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What is Damiana?
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a small shrub with smooth, pale green leaves and yellow flowers. It's native to Africa, Mexico and the Southwest of the US.
Dried Damiana leaves and stalks are used in certain smoking mixtures (like the Algerian Blend). Though it's said to produce a mild high that lasts about 2 hours, the plant and its extracts are legal throughout the world. It's a common ingredient in products sold as herbal aphrodisiacs (for example the Male Nitro and Venuswave).
The Mayas and Aztecs used damiana as an aphrodisiac, relaxant and also as a general tonic to improve health. Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra, a Spanish missionary, first reported that the Mexicans made a drink from the damiana leaves, added sugar and drank it for its love-enhancing properties. In the 1870s, it was imported into the United States as a tincture and advertised as a powerful aphrodisiac.
Although in 1888 damiana was included in the first edition of the National Formulary (NF), it never made it into the US Pharmacopeia and the elixir was finally dropped from the NF in 1916. Although some commercial companies continued to sell it to the American market, damiana had almost disappeared until the 1960s hippy movement brought it back into popularity.
A small, shortly stalked shrub with ovate, pale green, serrated leaves, 1-2.5cm long, 6mm broad. The flowers are yellow and aromatic.
Damiana contains from 0.5% to 1% of a complex volatile oil (thymol, alpha-copaene, 8cadinene, calamene, 1,8 cineole, alpha pinene, beta pinene, calamenene) that gives the plant its characteristic odour and flavour. It also contains the flavonoids and tannins.
None of these ingredients is known to have psychoactive or aphrodisiac qualities. Hence there is no substantive data available to confirm the claimed effects.
However, Wikipedia does mention three recent studies that confirm its aphrodisiac effects in rats: "Several studies utilizing animal testing have shown evidence of increased sexual activity in sexually exhausted or impotent male rats when exposed to damiana, as well as generally increased sexual activity in rats of both sexes."
Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of this product.
The main effects are said to be relaxation, a mild euphoric high, and an increased appetite for sex.
Damiana has no known medicinal use. It may have weak purgative and diuretic effects, and function as a mild muscle relaxant.
Damiana can be used as a tea or as part of a legal smoking mixture. When using dried leaves, 5 grams is enough for a single dose. When using damiana powder, a teaspoon may be mixed with water, juice, yoghurt or custard.
There are no warnings or contraindications for this herb. However, some websites state that overabundant usage could cause liver or kidney damage (but no reliable source is mentioned to back up this claim). Excessive use may also cause insomnia, headache, nausea and vomiting.
May be combined with any aphrodisiac or relaxing herb.
Damiana thrives in any good soil if given a sunny location. It should be watered abundantly from spring to fall, and sparingly in winter. In the greenhouse, the temperature should not go below 13 degrees Celsius at night. Damiana is propagated by seeds and cuttings.