Damiana, also known as “hierba de la pastora,” is an herb that belongs to the Turneraceae plant family and originates from Central and South America.1,2 The plant grows as high as 2 to 6 feet, and is characterized by its olive green serrated leaves and vibrant yellow flowers. Damiana can refer to two closely related species that are popularly known for their uses for various health conditions: Turnera diffusa and Turnera aphrodisiaca.3,4
Damiana’s leaves are considered to be the most important part of the plant because of their various homeopathic uses such as for anxiety and as a tincture for nervous system disorders. According to studies, the leaves contain various flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins and other compounds, which explains how this herb can positively affect the human body.5
It is most commonly known due to its stimulant, aphrodisiac and nerve tonic properties.6 Studies today are now focusing on the other health benefits of damiana and how it can function as a potential stress aid for people who suffer from anxiety and depression.7
What Are the Uses and Health Benefits of Damiana?
Damiana is famous for its aphrodisiac properties, which is why one of its scientific names specifically focuses on this characteristic. In fact, it’s been deemed as a “love potion” in Mexico.8 A 2009 animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology identified the effect of damiana extract on sexually exhausted rats. The flavonoids in the plant were found to have pro-sexual effects and significantly reduced post-ejaculatory intervals.9
While it is often used for this function, the damiana plant is not limited to its effects on sexual health. Here are a few more health benefits that you can get from damiana:
• Helps inhibit stress and anxiety. The damiana plant functions as a nervous system relaxant and can improve nervous system function. Damiana can be used as a tonic to restore the nervous system, mostly because of its thymol content, which has both antiseptic and restorative properties.10
• Helps ease mild depression and anxiety. While it’s not yet used as a primary alternative for the treatment of depression, it has been observed to improve the emotional state of people affected by this condition.11 In a 2008 study, damiana was also found to contain high levels of apigenin, a compound responsible for reducing anxiety.12
• Regulates menstruation. Damiana has been recommended to help ease delayed menstruation, dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea. It may also help with the usual symptoms that accompany menstruation, including acne breakouts and headaches.13
• May help improve metabolism and digestion. Damiana has tonic properties that act as an appetite stimulant and may help improve digestion.14
• Eases urinary tract infections. Damiana has both diuretic and antiseptic properties, which may help combat urinary tract infections like urethritis and cystitis. It also contains arbutin, which is transformed into hydroquinone, in the body. Hydroquinone acts as an antiseptic as well.15
Three of the commonly used damiana products are leaf infusions, tinctures and damiana tablets.16 However, considering that people have differing sensitivities and levels of tolerance to herbal supplements, it would be a good idea to consult a physician for the right dosages. This would help you acquire the optimal amount and prevent ingesting too much or too little.
How to Grow Damiana
When planting damiana in your garden, keep it in a place where it’s not going to be exposed to too much water, but will still get enough bright light — but not direct sunlight. The soil shouldn’t be waterlogged and only moistened when completely dry. It doesn’t matter what soil is used, because damiana can grow on any type of soil.
Damiana is not a very common garden plant, so it would be hard to get hold of seedlings from your local gardening sources. But rest assured that there are numerous suppliers of damiana seeds online. Just be sure that your sources do not use pesticides or other chemicals, so that you can avoid exposure to these harmful substances. If you are not able to locate a supplier for damiana seedlings, follow these instructions from SFGate for planting the seeds yourself:17
1. Fill a flat seed tray with 2 inches of soil. Moisten the soil before placing the seeds approximately 1 inch apart. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
2. Place a plastic cover over the seed tray to retain the soil’s moisture. If the top layer of the seed flat becomes dry, moisten the soil from below by placing the seed tray in 1 to 2 inches of water. Remove the tray once the water has seeped through to the top layer of the soil.
3. Place the seed tray in a brightly lit area, but out of direct sunlight. It would be good to keep the seed tray in an environment where the temperature does not go lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If your house is cooler than 70 degrees, consider purchasing a heat mat where you can place the seed tray.
