Names: Turnera aphrodisiaca, Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. Love Leaf, Mexican Damiana
Damiana is a useful medicinal herb and was a traditional aphrodisiac of the Maya people in Central America. It continues to be considered valuable as an aphrodisiac and general tonic, and its stimulant tonic action makes it a valuable remedy for those suffering from mild depression. The whole plant is a bitter, pungent, warming herb with a fig-like flavour. Its use improves the digestion, lifts the spirits, calms the nerves, regulates hormonal activity, stimulates the genito-urinary tract and rejuvenates kidney energy. It is used internally to treat nervous exhaustion, anxiety, depression, debility in convalescence, impotence, premature ejaculation, prostate complaints, urinary infections, frigidity, vaginal discharge, painful menstruation, menopausal problems, poor appetite and digestion, and atonic constipation. The plants are harvested when in flower and are dried for later use
Habitat: Southern USA, Mexico and parts of sub-tropical America and Africa. Dry sandy or rocky places.
Turnera diffusa aphrodisiaca is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry soil.
Cultivation of Damiana:
Requires a dry soil in a warm sunny sheltered position. One report says that this species is hardy to about -5°c, though this needs to be treated with some caution considering its native range is entirely tropical. It is possible that, whilst the plant will be cut back to the ground by cold weather, the root stock is hardier and will re-sprout in the spring. It will certainly be worthwhile trying the plant outdoors and giving the roots a thick protective mulch in the autumn.
Propagation of Damiana:
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and give some protection from winter cold for at least their first winter outdoors. Division in spring or autumn. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Overwinter the young plants in a greenhouse and plant them out in early summer.
Collection: The leaves and stems are gathered at the time of f lowering.
Culinary uses of Damania:
Edible Uses: Tea.
The leaves are used as a tea substitute and also as a flavouring in liqueurs. The whole plant is a bitter, pungent, warming herb with a fig-like flavour. They have a strongly aromatic slightly bitter taste.
Actions: Nerve tonic, anti-depressant, urinary antiseptic, laxative.
Part Used: Dried leaves and stems.
Damiana is an excellent strengthening remedy for the nervous system. It has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac. Whilst this mayor may not be true, it has a definite tonic action on the central nervous and the hormonal system. As a useful anti-depressant, Damiana is considered to be a specific in cases of anxiety and depression where there is a sexual factor. It may be used to strengthen the male sexual system.
Ellingwood describes this herb thus: (please note that the language is that of Ellingwood, reflecting the time it was written) “A mild nerve tonic claimed to be valuable in the treatment of sexual impotence. Some of our physicians praise it highly for its influence in sexual neurasthenia, and it is said to correct frigidity in the female. It had long enjoyed a local reputation as a stimulant tonic of the sexual apparatus among the natives of Mexico, before it attracted the attention of the profession. Besides its peculiar action on the sexual appetite and function, it is a general tonic, some what cathartic and is slightly cholagogue. The midwives and women of loose morals of western Mexico also attribute emmenagogue properties to it.
“Dr. Reid uses Damiana in all conditions where a general tonic is needed, especially if there be enfeeblement of the central nervous system. He esteems it most highly, prescribing it constantly for this purpose. It is valuable in renal and cystic catarrh and in general irritation of the urinary passages, through its influence in soothing irritation of mucous membranes. This latter property renders it valuable in the treatment of respiratory disorders, especially those accompanied with profuse secretion.
“In terms of the action of this remedy in its influence upon the reproductive organs, Dr. Reid mentions dysmenorrhea, headache, at the menstrual epoch, bad complexion, rough or discolored patches on the skin with acne, especially of a severe type, depending upon uterine irritation. Eruption resembling eczema, from insufficient menstruation. Dr. Watkins gives as its further indications, delayed or suppressed menstruation in young girls, irregularity at the beginning of menstruation, amenorrhoea in very young girls. It will certainly allay sensitiveness of the sympathetic nervous system to irritations caused by disorders of the womb and ovaries. The remedy must be given in full doses, to accomplish these results. From 5 to 10 grains of the extract is necessary 3 or 4 times a day, and persisted in.”
Ellingwood gives these specific indications: sexual impotence, sexual neurasthenia, frigidity, renal catarrh, respiratory disorders, dysmenorrhoea,headache at the menstrual epoch, bad complexion, delayed or suppressed menstruation, amenorrhoea.
As a nerve tonic it is often used with Oats. Depending on the situation it combines well with Kola or Skullcap.
Preparations & Dosage of Damiana:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried leaves and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Lust, sex magick and attracting love. Useful for any love or sex spells. Used by solitary practitioners to open the chakras and increase psychic abilities. It is said that this herb should be stored in a container with a quartz crystal. Highly useful in tantra magick, astral travel, deep meditation, and spirit quests as it has hallucinogenic properties but please note: Internal use of this herb can be toxic to the liver which is why the leaf is smoked for this purpose rather than the herb being ingested.
- Volatile oil, containing thymol, x-copaene, [[beta]]- cadinene and calamene,1, 8-cineole, x– and [[beta]]-pinenes and calamenene
- Flavonoids such as 5-hydroxy-7, 3, 4-trimethoxyflavone
- The hydroquinone arbutin
- Miscellaneous; a cyanogenetic glycoside, a bitter substance of undetermined structure called damianin, resin, tannin.