength of eggs in females, help with erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. It has also been shown to help increase blood flow and stimulation in sexual organs. Damiana has antidepressant properties and helps to boost the overall mood and bring about a general feeling of well-being. Additionally, it has been used as an herbal remedy for anxiety. This medicinal herb is thought to have hormonal balancing properties. It is used to help with the hormonal imbalances common with menopause in women.
It has been used as a central nervous system depressant to help with CNS disorders and modify and control the nervous response. Damiana has both diuretic and antiseptic properties and has been used as an herbal treatment for urinary tract infections such as bladder and ureteral inflammation. This effect is partly due to the substance arbutin found in the plant, which is converted to hydroquinone (a powerful antiseptic) in the ureters. Arbutin is also found in many other plants such as bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). The herb is a mild laxative and can be useful in the treatment of constipation due to relaxed gastrointestinal muscles. It is used in folk medicine to treat asthma and bronchitis, particularly in Indian herbal medicine.
Dosage and Administration
Damiana can be administered in an infusion of the dried leaves, as a fluid extract from the leaves or a capsule of the crushed dry leaves.
Infusion: 1 cup of the infusion two to three times daily.
Fluid extract: 1/2 to 1tsp twice daily.
Capsules: 1 x 300mg capsule or capsules after meals.
Damiana is relatively safe in regular doses although the long-term effects of its use have not been tested. It does have a traditional background as an abortive, so it is recommended that pregnant women should stay clear of it. The herb’s safety in children has not been tested so don’t give it to children. Damiana does have a mild hypoglycemic effect so those on diabetes medication or those who suffer from hypoglycemia must use this plant with caution. It may interfere with the body’s absorption of iron, so iron levels should be monitored while on this herb.
Photo: Dr Draxe