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.