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Herbal Monograph

Herb: Damiana Leaf (Turnera aphrodisiaca…diffusa; Turneraceae

Other Names:

Character/Energetics: spicy, warm (6);    a bitter, pungent, warming herb with figlike flavor  (38)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  kidney (6); reproductive organs, nerves, kidneys  (14)

Part used:  leaves  (6)  (14);   dried leaves and stems (8);    whole plant  (38)

Identification & Harvesting:  Found mainly in Gulf of Mexico region, Carribean and southern Africa.  Harvest during flowering season.  Flowers are yellow, solitary and axillary.  Fruit is a small, globular, many-seeded capsule, which breaks up into 3 parts.  It is aromatic and resinous.  Plant is a shrub up to 2 ft. high.  Leaves are smooth, pale green on upper surface, glabrous with scattered hairs on ribs beneath, up to 1” long, 1/4” wide, ovate-lanceolate, short-petioled, 2 glands at base, a few serrate teeth and recurved margins.  (2)

Leaves are alternate, linear, wedge-shaped, short-stalked, hairy, about 3/4-1 inch long and 1/8-1/4 inch broad, with a few serrate teeth, recurved margins.  Tastes bitter, aromatic, with a fig-like flavor.    (57)

A scraggly three-foot shrub native to warm regions of western Mexico.    (61)

Active Constituents:  volatile oils (.5-.9%):  chiefly 1,8 cineole, alpha- and beta-pinene, p-cymene;  tannins (4%);  resins (7%);  hydroquinone glycosides:  arbutin (.2-.7%);  cyanogenic glycosides:  tetraphylline B (barterin).  (2)

essential oil w/ cineol, cymol, pinene, arbutin, hydrocyanic glycoside, bitter principle, tannin, resin     (6)

Actions: It is said that damiana slightly irritates the urethra, producing extra feeling in the penis.  (1)

pharmacology of the plant suggests that the alkaloids could have a testosterone-like action. (8)

yang tonic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, nervine, aperient  (6); emmenagogue, tonic, aphrodisiac, cholagogue, diuretic  (14); stimulating nervine, good for male hormonal system, antidepressant, mild laxative, urinary antiseptic  (15); …improves digestion, lifts the spirits, calms the nerves, regulates hormone function, stimulates the genitourinary tract, and rejuvenates kidney energy  (38)

Aphrodisiac, diuretic, tonic.  Very largely prescribed for its aphrodisiac qualities, and there is no doubt of its very great general and beneficial action on the reproductive organs.  Also acts as a tonic to the nervous system.    (57)

Studies indicate possible antibacterial qualities, as well as the ability to lower blood sugar.    (61)

Conditions and Uses:  Used as an aphrodisiac, for prophylaxis and treatment of sexual disturbances.  (2)

Damiana treats frigidity in women and impotence in men. It also is used for chronic cystic catarrh and renal catarrh. It improves digestion, cures constipation and relieves respiratory disorders including irritable coughs. (6)

A sexual rejuvenator;  has a tendency to overstimulate if used excessively.  Mildly stimulates urine flow.  A tonic to the nervous system in small, frequent doses.  (14)

Acne due to menstrual problems:  fluid extract, powder.  Aphrodisiac:  fluid extract, powder.  Hormone imbalance:  fluid extract*, powder.  Hot flashes:  fluid extract, powder.  Sexual stimulant:  fluid extract, powder.  Nerve exhaustion:  fluid extract, powder.  Central nervous system stimulant:  fluid extract, powder.  Suppressed menstruation:  fluid extract, powder.  Urinary irritations:  fluid extract*, powder*, infusion*.

* Usually used  in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem. (14)

Internally (used) for nervous exhaustion, anxiety, depression, debility in convalescence, impotence, premature ejaculation, prostate complaints, urinary infections, frigidity, vaginal discharge, painful menstruation, poor appetite and digestion, and atonic constipation.  (38)

Traditionally used as a tea that can also treat colic, bed wetting, and amenorrhea.  Inhaling the steam from the tea is aid to relieve headache.  Its reputation as an aphrodisiac comes from attempts to market the herb in the 1870’s.  Nearly a century later, the controversy continues.  Nearly all modern herb books mention its use as an aphrodisiac.  As professor John Lloyd pointed out in 1904, this resulted from use of the name “damiana” on patent medicine preparations promoted as aphrodisiacs, whose other ingredients were not revealed.  No reasonable scientific evidence confirms damiana’s reputation as an aphrodisiac.    (61)

Combinations: Often used with oats as a nerve tonic;  combines well with Kola or Skullcap.  (8)

combine w/ oats for general depression;  for anxiety, combine w/ skullcap or wood betony, equal amounts of tinctures, up to 5 ml per dose;  combine w/ Buchu to warm the kidneys.  (15)

Combines well with serona repens (saw palmetto–see pg. 352 of reference) as a tonic for sexual neurosis; with avena sativa (oats–see pg. 246) for depression, and with scutellaria lateriflora (scullcap–see pg. 351) or  stachys officinalis (wood betony–see pg. 355) for anxiety states.  (38)

Precautions:  No known hazards or side effects if administered within designated dosages.  (2)

Given damiana’s long history in Mexico, predating the Spanish invasion, safety seems established.  However, lacking toxicological studies, it should be used in moderation.    (61)

Tincturing Process: Vita Mix: (Speed 5)–Fill damiana to blade level  in container. Process 60 seconds.

60% alcohol   (1a)


Divination:  t  r  (1a)

Divinatory meanings: A passionate youth, male or female.  A person easily aroused to action on any level, be it amorous, business-related, idealistic, aesthetic, or otherwise.

Reverse meanings: Dolt and dullard.  Deception.  Worthless fantasies.  (52)

Dosage:  3‑6 gms.    (6)

Infusion:  steep 1 tsp of dried leaves 10-15 minutes, 3 x daily.

Tincture:  1-2ml, 3 x daily.  (8)

Infusion:  steep 5 to 15 minutes;  1 to 2 cups, hot or cold, once daily.

Tincture:  1 to 3 tsp daily.

DAMIANA LEAF    (Turnera aphrodisiaca…diffusa; Turneraceae)

Dosage: (cont.)

Fluid extract:  15 to 30 drops, once daily.

Powder:  5 to 20 #0 capsules (30 to 120 grains) once daily.  (14)

Up to 2.5 ml tincture 3X day, or add 20 g herb to 500 ml for an infusion.  (15)

Up to 2.5 g capsules daily.  Steep 1 tsp dried herb in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min, up to 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes: Reputation as an aphrodisiac is ancient;  while this may or may not be true, it has a definite tonic action on the central nervous and hormonal systems.  (8)

Especially potent when fresh.  (52)

Very controversial as an aphrodisiac.  No real research to support its aphrodisiac reputation.  (56)

Said to encourage pleasant, amorous dreams.  (1)



(1) Cayuga Botanicasl  “Damiana” file, Men’s X-Action/Glandular Support Pamphlet by Nature’s Field,  Jan 1999

(1a) ibid “Damiana ” Tincture file

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 1193

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 303

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 195

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 110-11

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 164-65, 179

(38) Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Bown, pg. 365

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin), p. 27

(56) The Green Pharmacy  by James A. Duke, Ph.D., pgs. 286-287

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 118

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 62-63


Photo: Lorig AlterVision