What is Damiana?
In Mexico, Damiana has been used as an aphrodisiac and sexual tonic for centuries. Some believe that a copious amount of Damiana was the secret ingredient in the original recipe of the infamous margarita drink. And indeed, to this day margarita in Mexico is often made with Damiana, which infuses the drink with a unique floral twist – plus, it gets the mojo going.
Back when the spanish missionaries set foot on Mexico, they already observed that native tribes would mix a Damiana tea with sugar for its sexually stimulating effects. In the meantime, the early uses of the plant as an aphrodisiac have been validated in modern laboratories; testing on animals has shown increased sexual performance in both female and male specimen. Male rats with sexual disfunction reacted particularly well to the herb, although both sexes exhibited increased sexual activity.
The mechanism of action of Damiana is still not very well understood. But in one study it was shown that Damiana relaxes the small muscles within the arterial walls of the penis, which allows for a greater blood flow and therefore a stronger erection. Perhaps surprisingly, Damiana was found to relax the small muscles almost twice as much as Viagra – 90% compared to 46%.
In modern herbalism and phytotherapy, Damiana is still widely used as a sexual tonic and aphrodisiac. While it is often used in more complex aphrodisiac formulas that enhance the overall sexual performance, it is also often used along with St. Johns Wort and Skullcap that enhance the relaxation and anti-depressant effects. Damiana has been described as a mild mood lifter by itself, but that action can be further enhanced through combination with other antidepressant herbs.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a small shrub belonging to the Passifloraceae family of plants. It can be found growing native in the South-western parts of Texas in the US, as well the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. Damiana is a relatively small shrub that grows to about 1-2 meters in height, and produces small yellow flowers that bloom into small, sweet smelling fruit. The leaves are the pharmacologically active part of the plant. They tend to be 10-25 cm long, have a serrated edge, and have an extremely aromatic smell.
Damiana is legal in almost all countries, with certain US states being an exception. The dried leaves are legal for purchase, however, some vendors have used Damiana as a cover to sell synthetic cannabinoid products. A well known case is the product Black Mamba, which was sold in the UK as a 100% Damiana formula, but intact did contain other illegal and synthetic cannabinoids. Black Mamba is now a controlled substance and illegal in many countries.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DAMIANA?
Damiana has an incredibly rich history, having been used for centuries amongst various cultures. And despite the prominence of pharmaceutical medication knocking many herbal treatments into the background, herbalists and scientists are coming together to prove damiana’s efficacy once again. We have already alluded to its ability to increase libido, but that’s not the only benefit the herb might have.
1. POTENTIAL TO IMPROVE SEXUAL STAMINA
Aside from the boost in blood flow and sexual potency, damiana could have a multi-faceted approach to increasing sexual stamina. In a comprehensive review of all known herbal aphrodisiacs, boosting the sexual behaviour of exhausted rats wasn’t damiana’s only key attribute. Scientists uncovered that the herb’s potential might come from its synergy with other compounds. Caffeine, arbutin and a sophisticated blend of flavonoids were all found within damiana plant extract, supporting the concept that together they act as an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are unique plants or extracts that support the adrenal system. The adrenal system is responsible for managing the body’s stress response, as well as sleep patterns and mood. The result? Well—we know what we would be doing more of if we weren’t stressed, tired and in a bad mood all the time.
2. POTENTIAL STRESS AND ANXIETY RELIEF
This benefit may seem obvious, especially now that we know damiana interacts with our adrenal system. However, the importance of our adrenal system should not be underestimated. Stress is never just a single symptom, but can manifest in numerous detrimental ways. Effective management of stress is essential to keeping our mind and body healthy.
The fundamental mechanism of the adrenal system is to produce several hormones via endocrine glands. Promoting a healthy adrenal system is essential to maintaining the optimum balance of cortisol, a hormone directly linked to our body’s stress response. It doesn’t only support the body’s ability to respond to stress, but it can also increase metabolism, control blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
3. MAY SUPPORT PATIENTS WITH BREAST CANCER
Alongside the flavonoids we mentioned earlier, one particular compound that has caught the eye of researchers is pinocembrin. Found within the leaves of damiana plants, pinocembrin could play a pivotal role in patients with breast cancer.
In combination, damiana extract with pinocembrin and acacetin could significantly suppress aromatase activity. Aromatase inhibitors stop the production of estrogen, which could be useful for breast cancer patients whose lesions contain estrogen receptors.
4. A VERSATILE ANTIOXIDANT
Finally, another key benefit of damiana is its potent antioxidant effect, which was discovered when the herb was orally tested on rats with diabetes and kidney disease. At the end of the five-week study, researchers concluded that it may prevent damage induced by oxidative stress in the kidneys.
