Herbal medicine has been used for millennia, long before humans had any idea of what went on in our bodies or our brains at the microscopic level. As long as there have been illnesses, ailments, and death, there have been people trying anything and everything to cure them.
The two biggest ailments throughout all of history that have drawn the attention of herbal remedies are aging and sexual performance. If you look far enough back, pretty much every plant that won’t kill you when you eat it – and a few that will, if you eat too much – has been used for one or both of those purposes.
Herbal Damiana is one such plant. It has been used throughout history as an aphrodisiac. The question is, does it work?
About The Plant
Herbal Damiana is not the actual name of the plant, though it is typically called Damiana colloquially. The scientific name is turnera diffusa, and it’s native to south America, central America, Mexico, and southern Texas.
The plant itself is a small, dense shrub with a lot of woody branches and small leaves. It produces small yellow flowers and blossoms throughout the summer. By autumn, it produces fruit that tastes similar to figs, and the shrub itself has a strong, spice-like scent to it.
There is also a similar, closely related species called turnera ulmifolia. This plant looks very similar; so similar, in fact, that it is often confused with the real Damiana. Both domestic and commercial uses of the plant have confused the two, including some instances in the supplement industry. That said, however, some studies have shown that in large part the herbal Damiana products found on the market are generally properly identified.
However, you should always take care to make sure you’re getting your herbal remedies from a reputable source, and that your source is also getting their plants or ingredients from a reputable source. It does you no good to take a medication, herbal or otherwise, if the ingredients in it are not the ingredients they claim to have.
Damiana has had several prominent uses throughout history. First of all, it is traditionally used in a Mexican liqueur, which is then used in margaritas. It’s a popular drink in some areas of Mexico even today.
Damiana has also been used as a stress and anxiety relief drug. In some cases this was used in a mixture meant to replicate the relaxing effects of cannabis, while in others it is mixed with other stress reduction and anti-anxiety medications. It’s difficult to say how effective this may be, because the cause of stress is so important in dealing with it, and Damiana can only treat a few kinds of stress. It may help reduce the stress response in your body’s adrenal system, but that means it needs to be in your system during the stressful event, and that’s not always possible.
Another use in the 19th century was in Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. This medication used a variety of ingredients, including alcohol, coca, kola nut, and Damiana. Yes, that’s right; an alcoholic, cocaine-infused beverage included Damiana. If you’re curious, that beverage had a non-alcoholic variant with a different recipe, which you may recognize as Coca-Cola. Yup; the two were invented by the same guy.
The third major use of Damiana is as an aphrodisiac and fertility aid. A variant of the plant is used as an herbal remedy for fertility even to this day. It has been bred to be more potent throughout the years.
Yet another major use of the herb is as a remedy for bladder issues, ranging from urinary tract infections to bladder cancers to bed wetting. Of course, with an herb that has been known and used for centuries if not millennia, it’s difficult to say what it hasn’t been used for.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that Damiana has some properties that fight breast cancer via aromatase inhibition. This is primarily due to the presence of a chemical called Pinocembrin, found in the leaves of the plant. Research is still ongoing to see if this can be made into a potent drug for the treatment of breast cancer. The plant itself is not likely enough to be a treatment on its own.
And, of course, the herb is an antioxidant and can have some beneficial effects in fighting off free radicals throughout the body. It’s not the most powerful antioxidant, though; that’s more of a beneficial side effect.
Herbal Damiana for Fertility
Damiana has been used for pretty much every aspect of fertility for a very long time. In women, it is said to improve fertility, as well as improving sexual desire. In men, it is claimed to improve stamina and performance.
Are these claims real? Will herbal Damiana help you with fertility or pregnancy issues?
It’s hard to say. Science has been studying Damiana for years, but it has been somewhat inconclusive with its findings. There’s no way to truly prove a negative in these cases, so there’s always the possibility that herbal Damiana will help with fertility issues for some people. Will it help everyone? Probably not. Will it have a massive, life-changing impact? Well, only if it works.
There is some early research that indicates Damiana, in a product that contains it along with ginseng, vitamins, minerals, l-arginine, and other nutrients, might have a beneficial impact on a few sexual issues. In particular, it may improve vaginal dryness, increase orgasm frequency, and improve sexual satisfaction.
More research needs to be performed to identify if Damiana is a key ingredient, or if it’s simply the benefit of a combined packet of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial ingredients that has the best impact.
