The herb damiana has been used in Mexico for some time as a male aphrodisiac.1 Classic herbal literature of the nineteenth century describes it as a "tonic," or general body strengthener.
Damiana continues to be a popular aphrodisiac for males. However, if it works at all, the effect appears to be rather mild. No scientific trials have been reported.
Damiana is also sometimes said to be helpful for treating asthma and other respiratory diseases, depression, digestive problems, menstrual disorders, and various forms of sexual dysfunction —for example, impotence in men and inability to achieve orgasm in women.2,3 However, there is no real evidence that it works for any of these conditions.
Like the herb uva ursi, damiana contains arbutin, although at a concentration about 10 times lower. Arbutin is a urinary antiseptic, but the levels present in damiana are probably too small to make this herb a useful treatment for bladder infections.
The proper dosage of damiana is 2 to 4 g taken 2 to 3 times daily, or as directed on the label.
Damiana appears to be safe at the recommended dosages. It appears on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list and is widely used as a food flavoring. The only common side effect of damiana is occasional mild gastrointestinal distress. However, because damiana contains low levels of cyanide-like compounds, excessive doses may be dangerous. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease is not established.
1. Willard T. The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal. Calgary, Canada: Wild Rose College of Natural Healing Ltd; 1991:104-105.
2. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1985:492.
3. Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996: 94.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015