Sex and Damiana
by David Jay Brown
Damiana (turnera diffusa) is a small shrub that is native to parts of North and Central America. It grows in Texas and Mexico, and has been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac in Central America–primarily by women, who drank damiana tea prior to lovemaking. The Damiana shrub can grow up to six and a half feet tall, and the entire plant has a characteristic aroma that most people describe as pleasant–and similar to chamomile–due to an essential oil present in the plant. The dried leaves of the damiana plant, or damiana plant extracts, are available in most health food stores.
Although there has been little scientific research done on damiana, and no clinical studies have been conducted on its effects, chemical analysis shows that damiana contains alkaloids similar to caffeine that can have physiologically-stimulating effects. These alkaloids can stimulate blood flow to the genital area, and they are sometimes reputed to increase sensitivity in the region. In addition to these caffeine-like alkaloids, damiana also contains a mildly irritating oil that some people believe stimulates the genitourinary tract.
Many people–both men and women–say that damiana makes them feel sexually aroused, but women are said to be especially responsive to damiana. I first heard enthusiastic reports about damiana from the participants in my sex and drug workshops. Some couples would simply rave about the sexual benefits of drinking Damiana tea. Also, more than a few people told me that they experience a mild euphoria for several hours after using damiana, and that it’s effects are similar to low doses of cannabis.
Some herbalists recommend damiana as a general tonic for the reproductive system, and say that, in addition to being an aphrodisiac, it can also be used to help treat depression and anxiety. It is primarily used by women to treat low libido, although sometimes it’s also recommended as a treatment for urinary and vaginal infections, as well as menstrual problems. Herbalists recommend it to men as a remedy for impotence, premature ejaculation, and prostate complaints.