Evidence Based This post has 38 references
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3 Damiana Benefits & Effects + Dosage & Reviews

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Damiana
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Damiana was once an ingredient in Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, a predecessor of Coca-Cola. It was marketed as a cure-all and Dr. Pemberton himself called it “the most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs.” Is there any truth to this? Read on to discover what science says about its potential benefits and side effects.

What Is Damiana?

Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca, also known as damiana, is a small flowering shrub. It is native to South Texas, Southern California, Mexico, West Indies, and South America. Traditionally, the leaves and stems of damiana were used in teas, flavoring liquor, and taken as a tonic to improve general health. It has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac [1].

Folklore suggests that the Aztecs, Mayans, and Guaycura loved damiana. For them, this herb was not only an aphrodisiac, but also a remedy for anxiety, depression, digestive problems, menstrual irregularities, and bed-wetting.

While not recommended, some people smoke damiana to achieve a high that is paradoxically described as both relaxing and stimulating.

Potent Active Compounds

While all damiana’s components have yet to be identified, at least 35 compounds have been discovered. These include [2, 3, 4]:

  • Antioxidant flavonoids and phenolics, including apigenin. Their combination likely carries the aphrodisiac effect [5]
  • Terpenoids (synergistic compounds) [6]
  • Cyanogenic glycosides
  • Alkaloids (anti-anxiety) [5]
  • Plant steroids (anti-inflammatory) [7]
  • Saponins (anticancer) [8]
  • Tannins (both nutrient and anti-nutrient) [9]
  • Caffeine

Active compounds are concentrated in the aerial parts of the plant: leaves, stems, and flowers. Damiana plants produce varying amounts of essential oils and antioxidants depending on the conditions they are grown in [10].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • May work as an aphrodisiac
  • May help with menopausal symptoms and women’s fertility
  • Weight loss potential
  • Few adverse effects reported

Skeptics

  • Insufficient evidence for most benefits
  • Only tested in combination with other herbs in clinical trials
  • Relatively unknown safety profile
  • May dangerously lower blood sugar in combination with diabetic medications
  • May decrease iron absorption
  • Sold as part of unsafe “legal high” supplements

Health Benefits

Insufficient Evidence

1) Aphrodisiac

Damiana’s claim to fame is its aphrodisiac effect. People add damiana to countless herbal combinations hoping to achieve a blissful, libido-enhancing euphoria. But in truth, human studies are practically lacking.

Two clinical trials on 185 women of varying ages (22 to 73 years olds) reporting a lack of sexual desire looked at the effects of ArginMax. ArginMax is an herbal supplement containing damiana, L-arginine, ginseng, ginkgo, multivitamins, and minerals. Supplementation increased sexual desire and satisfaction with overall sex life [11, 12].

In sexually sluggish/impotent male rats, damiana increased the number of animals that could achieve ejaculation and decreased the post-ejaculatory interval. One of these studies discovered that damiana works in a similar way to sildenafil (Viagra), by stimulating blood flow through increased nitric oxide production [13, 14, 15].

Damiana does not affect motor skills or cause sedation like medications such as diazepam. So its anti-anxiety effect may be an advantage for its use in enhancing sexual performance [15].

Keep in mind, however, that it’s almost impossible to tease apart the effect of damiana in multi-ingredient supplements. And until more studies come out, damiana’s aphrodisiac powers remain wishful thinking. They’re plausible, but far from proven.

2) Women’s Reproductive Health

Damiana is often described as a “feminine” herb. Lady 4, containing evening primrose oil, damiana, ginseng, and royal jelly significantly improved menopausal symptoms in a study of 120 women [16].

Its libido-enhancing potential might add to this benefit. Some herbalists claim that damiana relieves vaginal dryness and increases sexual satisfaction in postmenopausal women without causing unwanted estrogenic effects. They state that damiana can even be applied vaginally rather than orally for this purpose. But research is completely lacking to confirm the anecdotes.

Another supplement, PROfertil, combines damiana with folic acid, selenium, vitamin E, catechins, glycyrrhizin, diosgenin, and omega-3-fatty acids. In a clinical trial on 100 women undergoing in vitro fertilization, those taking PROfertil had an increased incidence of quality embryos after fertilization than those given folic acid alone [17].

All in all, it’s impossible to say if it’ll work based on the evidence because it has only been tested as part of multi-herbal supplements. More trials with damiana alone are needed to estimate its specific effects.

3) Weight Loss

One clinical study tested a product with yerba maté, guarana, and damiana (YGD) with two distinct aims. Would the combination affect stomach emptying and would it result in weight loss? In the first part of the study, the combination delayed stomach emptying in seven healthy volunteers. In the second, it increased weight loss by 10 to 12 lbs over 45 days in 47 people [18].

In a trial of 58 people, a patented extract with the same herbal combination greatly reduced hunger and the desire to eat. However, researchers did not explore its weight-loss effect [19].

YGD also prevented fat accumulation in a cell study [20].

