Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
About ten years ago I was mixing up some liquid herbal formulas with some friends. One of the blends we were working on was an aphrodisiac blend, with damiana being the main ingredient. We were all tasting the mixture trying to tweak the ingredients for just the right taste, and soon started kidding each other about what to call it (XXX, Triple-X, etc.). Our mood got brighter and soon we were all laughing and having a great time. That’s how I became familiar with the antidepressant, mood-elevating qualities of damiana.
Native to Central America, damiana is definitely an “upper” in the best sense of the word. It is mildly stimulating and mood elevating, producing the same kind of euphoric effect that kava does, only it’s relaxing effects aren’t as profound, and it has a mildly invigorating quality about it. It is probably a mild central nervous system stimulant.
These qualities make damiana useful for people suffering from mild or moderate depression, enervation (nervous exhaustion), anxiety and long term stress. I personally think it is a much better antidepressant than the widely touted St. John’s wort, but few people in the NSP community use it for this purpose. Daniel Gagnon, a professional herbalist, says it is also good for stress while traveling.
Damiana’s most widely recognized use is a sexual stimulant and restorative (i.e., an aphrodisiac). It was regarded as an aphrodisiac by the Mayan people. The leaves of this aromatic shrub have a testosterone-enhancing effect, and were traditionally seen as an herb primarily for men. Damiana has been used to treat premature ejaculation, loss of desire and impotence. It can also be helpful for sexual problems related to stress.
Damiana’s benefits aren’t limited to men, however. Damiana has also been used as an aphrodisiac and sexual restorative for women. It is also used for painful periods or delayed menstruation. It can help relieve headaches associated with menstruation, and may also be of benefit during menopause.
One can readily see why damiana is an ingredient in X-A, Men’s X-Action, Women’s X-Action and DHEA-M. All of these formulas are designed to promote sexual desire and/or tone the reproductive organs. However, to limit thinking that damina (or any of these formulas) are only for enhancing sexual desire is miss the full potential of these remedies.
All of them are also general mood enhancers, energy enhancers and have the ability to help balance hormones (particularly the reproductive hormones) and tone the reproductive system and urinary tract.
For instance, another lesser known use of damiana is as a urinary tract remedy. It contains a constituent called arbutin, which is converted into hydroquinone in the urinary tract. Hydroquinone is a urinary antiseptic and is also found in one of my favorite herbs for urinary tract infections—uva ursi. In Chinese medicine, the kidney chi (energy) is deeply connected with the sexual energy, so it is not surprising that a remedy like damiana would benefit both the reproductive and urinary systems.
As an aromatic, the essential oil is also antiseptic. It contains thymol (also found in thyme). The aromatic quality may be responsible for a mild decongestant and expectorant action in damiana. Ed Smith, another professional herbalist, indicates damiana is useful for respiratory irritation, coughs and hypersecretion of mucus. It’s also a mild laxative.
It’s a shame I didn’t have a photo of damiana to include in this newsletter. It’s bright yellow blossoms stand out as a signature of its bright, uplifting nature.
Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier
The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal by Terry Willard
Liquid Herbal Drops in Everyday Use by Daniel Gagnon
Therapeutic Herb Manual by Ed Smith