Damiana: The Herb with a Pretty Name

The first time I heard about this herb, the first thing that struck me about it was its pretty name. But I was in for more shock when I found out the amazing health benefits of this wonderful plant.

Being the herb-loving geek I am, I did some extensive research on this plant, and I am super ready to share what I know with you! So, let’s talk about damiana!

Also known as old woman’ s broom, feuille de damiana, damiana aphrodisiaca, Mexican holly and herba de la pastora, Damiana (a.k.a Turnera diffusa) is an aromatic, flowering herb from the Turneraceae plant family, native to Mexico. Damiana has long been used as a natural aphrodisiac and relaxant from the time of the Aztecs, Mayans, and Guaycura who inhabited the geographical space now known as modern-day Mexico. The leaves of this plant are used for therapeutic and culinary purposes.

And in case you are wondering how this herb got its pretty name (because I also did), then you would be surprised that its name actually stems from Greek origins rather than Mexican (Suprise surprise!). The name damiana is from the Greek daman or damia which literally translates to “to tame or subdue.”

What does Damania Do?

Through research and use, damiana has been found to produce similar relaxing and stimulating effects just like cannabis. In fact, the ancient Mexicans actually smoked this herb, just like people smoke cannabis these days (although, I strongly don’t recommend this method) or made herbal teas and tinctures with the leaf or stem of the plant.

This herb is a powerhouse of active ingredients such as essential oils like cymol, cineol, and pinene, tannin, flavonoid antioxidants, caffeine, pinocembrin, arbutin, cacetin, gonzalitosin, thymol, and damianin. These are exceptionally good for the body. Traditionally, damiana is used to induce relaxation and also increase energy level. There are tons of benefits associated with this plant. Some of which are;

Reduces Anxiety

Damiana has commonly been used to reduce anxiety. Another known effect of this herb is its ability to battle symptoms of depression and nervousness. Damiana is also useful in treating insomnia. This herb’s ability to induce a relaxing effect is what makes it indispensable in stress management.

Manages Diabetes

Research has shown that damiana is also great for managing diabetes. Damiana contains antioxidant, adaptogenic, gastroprotective, and antidiabetic properties that not only reduce the risk of diabetes but other diseases as well. Studies have proven that damiana may prevent kidney problems and mitochondrial oxidative stress-induced diabetes. (Wow! I need a breather.)

Deals with Obesity

Oh yes! Obesity, one of our society`s most notorious arch enemy. With the mushrooming number of weight management products on the market, it is obvious that “almost” everyone is switching to the anti-obesity team. Thankfully, there’s a more natural way of dealing with this menace called obesity. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, damiana! Damiana is known to possess anti-obesity effects. Amazingly, a fusion of damiana, yerba mate, and guarana can aid people who are overweight or obese to achieve a healthier weight. These herbs (Damiana, yerba mate, and guarana) are known for reducing stress, balancing hormones, boosting energy levels (which encourages physical exercises), and may actually reduce appetite.

Increases Sex Drive

I may have forgotten to mention that this is perhaps, damiana’s most known ability. Traditionally, damiana was used as an aphrodisiac. Due to the presence of flavonoids, caffeine, and arbutine in this herb, it is able to improve libido in both men and women.

This herb is known to be an effective treatment for sexual dysfunction. Damiana is often prescribed as a remedy for impotency (a.k.a erectile dysfunction) in men, and frigidity in women. Damiana helps to eradicate these problems by stimulating blood flow to the genital areas during sexual stimulation, prompting erections in men and enhancing the sensitivity of the clitoris in women. It gets even better as damiana is also known to prevent impotency. Studies have found that consistent use of this plant can prevent and impotency, giving that much desired sexual energy. Damiana also reinvigorates sexual desire in women experiencing menopause or perimenopause. Thanks to its aphrodisiacal ability, damiana has been found to help increase stamina, intensify sexual pleasure, reduce stress and boost energy (which is basically most of what you need to boast of a good sex life).

Fights Infections

For centuries, plants from the Turberaceae family (which damiana also belongs) have been used to treat various infections and inflammatory diseases. Modern medicine has been able to corroborate this claim. Studies suggest that plants in this family (Turneraceae) such as damiana, possess antibiotic resistance-modifying activity.

Damiana has been found to help clear airway passages and improve coughs, making it an anti-inflammatory weapon. This amazing herb can also be used in the treatment of kidney inflammation, ear, and eye infections.

So, how can damiana do all these awesome stuff? Well, I’ll tell you a little secret. (Whispers) damiana contains pinocembrin, which is one of the many but major flavonoids found in damiana.

Pinocembrin has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. Now, this is why our ancestors used plants containing pinocembrin to fight various infections such as gonorrhea, B. subtilis, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae, S. Lentus, E. Coli and many others.

Relieves Pain

A stressed woman with back pain

Well, well, well, seems like good old damiana also works as a pain relief agent. (What can’t this awesome herb do?)

As a woman, menstrual cramps would most likely make it to your checklist of “things I dread”. The good news is that damiana is here to the rescue. This herb is beneficial to women who suffer severe cramps and mood swings. Using damiana during menstrual cycles may help eradicate these bothersome issues. Damiana is also handy for relieving headaches, stomach pain, toothache and muscle aches.

In folk medicine, damiana was orally ingested in form of teas and tinctures to help reduce bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation.

The “Ugly” Side of this Pretty Herb

While I may have gone on and on to tell you about the amazing benefits of this herb, it is necessary to inform you of the ugly side of this herb. Damiana is considered safe when used in moderation. However, ingesting a high quantity of damiana is known to have some scary side effects. What are they?

  • Changes in blood sugar level, convulsions, poison symptoms and hypoglycemia.
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers are advised to abstain from using damiana. Research has not proven if damiana is safe for usage in pregnant and lactating women.
  • People who constantly experience hypoglycemia, using antidiabetic medications, insulin or have recently undergone surgery are advised to avoid the use of damiana.

And finally, even if you do not fall into any of the “anti-damiana” categories mentioned earlier, please, consult your doctor before using damiana. (Better safe than sorry, right?)

In case you are wondering how else damiana can be used apart from making it as tea, tinctures or smoking it (which I highly don’t recommend.), it can be used in a variety of ways. These include oil infusions, liqueurs or cordials, extracts infused in alcohol, cooked or baked, this method also releases the nutrients and compounds of the herb into the food. In Mexico, the leaf of the damiana plant is used as a food flavoring agent. It is used in liquors and teas and is approved by the FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) as safe for usage in food.

I don’t know about you, but after all these lip-smacking benefits I’ve learned about this herb, I’m definitely a huge fan of damiana! Go team damiana!