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The Pharmacological Effects Of Damiana On Sexual Function

  1. Introduction

    A Brief Overview Of Damiana

    Damiana with the scientific name Turnera diffusa is a wild shrub with fragrant leaves and yellow flowers. Damiana is native to the subtropical climates of southern Texas, Mexico, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean. The leaves and stem of Damiana are used to prepare certain traditional medicines.(1)

    Damiana is used as an herbal remedy for treating various conditions, including sexual dysfunction, stress, anxiety, bladder and urinary problems, and even symptoms of diabetes. People use it as an aphrodisiac for treating sexual issues, stomach problems, and certain other conditions. Consuming leaves of damiana is thought to increase sexual arousal as well as stamina in women and men.

    Importance of Understanding The Pharmacological Effects Of Damiana On Sexual Function

    It is important to understand the pharmacological effects of Damiana on sexual function. Damiana or Turnera diffusa can be considered an aphrodisiac (2), which means it can improve libido or sex drive and performance.(3)

    However, it should be noted that it is not certain whether damiana can effectively treat any medical condition, since its medical use has not been approved by the FDA and more scientific studies are required to prove that the traditional use of damiana could also be used for medical treatment. You should not use damiana or its herbal product in place of medication that is prescribed by your doctor for treating any of your medical conditions.

    Purpose of this Article

    The primary purpose of this article is to explore damiana and its pharmacological effects on sexual function. Read further to know about the history of damiana’s use as an aphrodisiac, its chemical composition, the pharmacological effects of damiana on sexual function, and many more about this herb.

  2. History of Damiana’s Use As An aphrodisiac

    Traditional Uses Of Damiana In Various Cultures

    Damiana is a herb that has traditional and cultural uses. It has been originated in South and Central America and its use in various traditions and cultures dates back to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans times. It has been used traditionally as a potential sexual tonic for women and men, and countless anecdotes have been told of damania and its ability to restore sexual vitality in improving female and male reproductive systems.

    Leaves of damiana or Turnera diffusa have been used traditionally as a nerve tonic, stimulant, diuretic, laxative, and in various disorders of kidney, and menstrual, and pregnancy disorders too.(4, 5)

    The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia has listed certain indications for damiana as anxiety neurosis linked with impotency, including other indications like nervous dyspepsia, depression, and constipation.(6)

    Damiana’s leaf infusion has been traditionally used as a remedy for diseases that are related to the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems(7), the reproductive organs(8), and also for treating gonorrhea in Latin American Societies.(9)

    An important thing to be mentioned here is that damiana has been used in various homeopathic formulations for treating sexual impotence and other problems related to sexual function. Mother tincture (85% ethanol extract) of this herb is an effective homeopathic medicine for treating nervous prostration, and sexual debility.(10)

    Folklore and Myths Surrounding Damiana’s Aphrodisiac Properties

    Mexican Folklore and Myths Regarding Damiana

    Many folklore and myths surround the aphrodisiac properties of Damiana. Damiana has been included as an important ingredient in a traditional Mexican liqueur. Mexican folklore claims that damiana was used in the original margarita. The damiana margarita has remained well-known in Mexico’s Los Cabos region.(11, 12) Locals sip the damiana Mexican liqueur either neat or by mixing in cocktails to treat different ailments like stress, pain, and insomnia.

    However, its most potential and interesting use has been its use as an aphrodisiac. In folklore, damiana was believed to be an aphrodisiac and is thus sometimes also known by the name Turnera aphrodisiaca. Though there is no significant scientific data behind such benefits of damiana, one can hear lots of tales of love after ingesting the Mexican liqueur containing damiana leaves.

    Damiana was included in many patent medicines of the 19th century, such as Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. However, the leaves of damiana were removed from the product’s non-alcoholic counterpart, named Coca-Cola.(13)

    From Southern Texas, South, and Central America, and The Caribbean

    Apart from being in the Mexican culture, Turnera diffusa or damiana has also been significantly used in Southern Texas, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, and its medicinal uses have been written in history. By the time the Spanish crossed the Atlantic, indigenous cultures were using damiana for centuries as a bladder tonic and aphrodisiac. Spanish missionaries began to notice that native tribes brewed tea made from damiana leaves with sugar for stimulating sexual performance. Although there are no human studies, lab studies, and tests performed on mice (rats) have shown that damiana could improve sexual performance in both males and females, however, specifically in those with sexual dysfunction.

