What Is Damiana?

Damiana capsules, extract, powder, and dried herb

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Damiana (Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca) is a wild shrub native to Texas, Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. The dried leaves are used medicinally and are believed to have an aphrodisiac effect for both men and women. In alternative medicine, damiana is also used for asthma, anxiety, depression, headache, constipation, and menstrual disorders, though supporting evidence for this is lacking.

What Is Damiana Used For?

Despite centuries of use in folk medicine, few scientific studies have investigated damiana for the treatment or prevention of any disease or condition. The majority of research that does exist on the effects of damiana is limited to animal and laboratory studies, the results of which cannot be reliably applied to humans.

Improved Sexual Function

Although damiana is widely promoted as a sexual stimulant and aphrodisiac, there is not sufficient scientific support for this.

A 2009 study on rats found that damiana helped sexually exhausted male rats rebound for a second ejaculation. According to the study authors, the results support the use of the herb as an aphrodisiac; they suspect specific flavonoids in the herb may be responsible for this effect.

Other research suggests the herb may improve women's sexual enjoyment as well. Two studies found an herbal preparation containing damiana improved women's overall satisfaction with their sex life.

Two studies investigated the supplement ArginMax for Women, a proprietary nutritional blend of ginseng, ginkgo, damiana, L-arginine, multivitamins, and minerals. 

The first study, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, included 77 women given either ArginMax or a placebo for four weeks. At the end of the study, 73% of women given the herbal formula reported an increase in sexual desire, a reduction of vaginal dryness, a greater frequency of sexual intercourse and orgasm, and enhanced clitoral sensation compared with 37% of the placebo group.

The second study examined ArginMax in women in various stages of life (premenopause, perimenopause, and postmenopause). While all groups reported higher levels of sexual desire and satisfaction, researchers noted improvements in the postmenopausal were quite significant. In addition, the supplement did not impact estrogen levels, and the study authors noted ArginMax may be a better alternative than hormone-replacement therapy for older women who seek to increase their libido.

Notably, researchers involved in both studies could not definitively say whether damiana on its own would improve sexual function in women or if works synergistically in combination with other herbs.

Appetite Suppressant

Damiana has been studied as a potential weight-loss tool. In a 2013 study published in the journal Appetite, women who were given an herbal formula containing damiana, yerba maté, and guarana plus an inulin-based soluble fermentable fiber 15 minutes before meals ate significantly less food by volume and calories compared to a placebo. Subjects who took the herbs but not the added fiber also consumed fewer calories. According to the study authors, the herbal combination produced a robust, short-term decrease in appetite.

An earlier study found the combination damiana, yerba maté, and guarana delayed gastric emptying by an additional 20 minutes and decreased the time it took participants to feel full. After 45 days of taking the supplement daily before the main meal of the day, subjects lost an average of 11 pounds more than those taking a placebo. Those who continued to take the supplement for a year maintained that weight loss.

While this research shows promise for weight management, the study authors could not say with certainty if damiana suppresses appetite on its own. More research is needed before damiana can be recommended as a weight loss aid.

Possible Side Effects

Damiana is generally regarded as safe, but high consumption (200 grams of damiana extract) has been linked to serious adverse reactions, including convulsions and symptoms similar to rabies or strychnine poisoning.

Damiana may lower blood sugar and should be taken with caution in people with diabetes who take insulin or other blood-sugar–lowering drugs. Damiana should not be taken in the two weeks prior to surgery.

The safety of damiana has not been established in pregnant and breastfeeding women, so it should not be taken by these individuals.

Damiana has no known moderate to severe interactions with other medications, though some mild interactions have been reported. If you are taking any prescription drugs, check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking this or any herb.

Damiana powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Damiana is sold in capsule, liquid extract, and tea forms at health food stores and shops specializing in supplements and herbs. Damiana is also included in other herbal products marketed for both weight loss and libido enhancement.

There is no standard dosage for damiana at this time. Follow the directions on the packaging.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). As such, it's helpful to look for a trusted, independent, third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. This does not guarantee effectiveness or safety, but does reassure you that what is on the label is actually what is in the product.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is damiana?

    Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and South America used to make a popular herbal liqueur as well as traditional medicines. It was also used as an ingredient in a 19th-century remedy called Pemberton's French Wine Coca (which would later evolve into modern-day Coca-Cola).

  • What is damiana good for?

    When used for traditional medicine, damiana is thought by some to treat headaches, constipation, diabetes, depression, nervous stomach, and bedwetting. It is also considered an aphrodisiac and is said to enhance physical and mental stamina while suppressing appetite. These claims aren't supported by scientific evidence.

  • What are the side effects of damiana?

    Damiana is generally considered safe and tends only to causes side effects when overused. Common side effects include headaches and insomnia. When taken in excess, damiana has been known to trigger convulsions and hallucinations.

  • What is the recommended dose of damiana?

    There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of damiana in any form. When delivered in capsule form, manufacturers often recommend taking 2,000 milligrams of damiana with meals, three times daily.

  • Is damiana banned in the United States?

    Damiana is legal in all but one of the 50 states. It was banned in Louisiana in 2005, along with 40 other plants, after allegedly being included in preparations of synthetic cannabis (also known as "spice").

  • What evidence is there that damiana works?

    There is little research to suggest that damiana can treat any medical condition. A 2013 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that damiana boosted sexual performance in male rats. A 2018 study in Natural Product Research concluded that damiana had no benefit in treating diabetes in rats.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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