Damiana – Turnera diffusa

 Damiana, common name for Turnera diffusa Willd. or Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward is a popular natural aphrodisiac in Mexico and Latino-America, known since the Maya civilization

  • Name: Damiana
  • Other names: Herba de la Pastora, Mexican Damiana
  • Binomial name: Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult
  • Synonymous: Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward
  • Origin: Tropical and subtropical regions of America

Damiana is a woody shrub with yellow flowers endemic to Latino America. In the past people consumed Damiana to stimulate and improve sexual performance, meanwhile in Mexico is still the natural aphrodisiac more consumed and marketed (1).

The fresh leaves of Damiana are collected during the blooming season, dried, and chopped to prepare an herbal tea, good not only as a sexual stimulant but also as a tonic, diuretic, and with a good anti-anxiety effect(2).

Benefits of Damiana

Damiana has a lot of good properties and effects due to the flavonoids (as apigenin) and other compounds present in the leaves(3):

  • Aphrodisiac
    • improve sexual performance
    • increase sexual desires
  • Stabilization of testosterone level
  • Stimulant – Tonic
  • Anti-anxiety effect
  • Improve blood circulation

Who is Damiana

Turnera diffusa, Willd. (synonym Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward) is an aromatic plant endemic to the tropical regions of America: Caribbean, Mexico, and South America.  This plant is better known by the common names Damiana, Herba de la Pastora, or Mexican Damiana.

Botanical information

Is a small woody shrub that can grow high 1-2 meters, the leaves are oval-lanceolate with serrated margins, 15/20 cm long. In the summer season (from June to September) this plant blooms with 5-petals lobate yellow flowers and is during this period that the leaves are harvested for medicinal purposes (4)

The fake Damiana

Damiana sometimes is confused with Turnera ulmifolia, (“fake Damiana”), a plant with antibiotic properties, and species very close to Turnera diffusa.

Turnera diffusa
Turnera ulmifolia – “fake Damiana”

Traditional use of Damiana

Traditionally Damiana has been used as a stimulant, aphrodisiac, tonic, diuretic, and nerve tonic. Is also used for the treatment of other diseases linked with kidney, menstrual, and pregnancy disorders, diseases related to the gastrointestinal and respiratory system, and reproductive organs, and for the treatment of gonorrhea in Latin American societies (5).

Maya and Damiana

According to R. L. Roys, the ancient Maya used Damiana for the treatment of dizziness and loss of balance (from The Ethno-Botany of the Maya, 1931)(6)

Unfortunately, most of the information about Mayan history got lost, but several lists of their traditional plants were drawn up. A particularly useful list is: Maya Ethnobotany – Complete inventory – Fruit, nuts, root crops, grains, construction materials, utilitarian uses, sacred plants, sacred flowers” by Nicholas M. Hellmuth. This opus contains more than 400 species of plants growing in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. Damiana, Morning Glory, Calea Zacatechichi, several species of Passiflora, and the Water Lily (very close to Blue Lotus) are present in Hellmuth’s list. According to the author, Damiana is described as “ Plants believed by local tradition to increase libido

The consumption of Damiana as an aphrodisiac is noted since the time of the Mexican Indians, which have traditionally used its leaves to make a stimulant, aphrodisiac beverage(8).

4. Modern use

Nowadays Damiana is present in several products in the botanical product market, suggested as a tonic, stimulant and aphrodisiac. It is theorized that the effect of Damiana is due to its flavonoids such as apigenin (an anti-anxiety)(9) and other compounds that act on sexual desires and relief of anxiety. In any case, the results of the latest study are contradictory, so it is not possible at the moment to confirm scientifically all the properties of Damiana.

5. Herbal tea with Damiana:

Damiana tea

One of the most popular ways to consume Damiana is by making an infusion with dried leaves. The taste is delicate and pleasant, even without adding any other ingredients; it doesn’t contain caffeine.

Damiana is also perfect to use in combination with other natural aphrodisiacs such as Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) or Guaraná (Paullinia cupana).

Put 2-4 grams of dried leaves of Damiana (Turnera diffusa) in a cup of hot water (80-100°C). Then leave it in infusion for 5 minutes, then remove the filter.

In traditional medicine Damiana is often mixed with other herbs for the treatment of several problems such as sexual disorders, depression, and states of anxiety:

Association with DamianaEffect
Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata or S. lateriflora)Anti-anxiety effect
Betonica (Betonica officinalis)Anti-anxiety effect
Oat (Avena sativa)Anti-depressant
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)Tonic and aphrodisiac
Guaraná (Paullinia cupana)Aphrodisiac
*from Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbes – Deni Brown

Other ingredients to give more flavor to the Damiana tea are:

  • Rooibos or “Redbush Tea” (Aspalathus linearis),
  • Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia)
  • Wild Rose (Rosa canina
  • Bee-honey
  • Dried soft berries
Rooibos & Honeybush

6. Smoking blend

Damiana can be smoked or vaporized, alone or in combination with other herbs, and it represents a good tobacco-free smoking blend

Vape T° 175°C)

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  1. Felix Heiner, Bjoern Feistel, Kurt Appel –“Influence of traditional Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca (Damiana) extract on monoamine-and glutamate receptor-mediated neurotransmission” 2018 World Congress on Polyphenol Application;
  2. Suresh Kumar, Ruchi Taneja & Anupam Sharma – The Genus Turnera: A Review Update, 2008
  3. Felix Heiner, Björn Feistel, Kurt Appel – Influence of traditional Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca (Damiana) extract on monoamine- and glutamate receptor-mediated neurotransmission, 2018
  4. https://www.rain-tree.com/damiana.htm
  5. Koch L. (1936): Drug collection from Bolivia systematically, anatomically andchemically examined. Arch Pharmacol.
  6. Roys, R.L., 1931. The Ethno-Botany of the Maya. The Department of Middle American Research, The Tulane University of Louisiana, New Orleans.
  7. Maya Ethnobotany – Complete inventory – Fruit, nuts, root crops, grains, construction materials, utilitarian uses, sacred plants, sacred flowers” – Nicholas M. Hellmuth
  8. Lowry, T.P., 1984. Damiana. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 16, 267–268.
  9. Suresh Kumar & Anupam Sharma (2006) Apigenin: The Anxiolytic Constituent of Turnera aphrodisiaca., Pharmaceutical Biology, 44:2, 84-90

Other consultation:

  •  Sara E Edwards, Ines da Costa Rocha, Elizabeth M Williamson, Michael Heinrich –Phytophsrmacy: en Evidence-Based Guide to Herbal medicinal Products 
  • Smart_drug (ITA) (p. 152-153)