    Tales From Baja California Deserts:

    A herbal healer, named Ernesto Diaz says that the basic knowledge behind the aphrodisiac properties of damiana was received from local people living on ranches in remote regions of the Baja California desert. He said that he gave a damiana treatment to a 74-year-old man who came to him with his prostate issue. This treatment could help in eradicating the prostate problem and it also benefitted the old man as he started having regular sex with his 28-year-old wife after then.

    Such tales have been spreading in the Baja California deserts for centuries. The Guaycura Indians of Baja California (now extinct) were aware of damiana and also used it intensively. It also played a significant part in their religious ceremonies as a sexual stimulant and they also used it as a common remedy regularly to treat impotence

    Historical Evidence of Damiana’s Use As An Aphrodisiac

    An aphrodisiac is any drug or food that arouses sexual instincts and increases sexual pleasure, and performance. The word “Aphrodisiac” has been derived from “eAphroditaei”, of the Greek Goddess of love. The substances showing aphrodisiac properties are derived from plants, animals, or minerals, and they have remained since the past as the passion of man.(14)

    Many natural substances have been known as aphrodisiacs historically and one of those being Damiana.

    It is believed that damiana or Turnera difussa was first used by the indigenous Guaycura in the Baja California region of Mexico and it was taken during religious ceremonies, which was banned later. After that Guaycura started trading with the Aztecs, and damiana found its way all over the Americas. It started spreading as a commercial product, primarily as an aphrodisiac by the 1870s, and by 1888, damiana made its rest appearance in the American National Formular, which was dropped eventually in 1916. The knowledge about the use of damiana as an aphrodisiac was fading away slowly until it was rediscovered in the 1960s b ethnobotanists who were searching for natural remedies to pharmaceutical medicine.

    Some people claim that damiana can increase the testosterone count in males significantly. However, there are no current official medical records that could confirm such claims. But, old medical records from the 19th century and also a traditional medicine in Mexico along with the USA have mentioned that sterility in men that is caused by low sperm counts in their seminal fluid could be cured by drinking tea made from damiana.

  3. The Chemical Composition Of Damiana

    Overview Of The Active Compounds Found In Damiana

    Damiana has various compounds( chemicals) or constituents that are responsible for how the plant works. Phytochemical reports on Turnera diffusa or Turnera aphrodisiaca (Damiana) suggest that the plant comprises tetraphyllin B (Cyanoglycoside)(15), gonzalitosin I (flavonoid)(16), arbutin (Phenolic glycoside)(17), damianin (18), tricosan-2-one, hexacosanol hydrocarbons(19), a volatile oil containing α-pinene, β-pinene, p-cymene, and 1,8-cineole; and β-sitosterol (phytosterol)(17) Flavonoids like apigenin and phenolics together carry the aphrodisiac effect.(20)

    All these active compounds found in damiana are concentrated in the aerial parts of the plant like the leaves, flowers, and stem.

  4. How Do These Compounds Interact With The Body’s Systems To Produce Effects On Sexual Function?

    The aphrodisiac aspects of damiana are believed to come into existence because the herb is effective enough to stimulate the intestinal tract, which brings oxygen to the genital area in both women and men, which can benefit in improving sexual function in both genders.

    Let us now see how some of these active compounds found in damiana interact with the body’s system to produce beneficial effects on sexual function in men and women.

    Flavonoids/ Apigenin

    Testosterone is an essential hormone required for male fertility and it plays a crucial role in male development as well as the production of sperm. The testosterone levels in males reduce during aging, often resulting in fatigue, decreased muscle mass, erectile dysfunction, and several other undesirable symptoms.(21)

    Flavonoids like apigenin have been shown to delay the reducing effects of testosterone levels in males caused by aging. This can also increase how much testosterone the testicles can produce. A diet filled with fruits and vegetables usually gives you enough flavonoids to attain these benefits.(21)

    During aging in the case of men, testosterone production by the testicular Leydig cells declines in humans from their 30s at a rate of 1% per year. Taking flavonoids and isoflavonoids like apigenin, chrysin, quercetin, luteolin, and daidzein, could be effective in delaying the initiation of late-onset hypogonadism (a condition in males characterized by a deficiency in testosterone hormone) that is associated with aging in men.(22)

    Since Damiana or Turnera diffusa contains flavonoids, it can be beneficial in improving testosterone levels in males and thus benefit them in improving sexual function.

