Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
Damiana is a medicinal shrub originating from Central and South America, Mexico, and southern Texas. It has bright yellow star-shaped flowers, grayed green leaves 13-16mm long, is attached to a woody stem, and is highly aromatic when crushed. My main interest in this plant was from first learning about its relaxant properties among it’s ability to reduce anxiety. Some people have labeled this plant as a “marijuana alternative” for these reasons, so I was curious to explore it’s differences and similarities.
Mexico- Spanish missionaries first recorded that the Mexican Indians used Damiana tea infused with sugar as an aphrodisiac. Damiana is also used in traditional Mexican Liqueur and is claimed to have been used in the original margarita, which is still sometimes used as a substitute for triple sec. (If you’re interested in having an authentic Damiana margarita experience, I hear it’s popular in the Los Cabos region of Mexico.)
Damiana has been used to treat headaches, bedwetting, depression, anxiety, nervous stomach, and constipation. It aids with sexual problems such as ED and UTI’s, boosts and maintains mental and physical stamina, and can act as an aphrodisiac.
-Claims have been made that Damiana helps with bladder and urinary issues such as UTI’s.
-Damiana is also an antioxidant. Researchers concluded after a 5 week study on rats with kidney disease, it may prevent damage from oxidative stress in the kidneys.
-It also relaxes small muscles within the arterial walls of the penis, allowing greater blood flow and thus stronger erections.
-Pinocembrin, a compound in Damiana, may also play a pivotal role in combating breast cancer by suppressing aromatase activity (Aromatase inhibitors halt the production of estrogen, which could help cancer patients whose lesions contain estrogen receptors).
I have both smoked and consumed Damiana tea and can say that I prefer the tea (partly because the combustion of any plant material has potential health risks). The smoke isn’t all that harsh or unpleasant, I find that it might taste a bit like incense if I were to guess what incense tastes like, and I found it to be slightly relaxing. However the effects were more prominent when consumed in a tea. My stress and anxiety seemed to evaporate. I was relaxed and maybe a bit drowsy, which makes this a perfect evening tea for me. I would also perhaps compare the effects to a bit like xanax, with the exception of a slight mood lift (xanax made me feel neither good nor bad, just bleh). It has a much more gentle effect when compared to cannabis, so for those of you that struggle with the potential effects of paranoia or anxiety with cannabis, this may be a better alternative for you, and possibly a safer alternative to xanax.
Do not use Damiana during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or when diabetes has been diagnosed (particularly with low blood sugar). Damiana lowers blood sugar and could induce hypoglycemia. Excess use of Damiana could also increase risk of liver damage and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Always consult your health physician before the use of any medicinal herbs.