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Herbs & Botanicals

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Damiana (turnera diffusa)

What is damiana?

Damiana is indigenous to Central America and Mexico. It grows in hot, humid climates such as those found in Texas, the Caribbean and southern Africa. The plant can reach a height of approximately two feet, with smooth, green leaves, yellow flowers and a many-seeded, globular fruit that has a resinous coating. The leaves are harvested during the flowering season and are used medicinally.

Why do we need damiana? What is it used for?

Since ancient times, many cultures have used damiana as an aphrodisiac, or to treat sexual disorders like erectile dysfunction and low libido. It is also used for conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, and has been promoted as a substance that induces euphoria naturally.

The active ingredient in damiana is its volatile oil, which contains tannins, resins, and small, fragrant substances called terpenes. Test-tube studies have shown that damiana extracts bind to progesterone receptors, which has led to the belief that it may be useful for some female health problems. However, no tests have been conducted on humans.

How much damiana should I take?

Damiana is commonly used in herbal preparations. As a standalone product, however, many practitioners recommend a cup of damiana tea, which is made by adding one cup of boiling water to 1/2 teaspoon of dried leaves and letting the mixture steep for 10-15 minutes. People may take three cups per day, or damiana tablets or capsules (400-800 mg) three times per day.

What forms of damiana are available?

In addition to dried damiana leaves, tablet, capsule and tincture forms are available at many health food stores and specialty stores.

What can happen if I take too much damiana? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Due to a lack of research, the German Commission E does not recommend damiana for its traditional uses. The leaves have a minor laxative effect and may cause loose stools or diarrhea at higher amounts. It may also interfere with iron absorption. Damiana should not be taken by women who are pregnant or lactating.

At present, there are no well-known drug interactions associated with damiana. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking damiana or any other herbal product or dietary supplement.

References

  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 325–6.
  • Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 71–2.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2000, p. 244.
  • Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arkana, 1991, 516–7.
  • Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, Blen M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998;217:369–78.

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