    Volatile Oil

    This could be possible that the volatile oil found in damiana or Turnera diffusa could be irritating to the urethral mucous membranes sufficiently to account for its aphrodisiac effects.

  5. The Pharmacological Effects of Damiana On Sexual Function

    Research Studies Examining The Effects Of Damiana On Sexual Function

    Though there is a belief and also traditional use of damiana for treating sexual problems and improving sexual function, there are very few controlled studies that confirm their abilities on sexual performance.

    In 1999, Arletti and co-workers have stated that the aqueous extract of damiana or Turnera diffusa was able to facilitate sexual behavior in so-called sexually-sluggish male rates (which are considered a natural model of sexual dysfunction)(23) Sluggish rats showed irregular and slow copulation, an increased number of mounts, and intromissions that preceded ejaculation, and also a variable ejaculation latency. It was seen that damiana could change this copulatory pattern into a more efficient one, and the rats showed reduced ejaculation latency.(24)

    Researchers studied the pharmacological properties of Turnera diffusa (damiana) and they aimed at analysing whether the increased level of sexual motivation and the augmented sexual performance of sexually-sluggish male rats that were treated with damiana, involves the NO pathway. Moreover, they also analyzed whether such effects were exerted at the level of the spinal cord or brain. Additionally, ambulatory activity and anxiety levels were also evaluated.(25) Findings from the study support that the pro-sexual effect of the aqueous extract of damiana in male rates involves the participation of the NO pathway, particularly at the central level. It was also found that Turnera diffusa produced an anxiolytic-like effect in the rates without affecting ambulation. This anxiolytic-like effect of the herb is an advantage to its use to improve sexual performance.

    A clinical trial of Turnera diffusa and other herbal components has shown that the herb might have the potential to enhance sexual performance in humans. In animal models, damiana or Turnera diffusa reduces male latency time and helps in resuming sexual activity, and also benefits them to recover faster after sexual exhaustion. It has been noted by the researchers that such enhancements in sexual function could be because of the changes in NO (nitric oxide) levels through cyanogenic glycosides (components found in Turnera diffusa).(26, 27, 28)

    In short, it could be stated that there is a solid rationale to support the use of damiana for sexual dysfunction and erectile problems. However, further studies are also essential to confirm these beneficial effects of the herb.

    Mechanisms Behind These Effects, Such As Increased Blood Flow And Hormone Regulation

    Some of the possible mechanisms behind the pharmacological effects of Turnera diffusa (damiana) could be as follows.

    Increased Blood Flow To The Pelvic Region:

    Damiana has a hot and spicy nature that increases blood flow to the pelvic area. It can also help in relaxing smooth muscle tissue, thus promoting penile erection. Moreover, the plant compounds found in the herb might also have similar effects to progesterone.

    It has been found that consuming Turnera diffusa or damiana works to slow down the digestive tract and instead rushes oxygen to genital regions.(29) It helps in alleviating problems of achieving and also maintaining erections in males.

    Hormone Regulation

    Damiana also increases testosterone and reduces estrogen hormone in women, thus it is suitable for women with a hormone imbalance. Traditional use of the herb shows that damiana has been used as an emmenagogue and it also helps women during their menopause.

    Mechanism of Reducing Anxiety

    Damiana or Turnera diffusa also helps in reducing anxiety levels, which might help in improving performance anxiety and prevent the deleterious effect of adrenaline in the erectile tissues.

  6. Possible Side Effects and Risks Associated With Damiana’s Use

    Some possible side effects of Damiana’s use could be:

    • Studies have shown that using damiana resulted in appetite suppression. It also delayed gastric (stomach) emptying.(30, 31)
    • Some isolated components of Turnera diffusa or damiana have been shown to decrease blood sugar levels.(32)

    Some severe side effects of damiana could be an occurrence of a severe anaphylactic or allergic reaction, which might include symptoms of breathing difficulties, rash, and itchiness.

