Damiana, also called Turnera diffusa or "hierba de la pastora," is an herb that originated from Central and South America. The plant grows up to 2 meters (6.56 feet) in height and has pale green serrated leaves. Damiana flowers have a distinct yellow color, and usually grow when the leaves are ready to be harvested.
The damiana leaf is considered to be the most important part of the plant because of its various uses. According to studies, damiana leaves contain various flavonoids, tannins and other compounds, which explains how it can positively affect the human body.Damiana has been around for a very long time and has been utilized by the Aztecs and the Malays as a strong aphrodisiac. Women have also ingested it before lovemaking to increase their libido.1
At present, damiana is used in Brazil and Central America as a tonic to improve people's overall health. 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 panic attacks.2
What Health Benefits Can You Get From Damiana?
Damiana is famous for its aphrodisiac properties, with people often calling it "Turnera aphrodisiaca." Studies show that the intake of damiana extract helps improve blood flow and the maintenance of the nerve endings in the genitalia, which may help address sexual inadequacies and erectile dysfunction.3
While it is often used for this effect, the damiana plant should not be limited to just its effects on sexual health. Here are a few more health benefits that you can get from using damiana:
✓ Inhibits stress. The damiana plant has been used to deal with anxiety and stress. It also functions as a nervous system relaxant and can improve nervous system function. This is attributed to its thymol content, a chemical compound that has antiseptic and tonic properties.
✓ Helps ease mild depression. 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.4
✓ Regulates menstruation. Ingesting damiana helps relieve bloating and menstrual cramps, by functioning as a diuretic. It helps in the prevention of fluid retention and slows down the blood flow to the lower abdomen, which is usually the reason for menstrual pain.
Damiana is also used to aid women with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), which usually causes mild depression and mood swings, by balancing hormone production.5
✓ Functions as a laxative. Damiana helps relieve constipation because of its mild laxative effect. It has also been observed to boost digestive system function and helps flush out toxins and other harmful substances from the body.6
✓ Helps with asthma. The Mayans used damiana to help with problematic breathing. It is usually taken as a tea, but may also be inhaled by burning the dried leaves of the plant.7
✓ Eases urinary tract infections. This herb has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which makes it useful for infections and inflammations in the genitals.8
Damiana Uses: How Much Should You Take?
The damiana plant can be used in different ways. The most common is through damiana tea, which is usually taken to promote relaxation. Other products from the damiana plant are also available in the market. Some can even be made at home. Three of the commonly used damiana products are leaf infusions, fluid extracts and damiana capsules.
The recommended doses for each are specified below:9
- Infusion: 1 cup of the infusion, two to three times daily
- Fluid extract: 2 to 4 milliliters (1/2 to 1 teaspoon), twice daily
- Damiana capsules: 3 to 4 capsules, twice daily
Considering that people have differing sensitivities and levels of tolerance to herbal supplements, it would be a good idea to consult a physician to ensure that you're consuming the appropriate dose for damiana. This would help you acquire the optimal amount and prevent ingesting too much or too little.
The doses mentioned above are only the average amounts used by people, and you may need more or less to safely reap the benefits.
How to Grow Damiana
Damiana, which is native to Central America, is commonly planted in warm areas. It is very drought-tolerant. 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 direct sunlight. The soil should be relatively 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 a 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 and other chemicals, so that you can avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals.
There are two ways to plant damiana: through damiana seedlings or damiana seeds. If you are not able to locate a supplier for damiana seedlings, follow these instructions:
1. Fill a flat seed tray with 2 inches of soil. Place seeds approximately 1 inch apart. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
2. Moisten the soil, but make sure that you do not overwater it. 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 location where it will get 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. When the seedlings grow to a half inch, remove them from direct sunlight. 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 becomes dry. Keep the seedlings indoors during their first winter until early summer. They can be transferred outdoors, to an area where the plants would get about two hours of direct sunlight.
6. You can harvest damiana leaves before or while it produces flowers, which is usually during summer.
How to Store Damiana
After harvesting the leaves, it is recommended that you dry them out in order to store them for long periods of time. While damiana leaves can be used fresh, they can be used dried for tinctures and teas as well. Dried damiana leaves should be stored in a dry airtight container and placed in a cool, dark place. This will help prevent moisture from getting in and inevitably spoiling and rendering the herb unusable.10
Simple Damiana Tea Recipe
If you are not familiar with how damiana is used or administered, here's an easy recipe that may help you add this beneficial herb to your diet. Damiana tea has been used for hundreds of years for relaxation and as a means to promote sexual health:11,12
Damiana Tea Recipe
- Dried damiana leaves
- Lemon wedge
- Raw honey
- Measure 1 to 2 heaping teaspoons of dried damiana leaves. Place them into a clean coffee mug or other heatproof drinking container.
- Boil one cup of water in a small saucepan or tea kettle on a stove top. Remove from heat and pour the boiling water into the mug and over the dried damiana leaves.
- Allow the damiana tea to steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the tea into a clean coffee mug or another heatproof drinking container. Discard the used damiana leaves in the compost pile or garbage can.
- Add a teaspoon of pure, raw honey to sweeten the damiana tea, if desired. Do not use granulated or refined sugar, as this can damage the healing properties of the tea.
- Garnish the damiana tea with a lemon wedge for additional flavor. Drink immediately. Optionally, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
You Can Also Use Damiana Essential Oil
Damiana oil is extracted from the damiana plant through steaming. It can be used as a massage oil, but be sure that you dilute it in a safe carrier oil like argan oil or jojoba oil to avoid triggering skin sensitivities.
If you're planning on using this oil to raise your libido levels, you can mix a few drops of the essential oil with a few tablespoons of milk in a warm bath. It can also be used as an air freshener — just diffuse the essential oil using an oil diffuser, which can help relieve anxiety and stress.13
Damiana May Have Certain Side Effects
The damiana herb offers a wide array of benefits, but there are some potential effects to be wary of. Some of these include:
- Manipulates hormone production. People who are affected by thyroid conditions should avoid damiana because it can affect hormone production.14
- Negatively affects sugar levels in the body. People who are hypoglycemic or have problems with blood sugar regulation should not use this herb because its been observed to lower blood sugar levels.15
- May cause manic behavior. It's best to stay clear of this herb if you're bipolar or schizophrenic or dealing with other psychiatric conditions, because it heightens the effects of these conditions and may even induce hallucinations and manic episodes.16
- Affects iron absorption. If you're anemic or have iron deficiency, avoid using damiana to avoid worsening your condition.17
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid using this herb because it may cause detrimental effects on both the mother and the child. Because of its ability to manipulate hormone production, there is also a high chance that it may cause a miscarriage.18
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 wellbeing.