As studies continue, damiana’s versatility appears to increase in kind. It looks like all those ancient cultures had the right idea. Now all we need to do is allow modern medicine to confirm what they already knew.
What Are The Effects Of Damiana?
Damiana has been used for centuries primarily as an aphrodisiac and sexual tonic. It has been shown to substantially increase the libido in both sexes alike, which is one reason the herb is widely used in Mexico to create a stimulating Damiana margarita drink.
The herb can mildly elevate the mood and act as an anti-depressant, similar to St. Johns Wort, albeit milder in effect. The mild uplifting effects could be due to the overall relaxation the herb induces, physical and mental alike.
One of the ways Damiana is though to increase sexual potency is by increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. A better oxygen supply benefits the body overall and quickly increases the mood and sexual potency. Studies on rats have shown very positive results, dramatically improving their sexual performance. However, studies on humans have not been conducted, as with many other herbs.
In native tribes as well as in modern phytotherapy, Damiana is applied as a nervine which relieves nervous tension, weakness and exhaustion. It is considered a plant that balances and tones the glandular and hormonal systems, with particular affinity for the reproductive system.
How To Use Damiana?
Damiana can be consumed in a few different ways, namely by tea, vaping, smoking or making a liquor.
While Damiana has some immediate effects, they tend to build up and increase over a period of weeks. As with many herbs, consuming it regularly in smaller amounts will lead to longer lasting benefits, while punctual high doses tend to have a short lived but stronger effect. After a period of regular consumption of any herb, a pause of a few weeks is always recommended before the plant is taken up again.
The most common method is to brew Damiana into a tea. Tea is often considered the most effective method and is best taken at regular intervals over a period of a couple of weeks to fully bring out its benefits.
For regular consumption, use about 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup, and steep in hot water for 10-15 minutes. To brew a strong, one off dose, use 10-15 grams of dried Damiana and steep in 1 liter of hot water. You can reduce the water amount by boiling it off, or just split up the dose in various cups. Add in a little bit of honey to add a little bit of sweetness to the drink!
If you like to vaporize, Damiana is a good candidate. Vaping allows for all of the chemical compounds to be efficiently extracted and inhaled. The ideal vaporizing temperature of Damiana is 190 degrees Celsius.
This is the least favoured method of taking Damiana. Simply use it in a pipe or joint, like you would with tobacco. Unlike vaping or making a tea, smoking Damiana is harmful to your health. This is due to the process of combustion involved in the burning of the plant matter. This process creates a plethora of harmful toxins that are present in smoke.
The Damiana liquor is another common and effective way to consume the plant. Here’s how you do it:
- Mix 60g of dried Damiana leaf for every liter of vodka, and let this soak for at least 10 days.
- Strain though a meshed strainer and then filter off with a coffee filter.
- Take the alcohol drenched leaves and soak them in about 500ml water overnight.
- Strain and filter the leaves from the water, throw away the plant matter.
- Gently warm the infused water and add 1 – 2 cups of honey; slowly dissolve the sugar in the water.
- Mix the infused vodka with the infused honey, and let it sit for 2 – 3 months. After that, carefully decant the liquor and bottle.
You could also try your hand at making a delicious Damina Margarita. Break out the nachos and guacamole, and enjoy a damiana-fueld fiesta!
The History Of Damiana
Damiana use dates back many centuries. When the spanish missionaries arrived in present day Mexico, they already observed the native tribes drinking Damiana tea.
But most likely its use dates back even further; there are records of it being used by the Mayans as an aphrodisiac as well as to treat “giddiness and loss of balance”. It was also used by the Aztecs as a tonic that was believed to improve general health and wellbeing.
In the 1870’s Damiana began to spread as a commercial product. It was imported into the USA where it was sold as part of tonics, elixirs and tinctures. Already then it was mainly used as an aphrodisiac that would improve sexual ability, especially in the old and enfeebled.
In 1888 Damiana was added to the first edition of the American “National Formulary” as both an elixir and a liquid extract, but never proved itself enough to be entered into the pharmacopeia. Due to this failure, it was dropped from the National Formulary in 1916, but the liquid extract from its leaves was kept in until 1947.
Knowledge about Damiana was slowly fading away, until it was rediscovered in the 1960s by ethnobotanists and hippies alike. Along with many other herbs, Damiana has since found a permanent place in the medicine closet of herbalists and phytotherapists.
When Not To Take Damiana
While Damiana is generally safe and non-toxic, there are certain situations in which Damiana should not be consumed. Damiana should not be used during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or when diabetes has been diagnosed. In certain studies Damiana has been shown to lower blood sugar and potentially induce hypoglycemia, therefore caution is advised particularly in men with diabetes. Excess use of Damiana also has been associated with potential liver damage and gastrointestinal discomfort.
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