Damiana, scientifically known as turnera diffusa, is a flowering shrub native to the southern part of the US especially Texas, the Caribbean, and Mexico. It produces yellow flowers and has small, yellow-brownish leaves that produce a sweet aroma when crushed. The plant is also known as Mexicana damiana, herba de la pastora, and old woman’s broom. Damiana’s aerial parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) contain essential oils that are known to have medicinal qualities.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
According to scientific records on the plant, damiana’s use as an aphrodisiac dates back more than 100 years. The Maya people were the first to use the plant to treat loss of balance and giddiness, later it became popular for boosting libido.
Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra, a Spanish missionary, was one of the first people to describe the use of the plant in Mexico. According to his reports, Mexican Indians made an infusion from the plant and drank it to increase their libido. During the late 1800s, a tincture of the plant was imported in the US and marketed as a life-changing aphrodisiac which had the ability to assist the aged and feeble to rise to the occasion.
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In 1888, damiana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary as an elixir but was later dropped and lost popularity. As a result, the plant was almost forgotten as a herbal remedy, but thanks to the hippy movement in the 60s, damiana elixir started gaining popularity. Today, damiana is sold as a herbal over-the-counter product for inducing a legal high as well as an aphrodisiac.
In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, rats experiencing sexual impotency were given fluid extracts of damiana. Researchers found that the rats experienced improved copulatory performance with increased ejaculation. Scientifically, this indicates that damiana is indeed effective in resolving male impotency.
Apart from resolving male impotency, damiana was shown to be effective in assisting women to deal with sexual problems including vaginal dryness and low libido. In addition, damiana has been cited for being effective in helping menopausal women resolve a lack of sexual desire better compared to hormone replacement therapy.
Damiana has been shown to help people lose weight. In a study titled “Weight Loss and Delayed Gastric Emptying”, a herbal decoction containing damiana, guarana (paullinia cupana), and yerba mate (ilex paraguariensis) was said to be highly effective in delaying gastric emptying. The delay which also occasioned a perception of gastric fullness assisted overweight people to shed the extra pounds.
While the jury is still out on how damiana works to help men and women deal with sexual problems, this is a plant worth having in your garden.