    Certain risks associated with the use of damiana could be:

    • Severe allergic reactions could be experienced by some people after using the herb or its supplements.
    • There is little information on damiana’s safety during pregnancy or lactating phase. So there might be risks associated with it and thus pregnant and lactating mothers should avoid taking it.
    • Children should avoid using damiana or any herbal product that uses the herb as its ingredient. This is because damiana products are especially for adults.
    • Damiana is also not safe for older (elderly) people. Many older people have participated in some clinical trials on damiana, however, many of them were those assigned females at birth who were in their postmenopausal phase.(33) So, it is hard to claim how safe the herb could be for people above 65 years of age.
  7. Comparing Damiana to Other Sexual Enhancers

    Comparison with other herbs, natural supplements, and pharmaceuticals used to enhance sexual function

    Comparison With Other Herbs Used To Enhance Sexual Function

    Damiana could be compared with the natural supplements prepared from other herbs like Chlorophytum borivilianum (CB), Mondia whitei, Phoenix dactylifera, Kaempferia parviflora, and many others to name.

    Let us read below and check out the comparison between Damiana and some other herbs (natural supplements) used to enhance sexual function.

    Damiana or Turnera diffusa

    Major chemical components: Flavonoids and Arbutin.

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: It acts as an adaptogen

    Chlorophytum borivilianum (CB)

    Major Chemical Components: Saponins and stigma sterols

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: It shows testosterone-like effects

    Mondia whitei

    Major Chemical Components: Aldehydes and steroids

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: It changes the level of neurotransmitters by increasing the levels of androgen

    Phoenix dactylifera

    Major Chemical Components: Estradiol and flavonoids

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: It shows positive effects on sperm quality

    Kaempferia parviflora

    Major Chemical Components: Flavonoids are the primary chemical components

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: Helps in increasing blood flow to the testis.

    Eurycoma longifolia

    Major Chemical Components: Alkaloids, lactones, and phenolics are the major chemical components.

    Its Use In Improving Sexual Function: It has a proandrogenic effect

    Comparison With Other Natural Supplements Used To Enhance Sexual Function

    Now, let us take a look at the comparison made between damiana (Turnera diffusa) and other natural supplements used to enhance sexual function.


    Benefits/ Use: Damiana is a herb and it is a main ingredient in various herbal products used to enhance sexual function, treat erectile function, and so on.


    Benefits/ Use: Herbal supplement for increasing sexual desire, improving strength, and improve erection size in men.


    Benefits/Use: This herbal supplement is used for sexual enhancement in women and also benefits men in improving erectile dysfunction.

    Comparison with Pharmaceuticals Used To Enhance Sexual Function

    Turnera diffusa or damiana is considered an aphrodisiac in folk medicine. The flavonoids which are found in the active extract of the herb might participate in its pro-sexual effect, which is analogous to the effect produced by Yohimbe (a drug used to promote erectile dysfunction).(34)

    Let us explore the differences between damiana and other pharmaceutical products used to enhance sexual function.


    Mode Of Use: Can be used as damiana tea and is also available in capsule form

    What Studies Suggest: Little or no significant study available to prove its benefits

    Approved/Not Approved By FDA: Not approved by FDA

    Alternative/Medically Prescribed Durg: Used in traditional medicines/alternative treatments and are used by herbal healers.


    Mode Of Use: It is an oral drug

    What Studies Suggest: Scientifically proven for enhancing sexual function and is extremely popular.

    Approved/Not Approved By FDA: Approved by FDA

    Alternative/Medically Prescribed Durg: Used as a medicine prescribed by doctors.


    Mode Of Use: It is an oral drug used for treating erectile dysfunction.

    What Studies Suggest: Studies have proved its benefits in treatin erectile dysfunction

    Approved/Not Approved By FDA: FDA-approved medication

    Alternative/Medically Prescribed Durg: It is a prescribed medicine and doctors advise its use for erectile dysfunction.


    Mode Of Use: Used as an oral tablet

    What Studies Suggest: Scientific studies have proved its benefits for erectile dysfunction.

