Damiana: benefits, side effects and drugs

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Damiana ( Turnera diffusa , Turnera aphrodisiaca ) is a wild shrub native to Texas, Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. The dried leaves are used medicinally and are believed to be aphrodisiacs for both men and women. In alternative medicine, damiana is also used for asthma , anxiety , depression , headache , constipation, and menstrual irregularities, although there is no evidence to support this.

What is Damiana used for?

Despite centuries of use of damiana in folk medicine, few scientific studies have investigated damiana for the treatment or prevention of any disease or condition. Most of the existing studies on the effects of damiana are limited to animal and laboratory studies, the results of which cannot be reliably applied to humans.

Improved sexual function

Although Damiana is widely advertised as a sexual stimulant and aphrodisiac, there is little scientific evidence for it.

A 2009 rat study found that damiana helped sexually drained male rats recover from a second ejaculation. According to the study authors, the results support the herb's use as an aphrodisiac; they suspect that certain flavonoids in the herb may be responsible for this effect .

Other research suggests that this herb can also enhance sexual pleasure in women. Two studies have shown that a herbal preparation containing damiana improves women's overall satisfaction with their sex life.

Two studies looked at the women's supplement ArginMax, a proprietary food blend of ginseng, ginkgo, damiana, L-arginine , multivitamins, and minerals.

The first study, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy , included 77 women who received ArginMax or a placebo for four weeks. At the end of the study, 73% of the women who received the herbal blend reported increased sexual desire, decreased vaginal dryness, increased frequency of intercourse and orgasms, and increased clitoral sensation, compared to 37% in the placebo group.

The second study looked at ArginMax in women at different stages of life (premenopause, perimenopause, and postmenopause). Although all groups reported higher levels of sexual desire and satisfaction, the researchers noted that the improvements in postmenopausal women were quite significant. Additionally, the supplement did not affect estrogen levels, and the study authors noted that ArginMax may be a better alternative to hormone replacement therapy for older women looking to boost their libido .

Interestingly, the researchers involved in both studies could not unequivocally say whether damiana itself would improve sexual function in women or work synergistically when combined with other herbs.

Appetite suppressant

Damiana has been studied as a potential weight loss aid. In a 2013 study published in the journal Appetite , women who were given an herbal blend containing damiana, yerba mate, and guarana , and soluble inulin-based fermentable fiber 15 minutes before a meal, ate significantly less food by volume and calories compared to placebo. Subjects who took herbs but did not add fiber also consumed fewer calories. The combination of herbs caused a persistent short-term decrease in appetite, according to the study authors .

An earlier study found that a combination of damiana, yerba mate, and guarana delayed gastric emptying for an additional 20 minutes and shortened the time it took for participants to feel full. After 45 days of daily supplementation before the main meal, the participants lost an average of 11 pounds more than those taking the placebo. Those who continued taking the supplement for a year maintained this weight loss .

While this study shows promising possibilities for weight management, the study authors cannot say for sure if damiana suppresses appetite on its own. More research is needed before recommending damiana for weight loss.

Possible side effects.

Damiana is generally considered safe, but a high intake (200 grams of Damiana extract) is associated with serious adverse reactions, including seizures and symptoms similar to rabies or strychnine poisoning.

Damiana can lower blood sugar and should be taken with caution in people with diabetes who are taking insulin or other medicines that lower blood sugar. Damiana should not be taken two weeks before surgery.

The safety of damiana for pregnant and lactating women has not been established, so these people should not take it.

Damiana has no known moderate to severe interactions with other medications, although some mild interactions have been reported. If you are taking any prescription medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this or any other herb.

Get Drug Information / Anastasia Tretyak

Selection, preparation and storage

Damiana is sold in capsules, liquid extract, and tea in health food stores, supplement and herbal stores. Damiana is also included in other herbal products for both weight loss and libido.

There is currently no standard dosage for Damiana. Follow the directions on the packaging.

Food additives are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, it is helpful to look for a reliable and independent third-party seal on the label, such as US Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. This does not guarantee efficacy or safety, but it does assure you that what is stated on the label is in fact the same as what is in the product.

Frequently asked questions

  • Damiana ( Turnera diffusa ) is a shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and South America that is used to make a popular herbal liqueur, as well as for traditional medicines. It was also used as an ingredient in a 19th century medicine called Pemberton French Wine Coca (which later became today's Coca-Cola).

  • Some believe that damiana is used in traditional medicine to treat headaches, constipation, diabetes , depression, an upset stomach, and bed-wetting. It is also considered an aphrodisiac and is said to increase physical and mental stamina by suppressing appetite. These claims are not supported by scientific evidence.

  • Damiana is generally considered safe and tends to cause side effects only when consumed in excess. Common side effects include headaches and insomnia. Damiana is known to cause seizures and hallucinations when taken in excess.

  • There are no guidelines for the proper use of damiana in any form. When delivered in capsules, manufacturers often recommend taking 2,000 milligrams of Damiana with meals, three times a day.

  • Damiana is legal in all 50 states except one. It was banned in Louisiana in 2005 along with 40 other plants after it was allegedly incorporated into synthetic cannabis (also known as a "spice").

  • There is little research to suggest that damiana can treat any condition. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that damiana increased the sexual performance of male rats. A 2018 study from Natural Product Research found that damiana did not help treat diabetes in rats.

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