Damiana Introduction: History, Chemistry, Gardening

Damiana (Turnera diffusa or Turnera aphrodisiaca) is a woody plant with several stems that grows in hot and humid parts of Mexico, Central and South America. It can also be found under such names as “herba de la pastora,” “Mexican damiana,” and “old woman’s broom”.

The plant has approximately 1-2 m in height. Its leaves are 10-25 cm long and they are toothed on the edge. The upper side of the leaves is smooth and pale green, while the lower one is hairy on the ribs. The leaves have a pleasant scent of chamomile. Damiana blooms during the whole summer with yellow flowers that rise from the leaves’ axils. The plant has small fruits that resemble a capsule divided into three parts. They are sweet and smell like fig.

Having been first introduced in the USA in 1874, Damiana herb has a long and interesting history of use in the folk medicine. The indigenous population praises the plant for its antidepressant, diuretic, tonic, hypoglycemic, and antibacterial properties. Ancient Mayas and Aztecs used Damiana as a general tonic to improve health condition.

It was also used by the tribes as an aphrodisiac, because people thought the plant had the ability to improve sexual function. There was a ceremony, during which Damiana leaves were burnt. Ancient people thought this ritual aroused sexual desire and helped lovers perform much better.

Ancient people thought that Damiana was effective in calming nerves and relieving depression and anxiety. They smoked plant’s leaves to relax. Smoking Damiana is practiced even nowadays. Some researchers say that the effect from smoking the herb’s leaves on human brains is similar to the influence of cannabis.

It is interesting to note that boosting sexual desire is not the only property of Damiana. Native tribes also use it to treat constipation and digestive problems, as well as gastric ulcers, menstrual irregularities, and bed-wetting.

Chemical structure of Damiana is rather complicated. The herb is rich in many active components that account for its main medicinal uses and applications. One of the main constituents is volatile oil that is found in the leaves of Damiana. This oil consists of at least 20 elements, including 1.8-cineole, p-cymene, alpha- and beta-pinene, thymol, alpha-copaene, and calamene. The leaves are also a source of flavonoids, tannins, damianin, beta-sitosterol, arbutin.

People learned to process Damiana long time ago and now the herb is available in various forms: capsules, tablets, tea blends, tinctures, and extracts. It is often combined with other herbs to achieve higher efficiency. Undoubtedly, Damiana is a precious medicinal plant, but we need more research to study and verify all the herb’s actions.