    Approved/Not Approved By FDA: Approved by FDA

    Alternative/Medically Prescribed Durg: Used as a medicine prescribed by doctors.


    Mode Of Use: Used as an injectable drug

    What Studies Suggest: Studies have proven its effectiveness in improving erectile dysfunction.

    Approved/Not Approved By FDA: Has been approved by FDA

    Alternative/Medically Prescribed Durg: Used as a pharmaceutical product and prescribed by doctors.

    Advantages and Disadvantages Of Damiana Compared To Other Options

    Advantages Of Damiana Over Other Available Options

    This herb is being used in traditional medicine or as an alternative treatment for improving sexual functions and for treating various medical conditions like anxiety, stress, digestive disorders, and a few more medical conditions because of its fewer side effects, ready availability, and less price compared with other available options like drugs or supplements which might have unpleasant side effects and are expensive.

    Disadvantages of Damiana Over Other Available Options

    Damiana and its use have not been approved by the FDA and there are only limited studies that could prove the benefits of this herb for treating sexual dysfunction and other conditions. However, other available options like pharmaceutical products, and herbal supplements, are mostly proven scientifically and approved by the FDA.

  8. Potential Future Research Directions

    Areas of Damiana’s Effects On Sexual Function That Require Further Study

    Today, no substantive data is available to support damiana’s aphrodisiac effects, though it is believed that active components like volatile oil, and flavonoids have been believed to be showing aphrodisiac effects. Despite containing a lot of complex mixture of active components, no evidence could support this effect and thus further studies are essential in this regard.

    Two clinical trials on 85 women within the age group of 22 years to 73 years (who reported a lack of sexual desire) looked at the effects of ArginMax (an herbal supplement containing damiana, ginseng, ginkgo, L-arginine, minerals, and multivitamins). It was noticed that using the supplement increased satisfaction and sexual desire in those women.(35, 36) However, further research is required to prove its efficiency.

    The libido-enhancing ability of damiana might be interesting. Some herbalists claim that this herb can relieve vaginal dryness and increase sexual satisfaction in the case of postmenopausal women and for this purpose, the herb can also be applied vaginally rather than orally. However, research is lacking to confirm the anecdotes. Thus, this too needs further study.

    Opportunities For Developing New Therapeutic Agents Based On Damiana’s Active Compounds

    Active Compound- “Thymol” paving its way for developing new therapeutic agents

    Damiana comprises thymol as an active compound that is responsible for the life-enhancing and stimulating effect of the herb on the mind and body. This herb has been prescribed by many herbalists for treating nervous exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Some people also use it as an aphrodisiac to improve stamina and sexual performance.

    Thymol has been used in traditional medicines and can also be used in various pharmacological or therapeutical products because of its antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and antitumor abilities.

    Active Compound-“ Arbutin” and opportunities for using it in developing new therapeutic agents

    Arbutin is another active component found in damiana or Turnera diffusa. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipidemic, and alpha-amylase inhibitory properties.(37) Moreover, it is a skin-lightening agent and is used for brightening or improving skin tone.

    However, arbutin is also used in treating urinary tract infections or UTIs. This component is also found in certain OTC medications and herbal dietary products.(38) Further development in the medical field using this active component of damiana can bring some amazing pharmaceutical products that could benefit mankind.

  9. Conclusion

    Summary of the Current State Of Knowledge Regarding Damiana’s Effects On Sexual Function

    Damiana has been widely used as an aphrodisiac to help in improving sexual function or treating sexual issues in various traditions and as an herbal or alternative medicine. Damiana or Turnera diffusa has also been used traditionally and in alternative medicine to improve mental function and treat depression, headache, constipation, upset stomach, and bed-wetting.

    However, these traditional uses have not been proven with enough research. More research is essential to prove the benefits of damiana on sexual function and also in treating other medical conditions.

    Final Thoughts On The Potential Benefits and Limitations Of Using Damiana As A Sexual Enhancer

    Damiana is used and sold as an herbal supplement. However, to minimize the risk of contamination, every health/herbal supplement( including damiana’s herbal supplement) should be purchased only from a reliable source. Moreover, it is also important to consult your doctor before using this natural/herbal supplement or any other alternative tonic to treat your condition.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 26, 2023

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