Again, damiana has only been tested as part of multi-herbal formulations in weight-loss clinical trials. This makes its specific contribution to the effects observed difficult to estimate. More clinical research testing damiana alone is needed.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of damiana for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Mental and Physical Stamina

There are no studies to support damiana boosting mental or physical stamina. However, damiana does contain caffeine, the most widely-used stimulant worldwide.

Damiana and Panax ginseng are considered cognitive enhancers. One study tried to determine if they work by protecting the hippocampus (memory hub) from cell death. But in the animal study, neither had an effect [21].

Anxiety

In several animal studies, damiana had a clear anti-anxiety effect, comparable to diazepam (Valium). And it didn’t negatively affect motor skills to cause sluggishness nor did it have harm the organs [22, 23, 24].

The primary compound behind this benefit is apigenin [25].

It is important to note that potency can vary from product to product. Homeopathic products will have no or little active components compared to standardized supplements. One study on anti-anxiety effects used tinctures from three different homeopathic manufacturers. They found that the dosage needed to reach the same effect greatly varied [22].

Mood

Damiana extract displayed a marked antidepressant effect in mice [23].

A cell-based study looked at the ability of various plants to inhibit monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). This enzyme is crucial for mood regulation, since it breaks down important neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Damiana had a strong potential to block MAOA, which could explain its mood-enhancing effects [26].

Headaches and Pain

As a folk remedy, damiana has been reported to relieve headaches, although no studies support this benefit. However, damiana does appear to provide natural pain relief. It was equal to morphine in a pain-tolerance study in mice [24].

Constipation and Upset Stomach

There is no mention of damiana relieving constipation in the scientific literature. But damiana does have anti-ulcer activity. Arbutin, a compound in damiana, protected the stomach lining from ulcer-causing chemicals in an animal study [27].

Lucid Dreaming

A quick search on Google will lead to many reports of damiana causing lucid dreaming. Human studies on damiana are limited and none include lucid dreaming. But let’s have in mind that we can’t test lucid dreaming in animals while the scientific literature about this phenomenon is extremely limited.

And if we dig deeper into the science, damiana’s lucid-dreaming potential does have some ground.

Acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in the brain, has an influence on REM sleep. An acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor allows it to build up in the brain. In one study on 121 people, the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor increased the frequency of lucid dreaming. Galantamine is another great example of an AChE inhibitor that induces lucid dreams [28].

Plus, in one cell study of damiana, damiana had the greatest potential among 3 other herbs to affect brain chemistry by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase [26].

Diabetes

Damiana decreased blood sugar in rabbits with transiently increased blood sugar levels [29].

A compound isolated from damiana decreased blood sugar in diabetic animals – both in those that could and couldn’t make insulin. To draw a parallel, people with type 2 diabetes usually can make enough insulin (they just don’t respond to it), while those with type 1 can’t. This means that damiana might help manage blood sugar in both diabetes types [30].

But two other animal studies cast doubt on damiana’s ability to lower blood sugar. One of the studies revealed that its antioxidants prevent kidney damage due to high blood sugar, which highlights its greater potential to reduce diabetes complications [31, 20].

What could’ve caused the conflicting results, though? The answer may lie in the extraction process. Specific water or alcohol extracts did lower blood sugar, but their combination did not. Researchers may have a long way to go until they discover a reliable way to use this herb for sugar control [30].

Limitations and Caveats

There are not many studies on damiana and most are cell-based or animal ones. As an added complication, the existing human studies are on combination products, making it hard to pinpoint the effects of damiana.

Side Effects & Safety

Keep in mind that the safety profile of damiana is relatively unknown, given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects below is not a definite one and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

Damiana does not have a tendency to cause side effects in typical doses. However, its safety is largely unknown due to the lack of clinical studies [32].

Diabetic medications in combination with damiana could lead to low blood sugar. Diabetic patients should speak with their healthcare provider before taking damiana.

Damiana may have an anti-aromatase effect (lowering estrogen). This, coupled with the lack of safety data, makes damiana unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women [33].

While not studied directly, tannins and phenolics in damiana may decrease iron absorption. People with iron deficiency should take special care with damiana [34].

Research on smoking damiana is lacking, but smoking herbs in general releases tar, ash and carbon monoxide.

The dangers of “herbal spice” & other “legal highs”

Damiana is also sometimes added to cannabis-mimicking products for smoking, which are often labeled as “spice.” These are especially common in US states and countries where marijuana is illegal. Despite being marketed as “natural,” these actually contain numerous other dangerous psychoactive compounds, such as synthetic cannabinoids [35].

A product called online as “‘herbal haze” is another example. It’s used as a “legal high” and contains damiana, marshmallow seeds, mullein, and synthetic psychoactive contaminants. In a nutshell, you really don’t know what you’re getting and it’s probably not just herbs. These “spices” can be dangerous, unpredictable, and several serious poisoning cases have been reported [36].

Damiana Review, Dosage & How to Use

The concentration of active ingredients in damiana can vary depending on the formulation. Your best bet is to get a high-quality product and follow the directions on the label.

Because damiana is not approved by the FDA for any condition, there is no official dose. Additionally, the lack of clinical studies using damiana alone makes it impossible to establish a dose, while the dosage used in animal studies highly depended on how the extract was made.

