Damiana leaf (benefits and uses)

Damiana is a shrub of Mexican origins, but it can also be found across the southern part of the US as well as in many areas in South America. The Damiana leaf is small, aromatic, and yellow-brown in color.  The twigs are red-brown and are commonly mixed with the spherical fruits in the crude drug.

Damiana Benefits

Ethnobotanical/Traditional Uses

The plant traces its scientific history to more than a century ago when it was primarily used for its aphrodisiac effects.  The ancient Maya tribe called it mizibcoc, and used it to treat loss of balance and giddiness. It was not until a century ago when its aphrodisiac properties were discovered.

It was a Spanish missionary by the name of Juan Maria de Salvatierra who first reported that the leaves were made into a drink by Mexican Indians who added sugar and drank it to enhance their love-making capabilities. It was in 1870 when Damiana was imported by the US in the form of a tincture that was advertised as a potent aphrodisiac.  It was said to help improve the sexual abilities of the aged and enfeebled by providing heightened activity in the pelvic area. The patented product was a huge success back then.

In 1888, Damiana was included in the National Formulary’s first edition as a fluid extract and elixir. It never landed in the US Pharmacopeia, however, and in 1916, the elixir was finally removed from the NF. The leaves (crude drug) and the fluid extract were in the NF list until 1947. Damiana slowly eased into oblivion until the ‘hippies’ brought it back to public consciousness in the 1960s.

Hallucinogen/Aphrodesiac

At present, Damiana is a fixture in many herbal over-the-counter products, particularly those that claim to induce legal herbal ‘highs.’  In Caribbean, the leaves are boiled and the vapors are inhaled to provide headache relief.  When made into tea, it can help control bed wetting.
There is currently no substantive evidence in support of Damiana’s potency as an aphrodisiac.

Although the plant contains caffeine that can stimulate the central nervous system, there are no specific components that may be responsible for the aphrodisiac properties. The theory is that the volatile oil in the plant might be irritating enough for the urethral mucous membranes, resulting to the alleged aphrodisiac effects. On the other hand, although Damiana has a complex component mixture, no evidence has been gathered in support of its supposed hallucinogenic properties.

Additional Information

  • Recommended dosage: There are currently no clinical studies that can be used as basis for recommending the proper dosage, although there are studies done in combination with various other agents.  The typical dosage of the Damiana leaf is 2g.
    Safety
  • Contraindications: None has been identified yen.
  • Nursing/Pregnancy: It is not recommended for use by pregnant and nursing women because of the risk of cyanide toxicity.
  • Interaction: None has been properly documented.
  • Side Effects: None has been reported.
  • Toxicities: Various researches report little to no info about toxicology resulting from the use of Damiana.

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