Information and Health Benefits of the Damiana Plant

Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca, Turneraceae, Damiana, flower.

H. Zell / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other Names: Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca

Damiana is a plant native to Mexico and the southern United States. The dried leaves are used medicinally.

Uses for Damiana

In alternative medicine, damiana has been widely used as an aphrodisiac in Mexico for men and women.

Although it is widely promoted as a sexual stimulant and aphrodisiac, scientific support for the benefits of this herb is lacking.

One study suggested that damiana may have plant compounds with effects similar to those of progesterone. Over 150 herbs were tested for their ability to bind with estrogen and progesterone receptors in breast cancer cells and found that the damiana was among the six highest progesterone-binding herbs and spices.

In alternative medicine, damiana is also used for asthma, anxiety, depression, headache, and menstrual disorders, however, there is a lack of supporting evidence.

Damiana is found in various forms, including capsule, liquid extract, and tea form. 


Damiana may cause mild indigestion. 

Damiana contains a glycoside compound called arbutin. In the urinary tract, arbutin is converted into a chemical called hydroquinone. In large amounts, hydroquinone can cause nausea, vomiting, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), convulsions, and eventually, collapse and death.

Although damiana contains about 1/10 of the arbutin as the herb uva ursi, a maximum safe dose of damiana has not been established.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Using Damiana for Health

Due to the lack of research, it's too soon to recommend damiana for any health purpose. If you're considering using it, talk with your doctor first about the appropriateness and possible adverse effects. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources

  • Piacente S et al. "Flavonoids and arbutin from Turnera diffusa". Z Naturforsch [C]. 57.11-12 (2002):983-5.
  • Zava DT et al. "Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices". Proceedings of The Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. 7.3 (1998):369-78.