There have also been many experiments with herbal Damiana in rats. While these experiments typically show some level of sexual improvement, the greatest improvement was actually in male rats with sexual dysfunction. These rats improved dramatically, which might indicate some similar impact on humans in the same situation.
Specifically, Damiana was shown to work by relaxing muscles throughout the male genitals, which allows for more blood flow. This in turn allows for a stronger member and greater overall performance.
Nevertheless, it’s always possible that Damiana will have a beneficial impact on fertility if you’re trying to become pregnant. Years of science saying there’s not a huge, tangible impact has to compete against centuries of anecdotes about how it worked for thousands of women throughout history. And hey, even if it doesn’t have a huge beneficial impact, it’s still possible that the placebo effect will benefit you all the same.
One thing is for sure: herbal Damiana is not going to decrease your chances of pregnancy, outside of extreme circumstances.
Side Effects and Precautions
Damiana is an herb, and it’s not a completely safe herb. In low doses, such as what you find in a supplement, in a tea, or in the small amount found in liqueur, it’s pretty much safe. We’re talking just a few grams of the herb, here.
That said, while you can try to take herbal Damiana to improve your fertility and increase the chances that you become pregnant, once you are pregnant, you should stop taking the drug. There’s very little information about what it might do during pregnancy, and it’s always possible that it could have a negative impact on the development of a child.
That is, it could be safe, or it might not be safe, and no one knows for sure. Obviously, if you’re getting your Damiana through alcoholic beverages, you should stop. Alcohol has such a suppressive, negative effect on pregnancy that you should stop it anyways. If you’re getting your Damiana through tea or through capsule supplements, discontinue use once you become pregnant.
Damiana has also shown some signs of inhibiting sugar uptake; that is, it may decrease blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, or if you’re going to have surgery, discontinue use of Damiana and consult a doctor. Low blood sugar and a blood sugar crash can be very dangerous. Additionally, since blood sugar control is very important for surgery, it’s best to minimize potential interference.
You should also avoid taking Damiana if you’re taking another medication to lower your blood sugar. Again, for the same reason, taking both Damiana and a blood sugar medication can dramatically drop sugar levels, which can lead to serious and even life-threatening side effects.
One effect of herbal Damiana that we didn’t mention up above is that it has been used as a psychoactive drug. The herb, when inhaled or consumed in large quantities (over 200 grams at a time) can have some potent side effects. These side effects include a minor "high" and, at the extreme ends, hallucinations.
This is a dangerous side effect, and not just because of some anti-drug agenda. At such high doses, Damiana has been shown to be toxic to humans. The hallucinogenic effect is a side effect of toxicity, that is, being poisoned by the plant. Taking that much of it at once can also lead to convulsions and symptoms similar to rabies.
Basically, there’s a fine line between consuming enough Damiana to experience the high and hallucinations, and consuming enough that you convulse and potentially die. We highly recommend avoiding over-consuming any drug or herbal remedy, and this one is no different.
Damiana has been used as part of an herbal mixture known as "spice", which was created to mimic the effects of marijuana. While this mixture may not be legal across the US, it’s also not as effective as the real thing, which is slowly becoming more and more legal throughout the country.
Herbal Damiana Legality
Damiana has a long and storied history of legality. Throughout pretty much all of the world, it is legal. However, this isn’t entirely true in the UK and the US.
In the UK, Damiana has been used as a façade for less legal drugs. The most famous instance of this is a product called Black Mamba, which was labeled as pure Damiana, but which included additives and synthetic ingredients that enhanced the high given from smoking it, as well as causing a range of negative side effects up to and including convulsions. As a result, it was banned.
In the US, Damiana was on a list of a large number of herbs and drugs that include psychoactive properties, despite having such a minimal impact as to be a non-issue in the majority of cases. This list was, specifically, in Louisiana. Damiana was illegal in that state from 2005 to about 2015, when the lists were changed by a consortium of drug companies who wanted to be able to sell herbal remedies in the state.
At the moment, to the best of our knowledge, herbal Damiana is legal throughout the USA. When taken in small doses under 10 grams, the effects on the mind are negligible, while the potential benefits as a health supplement are reasonable.
If you’re interested in taking herbal Damiana as a fertility aid, feel free to do so. Most Damiana products tend to include mixtures of several different ingredients, each of which has its own fertility-boosting effects. Damiana on its own may be best and most effective in men, particularly men with sexual dysfunction, but it can operate beneficially for people of both genders.