DAMIANA

Hierba de la Pastora, Old Woman's Broom, Turnera diffusa

Main Actions

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased sexual function and interest

Other Actions

  • Antibacterial
  • Assists in the reduction of blood sugar levels
  • Soothing to Digestive system

Description

Damiana, also known as Turnera diffusa or Turnera aphrodisiaca, is a small shrub with bright yellow flowers, native to southern parts of the United States, Central America, and South America. The Guaycura people of Mexico used Damiana for centuries as an aphrodisiac, a calming agent, a mood enhancer, and as a urinary tract tonic, among other uses. Historical evidence suggests that ancient Mayan priests used Damiana in their rituals to improve meditation and divination skills.

Damiana leaves contain a variety of plant substances include flavonoids, terpenes, beta-sitosterol’s and compounds including apigenin, limonene, alpha- and beta-pinenes, and luteolin. This combination of substances has been demonstrated to help with blood sugar control and ulcer healing. Also credited with increasing blood flow, which could potentially explain the aphrodisiac effects, it appears to relieve stress, improve mood, and encourage relaxation.

Apigenin is believed to be the “active” component in anxiety reduction.  Apigenin is a flavone found in many plants in the aster and mint families, and has many benefits that contribute to an overall sense of well-being. It is anti-inflammatory, induces cell death in some cancer cell lines, and acts as an antioxidant. Most significantly, it also acts to inhibit GABA-receptors in the central nervous system to mediate its anti-anxiety effects.6,8 Because GABA receptors tend to “down-regulate” nerve signals, apigenin-induced inhibition and perhaps elimination of this “down-regulation” could help explain Damiana’s anti-anxiety effects. 

Damiana can be made into a tea, tincture, or infused into a sweet Mexican liqueur. 

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Some studies suggest that Damiana extract, and its anti-aromatase activity, help the body stop the conversion of some testosterone to estrogen, thereby increasing testosterone levels in those designated male at birth   
  • In trials using a combination of Arginine and Damiana, pre- and post-menopausal women, “experience significant improvement in desire and sexual responsiveness after 4 to 6 weeks of daily use” 
  • In another trial, a combination of Korean ginseng, damiana, arginine, and ginkgo biloba was shown to improve the sexual function in those designated women at birth, possibly by increasing nitric oxide levels leading to increased blood flow  

With this knowledge in mind, anyone considering, or currently undergoing hormone treatment, should speak to their medical practitioner before beginning any herbal supplement that contains Damiana. 

In the United States, Damiana has been given GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) designation.

REFERENCES

1. Conway D. The magic of herbs. Witches Almanac; 2019.

2. Szewczyk K, Zidorn C. Ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and bioactivity of the genus Turnera (Passifloraceae) with a
focus on damiana–Turnera diffusa. J Ethnopharmacol 2014;152(3):424-43.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24468305/

3. Alarcon-Aguilara, F. J., Roman-Ramos, R., Perez-Gutierrez, S., Aguilar-Contreras, A., Contreras-Weber, C. C., and
Flores-Saenz, J. L. Study of the anti-hyperglycemic effect of plants used as antidiabetics. J Ethnopharmacol.
1998;61(2):101-110. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9683340/

4. Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety activity studies of various extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. Journal of
herbal pharmacotherapy. 2005 Jan 1;5(4):13-21. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/J157v05n04_02

5. Salehi B, Venditti A, Sharifi-Rad M, Kręgiel D, Sharifi-Rad J, Durazzo A, Lucarini M, Santini A, Souto EB, Novellino E,
Antolak H, Azzini E, Setzer WN, Martins N. The Therapeutic Potential of Apigenin. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Mar
15;20(6):1305. doi: 10.3390/ijms20061305. PMID: 30875872; PMCID: PMC6472148.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472148/

6. Terunuma M. Diversity of structure and function of GABAB receptors: a complexity of GABAB-mediated signaling.
Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci. 2018;94(10):390-411. doi: 10.2183/pjab.94.026. PMID: 30541966; PMCID:
PMC6374141. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30541966/

7. Arletti R, Benelli A, Cavazzuti E, et al. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on
the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1999;143:15-9.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10227074/

8. Ito TY, Polan ML, Whipple B, Trant AS. The enhancement of female sexual function with ArginMax, a nutritional
supplement, among women differing in menopausal status. Journal of sex & marital therapy. 2006 Dec
1;32(5):369-78. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.528.4004&rep=rep1&type=pdf

9. Ito, T. Y., Trant, A. S., and Polan, M. L. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of ArginMax, a nutritional
supplement for enhancement of female sexual function. J Sex Marital Ther 2001;27(5):541-549.

10. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 — Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available
at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182 (Accessed 10/21)

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