Damiana : Turnera diffusa

syn T.aphrodisiaca (although there are claims that these are two different plants)

Also called : Hierba del pastor, shepherds herb, Hierba del venado, damiana de California (or Guerrero), mizib-coc (misibcoc, misib-cooc, xmisibcoc, miixcoc)(Maya)

This herb is native to Mexico, southern Texas, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

In Mexico it is used to flavour liqueurs for an aphrodisiac effect. In 1699 Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra reported that Mexican Indians were using a sweetened infusion of this herb as an aphrodisiac.

Guaycura Damiana liqueur from Guadalajara Mexico

Guaycura (Waicura, Waikuri, Guaycuri) is the name of a nomadic hunter gather people native to the Baja California Sur of Mexico.

Turnera diffusa has traditionally been used to reduce the feeling of fatigue, as well as to facilitate digestion. It is traditionally considered a general tonic, an antidepressant and an aphrodisiac. The plant is reported to have nervous stimulant, diuretic and aphrodisiac properties.  According to the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products “Intoxications of humans or toxic effects of T.diffusa have not been reported in scientific literature” although another source states “Very high doses of damiana can cause purging effects, tachycardia, insomnia, headache and irritability of the mucous urinary tract (sic). A case of toxicity in humans has been mentioned after the oral administration of 200 g of damiana extract, observing tetaniform-type convulsions and paroxysms similar to intoxications with strychnine”.

In Australia Damiana has been rescheduled (as of 2018) as an S4 Prescription Only medication due to its capacity to hydrolyse into free hydroquinone in the body. Any herb with more than 10 ppm (1) free hydroquinone is considered dangerous. For reference sake pears (the fruit) regularly contain 14-20 (or more) ppm hydroquinone. This is considered somewhat of an attack on the natural therapies industry buy “Big Pharma”. This flies in the face of a 2012 study (2) that found that “No in vitro or in vivo toxicities for arbutin were observed”.(3)

  1. Parts per million. One ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of something per litre of water (mg/l) or 1 milligram of something per kilogram soil (mg/kg).
  2. Manal Mohamed Elhassan Taha, Muhammad Saleh Salga, Hapipah Mohd Ali, Mahmood Ameen Abdulla, Siddig Ibrahim Abdelwahab, A. Hamid A. Hadi, : Gastroprotective activities of Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. revisited: Role of arbutin, : Journal of Ethnopharmacology, : Volume 141, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 273-281, ISSN 0378-8741.
  3. at 30-60 ppm

As of October 2019 this decision to reschedule Damiana as a S4 Prescription only medication has been amended

Constituents : volatile oils (1,8 cineole, p-cymene, β pinene, thymol (2%), α copaene), cyanogenetic glycoside (Tetraphyllin B), phenolic glycoside (arbutin), bitter substance (damianin 7%), flavonoids, hydroquinones, tannins (3.5%), alkaloids, possibly caffeine, thiamine, chromium, potassium, selenium,

Parts used : dried leaf

Actions : antidepressant, anti-ulcer, anxiolytic, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, gastro-protective, hypoglycaemic, mild laxative, mild purgative, nervine tonic, sexual tonic, stimulant, stomachic, thymoleptic (1), urinary antiseptic, yang tonic

  1. Any drug that modifies a patient’s mood, but especially an antidepressant medication

Dosage :

  • Infusion – 2-4 grams 3/day (1-2 teasp per 250 ml boiling water allowed to steep for 10 minute, strain and drink)(Hoffman) Tincture
  • (liquid extract 1:2 – 60% alc) 1-2 ml 3 x day (3-6 ml daily) 20 – 40 ml per week. (Hoffman)
  • (liquid extract 1:1 – 60% alc) 2-4ml 3 x day, 40 -80 ml/week (Herbal Extract Company) 
  • 2-4 ml 3/day (Commission E)
  • 20-60 drops in water 3/day (White + Foster) Add tincture to small cup of warm water and drink
  • Standardised extract – up to 6 x 400mg capsules/day

Contra-indications :

  It is best to avoid using this herb during pregnancy/lactation due to the lack of studies relating to such.

Should be avoided by those on digoxin or other medications for congestive heart failure. These patients are usually being treated with potassium sparing diuretics (Amiloride, Triamterene), potassium wasting diuretics (Thiazide) or loop diuretics (Furosemide). Damiana may have an additive effect with these diuretics.

May also cause electrolyte imbalances in those taking antipsychotics (Lithium) or antihypertensives (methyl-dopa).

Should be avoided by those taking ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor drugs (Benazepril, Captopril, Lisinopril, Quinapril, Ramipril). Some substances are excreted more slowly and blood potassium levels may rise while on ACE inhibitors (Meletis)

Interactions :

 May interfere with Iron absorption when taken internally (Balche). Long term use may interfere with the bodys ability to absorb iron (Davidow)

Hypoglycaemic activity has been exhibited and as such should be avoided by those on hypoglycaemic therapy (diabetics).(1)

Has oestrogen modulating effects and should not be taken by anyone on the oral contraceptive pill or progesterone therapy (2)

  1. Alarcon-Aguilara FJ, et al. Study of the anti-hyperglycemic effect of plants used as antidiabetics. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998; 61(2):101-10.
  2. Zhao J, Dasmahapatra AK, Khan SI, Khan IA. Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa). J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;120(3):387-93.

Warnings :

Long term use may be toxic to liver.

High doses of Arbutin (1g) are considered toxic. This equals about 100g of dried herb.

Tetanus like convulsions and paroxysms have been observed in one individual who consumed 200g of damiana extract.

Body Systems :

  • Nervous – a stimulating nervine used for mild depression and mental exhaustion, also used in cases of hyperactivity and anxiety. Mixed with linden, orange blossom and valerian it is used to make a sedative tea (Davidow)
  • Endocrine – believed to have a tonic and stimulating effect on the sexual organs (and nervous systems) of both males and females. For the male hormonal system use with Saw palmetto berries 1:1. Prescribed for orchitis (inflammation of a teste), spermatorrhea (involuntary emissions). Damiana may have a testosterone like effect. It is believed to be an aphrodisiac in Mexico.
  • Digestive – a bitter substance, promotes the beginning of the digestive process, may promote peristalsis, has a mild laxative effect.
  • Urinary – arbutin is believed responsible for a urinary antiseptic effect, a mild diuretic and anti-inflammatory of the urinary system, prescribed for catarrhal inflammation of the bladder and nephritis. Prescribed for bedwetting in children

Additional :  Useful in magical work as it aids in the breaking down of natural mental barriers. It is sometimes smoked for its reputed euphoriant effect; it can also be smoked by those trying to quit smoking tobacco or cannabis.

Recipe :

 Yhuba Gold (smoking mixture reported to give a cannabis like high)

4 parts damiana,

4 parts skullcap,

½ part lobelia herb,

4 parts passionflower,

1 part spearmint.

blend and smoke


Damiana Liqueur

Soak 30 grams dried Damiana leaves in 500ml of clear spirit (vodka) for 7 days.
Remove the leaves by filtering through a paper coffee filter into a clean bottle. Soak the remaining leaves in 2 litres of filtered or pure spring water for another 5 days.
Filter the water through a paper coffee filter. Gently heat (do not boil) the water and add about 200g honey to it. Add some vanilla at this stage if you desire (not too much as you want the Damiana flavour to shine through)
Mix the water and alcohol extracts and let sit for 4 – 8 weeks.
Decant off the liquor and dispose of any sediment. Bottle in sterilised clear glass bottles.


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