Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca
Clinical Summary

Damiana is a wild shrub prevalent in South America. It is used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, laxative, stimulant, aphrodisiac and for treating diabetes and venereal diseases. Studies done in mice have shown that Damiana acts as an anxiolytic (1), stimulates sexual behavior (3) (13), and has hypoglycemic activity (7) (9). It is used in the botanical formulation ArginMax (4), which is marketed for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women. Data from studies of damiana's estrogenic activity are conflicting (8) (12).

Oral intake of capsules containing a mixture of Damiana, Yerba Mate, and Guarana led to weight loss in healthy volunteers (5).
Diabetics should use Damiana with caution as it may potentiate the effects of hypoglycemic drugs.
Damiana has not been studied in cancer patients.

Purported Uses
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disorders
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Sexual performance
  • Stimulant
Constituents
  • Cyanoglycoside - Tetraphyllin B
  • Flavonoid - Gonzalitosin I
  • Phenolic Glycoside - Arbutin
  • Volatile Oils - alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, p-cymene, 1, 8-cineole
  • Phytosterol - beta-sitosterol
  • Hydrocarbons - triclosan-2-one hexacosanol
  • Damianin
    (10) (11)
Mechanism of Action

Damiana extract and two of its compounds, pinocembrin and acacetin, could significantly suppress aromatase activity. Other compounds including pigenin 7-glucoside, Z-echinacin and pinocembrin showed estrogenic activity (12).

Contraindications

Sensitivity to Damiana

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Diuretics: Theoretically, Damiana can increase the effects of diuretics.
  • Hypoglycemic drugs: Damiana may have additive effects.
    (6)
Literature Summary and Critique

Damiana has been used in combination with other herbs in small studies for sexual dysfunction and for weight loss. Clinical trials have not been conducted to evaluate its safety and efficacy.

References
  1. Kumar S and Sharma A. Anti-anxiety Activity Studies on Homoeopathic Formulations of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2005; 2(1): 117-119.
  2. Alarcon-Aguilar FJ, et al. Investigation on the hypoglycaemic effects of extracts of four Mexican medicinal plants in normal and alloxan-diabetic mice. Phytother Res 2002;16(4): 383-6.
  3. Arletti R, et al. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1999;143(1): 15-9.
  4. Polan ML, et al. Estrogen bioassay of ginseng extract and ArginMax, a nutritional supplement for the enhancement of female sexual function. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2004; 13(4): 427-30.
  5. Andersen T and Fogh J. Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients. J Hum Nutr Diet 2001;14(3): 243-50.
  6. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 2001.
  7. Perez RM, et al. A study of the hypoglycemic effect of some Mexican plants. J Ethnopharmacol 1984; 12(3): 253-62.
  8. Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, and Blein M. Estrogen and Progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. P.S.E.B.M. 1998; 217: 369-378.
  9. Alarcon-Aguilara FJ, et al. Study of the anti-hyperglycemic effect of plants used as antidiabetics. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998; 61(2):101-10.
  10. Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/. Accessed April 11, 2011.
  11. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 1998.
  12. Zhao J, Dasmahapatra AK, Khan SI, Khan IA. Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa). J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;120(3):387-93.
  13. Estrada-Reyes R, Ortiz-López P, Gutiérrez-Ortíz J, Martínez-Mota L. Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) recovers sexual behavior in sexually exhausted males. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jun 25;123(3):423-9.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: There is limited evidence of Damiana's stimulant effects. It has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

Damiana is a wild shrub found in Mexico, Central America and parts of South America. It is used as a diuretic, laxative, stimulant, aphrodisiac, and also to treat diabetes and venereal diseases. Animal data show that Damiana can reduce anxiety and affect sexual behavior but there is no human data. Patients with diabetes should avoid Damiana because it may increase effects of drugs that reduce blood sugar.

Purported Uses
  • Diuretic
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • Diabetes
    Damiana may affect blood sugar level based on animal studies.
  • Aphrodisiac
    Traditional use is widespread. A small study in women with sexual dysfunction showed that ArginMax, which contains Damiana, improved sexual function.
  • Stimulant
    There are no clinical data to support this use.
  • Anxiety
    Data from studies done on mice show that Damiana reduced anxiety but human studies are lacking.
  • Laxative
    There are no data to substantiate this use.
  • Kidney disorders
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • Menstrual disorders
    Traditional use is widespread but there are no data to validate this use.
Research Evidence

Damiana has been used in combination with other herbs in small studies for sexual dysfunction and for weight loss. Clinical trials have not been conducted to evaluate its safety and efficacy.

Do Not Take If
  • You are taking diuretics (Damiana can increase their effects).
  • You are taking medication to reduce blood sugar (Damiana may affect blood sugar level and the combined effects can be harmful).
E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.