4. Remove the plastic cover once the seeds start sprouting. Once the seed tray becomes overcrowded, carefully scoop out the seedlings and transplant them into small containers filled with soil, covering the roots with potting mix. Water the seedlings to settle the soil surrounding the roots. Be careful not to press down on the soil with your hands.
5. Keep the containers in a brightly lit location indoors and water once the top layer of the soil dries up.
6. Keep the seedlings indoors during their first winter, using a grow light to give them enough light. In the last few weeks of spring, start exposing the seedlings to direct sunlight for about an hour.
7. Your damiana plants can then be transferred outdoors in sandy and fast-draining soil. Place them in a location where they can typically get four to six hours of sunlight. Water the plants generously after planting, and continue watering them once a week in the summer.
Once your damiana seedlings mature, you can harvest the leaves when the plants are in full bloom, which is usually in the summer.18
Tips on How You Can Store Damiana Leaves
If you’re lucky enough to have a steady supply of damiana leaves, then you’re one of the people fortunate enough to benefit from this herb without having to look for a source. However, for people who don’t have this luxury, the good news is that you can store damiana leaves. While there is no specific way to store damiana leaves, you can follow these general tips on how to correctly store herbs:19
• Make sure your herbs are dry. When storing herbs, make sure that the leaves are completely dry to avoid mold from growing. One way to determine whether the herbs are dry is by crumbing the leaves with your fingers. Dry leaves easily come apart.
• Store the dried herbs in airtight containers. Exposure to oxygen will degrade the potency and the viability of the herbs you’re storing. Make sure that you keep them in sealed glass containers to make sure you’re not significantly reducing their shelf life.
• Keep them away from sunlight and heat. Keep your herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, which may cause the potency of herbs to decrease.
Try This Simple Damiana Tea Recipe
Damiana tea has been used for hundreds of years for relaxation and as a means to promote sexual health. If you are not familiar with how damiana is used or administered, here’s an easy recipe from Leaf that may help you add this beneficial herb to your diet:20
• 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried damiana leaves
• 1 cup water
• Lemon wedge or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
• Raw honey, to taste
1. Place the damiana leaves in a clean coffee mug or other heatproof drinking container.
2. Boil the water in a small saucepan or tea kettle on a stove top. Remove from heat and pour the boiling water into the mug, over the dried damiana leaves.
3. Let the tea steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the tea into a clean coffee mug. Discard the used damiana leaves into your compost pile.
2. Add a teaspoon of honey to sweeten the tea, if desired. Refrain from using granulated or refined sugar, as this can damage the healing properties of the tea.
3. Garnish the damiana tea with a lemon wedge or add lemon juice for a citrusy flavor. Drink immediately.
You Can Also Use Damiana Essential Oil
Another damiana product you might want to get your hands on is its essential oil. Damiana essential oil is packed with phytochemicals and active compounds that may help in alleviating numerous body conditions.21 In fact, the essential oils extracted from damiana have been found to contain about 20 different compounds.22
One of the most important properties you should check when getting your supply of damiana oil is the region where the plants come from. In a 2017 study, researchers found that the polyphenol and antioxidant levels in damiana oil are directly influenced by the climate, season and origin.23
Damiana Contraindications and Side Effects You Should Look Out For
Damiana may be an impressive herb judging by the surplus of active compounds it contains. However, the use of this herb may not be recommended for everyone, especially if you fall under the following categories:24
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women. Due to limited studies concerning the safety of damiana intake during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, it would be best to steer clear of this herb to avoid possible complications.
• Diabetes patients. Damiana may interfere with the regulation of blood sugar levels. Lowered blood sugar levels during damiana use may be observed, requiring close monitoring in diabetics to avoid the adverse effects of hypoglycemia.
• Patients who will undergo surgery. The effects of damiana on blood sugar may also pose risks for patients who are scheduled to undergo surgery. If you’re currently drinking damiana tea or using damiana, it would be best that you stop about two weeks before your scheduled medical procedure.
If you fall into any of the categories stated above, it is best that you steer clear from the use of this herb to avoid aggravating the symptoms. Even if damiana has a lot of positive health benefits, it’s better that you remain cautious to avoid causing harm to your well-being.