What Is Damiana?

Damiana capsules, extract, powder, and dried herb

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Damiana (Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca) is a wild shrub. It is native to Texas, Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.

The dried leaves are thought to have an aphrodisiac effect for both males and females. This means they are used to improve sexual function. Damiana is also sold as an appetite suppressant.

In alternative medicine, damiana is used to treat medical conditions, including:

There is no strong evidence to support these uses.

This article looks at the herb damiana and the evidence for its use. It also provides information on possible side effects and dosage.

What Is Damiana Used For?

Damiana has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Still, few studies have looked at this plant's effectiveness.

Much of the research that does exist is limited to animal and lab studies. The results of these studies cannot be reliably applied to humans.

Improved Sexual Function

Damiana is widely promoted as a sexual stimulant and aphrodisiac. There is little scientific support for this.

A 2009 study found that damiana helped sexully exhausted male rats have a second ejaculation. According to the study authors, the results support its use as an aphrodisiac.

The authors suggested that flavonoids in the plant may cause this effect. These are antioxidant-rich compounds found in some fruits and vegetables.

Other research suggests damiana may also improve female sexual enjoyment.

Two studies investigated the supplement ArginMax for Women. This is a proprietary blend of:

The first study included 77 women. Participants took either ArginMax or a placebo for four weeks. At the end of the study, 73% of those who took ArginMax reported:

  • An increase in sexual desire
  • A reduction of vaginal dryness
  • A greater frequency of sexual intercourse and orgasm
  • Enhanced clitoral sensation

This is compared to 37% of the placebo group.

The second study examined ArginMax in women in various stages of life, including:

All groups reported higher levels of sexual desire and satisfaction. Researchers also noted that improvements in the postmenopausal group were significant.

The supplement also did not impact estrogen levels. Study authors suggested the supplement may be a better choice than hormone-replacement therapy for older women who want to increase their libido.

Notably, researchers in both studies could not say whether damiana alone can improve sexual function. It is possible it may work only in combination with other herbs.

Recap

A few studies have found some evidence for damiania's use in improving sexual function. More evidence is needed before it can be recommended for this use.

Appetite Suppressant

Damiana has also been studied as a weight-loss tool.

In a 2013 study, women were given an herbal formula 15 minutes before meals. This formula contained:

Some participants also took an inulin-based soluble fermentable fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water. It is found in the roots of many food plants.

Subjects who took this formula ate much less food by volume and calories than to those who took the placebo.

Subjects who took the herbs but not the fiber also ate fewer calories. According to the study authors, the supplement produced a robust, short-term decrease in appetite.

An earlier study found that this herbal formula delayed gastric emptying by an additional 20 minutes. This means it took longer for food to leave the stomachs of those who took the formula.

It also decreased the time it took participants to feel full.

Subjects took the supplement daily before their main meal for 45 days. At the end of the time period, they'd lost an average of 11 pounds more than those taking a placebo.

Those who kept taking the supplement for a year maintained their weight loss.

This research shows promise. Still, the study authors could not say if damiana suppresses appetite on its own. More research is needed before it can be recommended as a weight loss aid.

Recap

Some studies have also found evidence that an herbal formula containing damiana can help suppress appetite. More research is needed.

Possible Side Effects of Damiana

Damiana is generally regarded as safe. High consumption of 200 grams of damiana extract or more has been linked to serious adverse reactions. This includes:

Damiana may lower blood sugar. For this reason, it 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 those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore it should not be taken by these individuals.

Damiana has no known moderate to severe interactions with other medications. Some mild interactions have been reported.

If you are taking prescription drugs, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this or any herb.

Damiana powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage of Damiana

Damiana is sold in several forms, including:

  • Capsules
  • Liquid extract
  • Tea

You can find it at health food stores and shops specializing in supplements and herbs. Damiana is also included in combination herbal weight loss and libido enhancement products.

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

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Always look for supplements tested by a third-party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Third party testing does not guarantee effectiveness or safety. It does tell you that what is on the label is what is in the product.

Recap

You can buy damiana at many health food stores. It is sold as capsules, liquid, or tea. Look for products independently tested by a third party.

Summary

Damiana is a plant with a long history of use as an appetite suppressant and aphrodisiac. 

There is limited research to support its use for these purposes.

Some animal studies suggest it may help improve sexual function. Other studies in humans found it may be helpful when taken with other herbs.

Studies have also found some evidence for its use as an appetite suppressant. Again, it may be most useful when combined with other herbs.

Taking large doses of damiana may be harmful. People with diabetes and who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take damiana.

You can find this herb in capsule, liquid, and tea form at many health food stores. Look for brands independently tested by a third party.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is damiana?

    Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is used to make a popular herbal liqueur. It is also used in traditional medicines. Damiana was used as an ingredient in a 19th-century remedy called Pemberton's French Wine Coca. This 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
    • Bedwetting

    It is also considered an aphrodisiac. It 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. It tends to cause side effects only 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. In capsule form, manufacturers often recommend taking 2,000 milligrams 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. This was after it was allegedly 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 it had no benefit in treating diabetes in rats.

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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By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.