Nevertheless, users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if damiana may be useful as a complementary approach in your case and which dose you should take.

Based on the traditional dosage and supplement labels, the following can be used as a rough dosing guide:

  • Tea: One to two teaspoons (2-4 g) of the dried leaves, up to three times per day.
  • Tincture: By drops up to 1 ml (~20 drops)/day.
  • Leaf extract: 1,500-1,600 mg, 2-3 times per day. More potent extracts will require lower dosing.

We caution against high damiana doses as hallucinations have been reported. It’s unknown exactly what in damiana can bring about this effect. Damiana’s hallucinogenic effects remain scientifically unverified.

Consult a healthcare professional before supplementing, especially if you suffer from mental health issues or take prescription medication. If you experience hallucinations taking damiana, urgently seek medical help.

Pure Herb vs. Supplement Combinations

Damiana is most often used in combination with other herbs. You’ll find a countless number of supplements on the market.

Don’t get confused – the exact combination depends on the intended benefits. But with such products, it’s often hard to tell exactly what is (or isn’t) working. You can always purchase pure damiana as well.

Pure damiana is available as:

  • Dried leaves
  • Leaf powder
  • Teas
  • Tinctures
  • Extracts
  • Liqueurs
  • Essential oils
  • Capsules

All products are made using the leaves of damiana, while the essential oil also uses the blossoms. Unfortunately, the available products lack standardization [37].

Aphrodisiac supplements with damiana are the most popular kind (such as Herbal Niagra, ExtenZe, Proenhance). These typically include a combination of damiana and ginseng, He Shou Wu, yohimbe bark extract, L-arginine, saw palmetto, ginkgo, and other stimulant or libido-enhancing herbs.

Some aphrodisiac products have gone the extra mile with packaging, formulating various herbs into vintage-looking bottles marketed as “love potions” and “spirit elixirs.” These may be tempting, but don’t get your expectations too high.

Plus, several damiana products promote weight loss. Yerba maté and guarana are usually added to these.

Its use alongside kava is particularly popular among people with anxiety… as well as with those who are looking for a natural, bliss-inducing combo.

Kava and Damiana

Users combine kava and damiana is used to create a euphoric high giving a sense of control, bliss and patience that does not cause mental impairment.

Is there any scientific truth to this?

Kava’s primary does help with anxiety. And while damiana can also decrease anxiety, its aphrodisiac and cholinergic compounds may play a role in the combined bliss-like effect. However, research on this combo is nonexistent [38].

Nonetheless, products containing both of these (and other herbs) abound. Users are claiming such herbal mixes helped them decrease stress, increase libido, and boost breast tissue growth. The combination does not appear to be dangerous but keep in mind that no studies support it.

Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of damiana users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Overall, damiana has positive reviews.

Many users – both men and women – report it increases libido.

One user said that with consistent use, damiana helped with her menopause symptoms.

Several users claimed it improved mood, decreased anxiety and helped with sleep, while some reported increased energy.

Many reviews mention that it works best in combination with other herbs.

Some users complain that they didn’t feel anything after supplementing. On the upside, none of them reported side effects either.

Damiana’s effects on lucid dreaming are a popular topic in various forums. But its effect in sleep is usually accomplished by smoking the herb, which may be unsafe. Plus, users seeking a lucid dreaming boost tend to take it in combination with other herbs in products that may be adulterated with synthetic psychoactive compounds.

Recipes

Tea

You will need:

  • 1-2 teaspoons dried damiana leaves
  • 240 mL of water

Instructions:

  1. Place damiana leaves in a mug or another heat-proof container.
  2. Heat 240 ml of water to boil, remove from heat, then pour over leaves in the mug.
  3. Steep tea for 15-20 minutes, then strain into another clean mug or heat-proof container.
  4. Enjoy tea alone or with honey and/or lemon to taste.

Tincture

You will need:

  • Dried damiana leaves
  • 100-proof vodka
  • Airtight jar

Instructions:

  1. Fill jar ⅕ full with damiana leaves. You are aiming for a 1:4 ratio herbs:alcohol.
  2. Pour vodka over the leaves to the top of the jar and seal.
  3. Allow mixture to sit for 6 weeks, shaking it every few days.
  4. When ready, strain tincture through a cheesecloth.
  5. Label tincture and store in a cool, dark area.
  6. Take as needed using a dropper.

Takeaway

Damiana has quite a reputation as an aphrodisiac and euphoric herb. But before you rush to buy some to brew your own “love potion”, have in mind that its libido-enhancing benefits mostly remain unproven. On the bright side, damiana is likely safe at typical doses. It may slightly reduce your anxiety and give you more energy, especially in combination with other herbs. If you decide to supplement, start low and go slow. Consult a medical professional first, especially if you take medication or have health issues. Smoking damiana is probably unsafe, while its use in “spice” products is dangerous.

Where to Buy

Damiana may be found at your local herb shop. You can also buy it in capsule form at your local drugstore and possibly as tea or extract at your local health food store. You may want to check if the herb is organic and harvested wild.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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