Publication Year: 

Damiana is a pharmacologically effective aphrodisiac, especially for women. As a tea or infusion in alcohol, it promotes circulation in the lower abdomen and alleviates cramps, and also eases inhibitions.

It is very likely that damiana was in use as a medicine and love drink in northern Mexico and the Mayan region in prehistoric times. The missionary Jesus Maria de Salvatiera first mentioned its aphrodisiac use among the Native peoples of northern Mexico in his Chronica of 1699. The name damiana is derived from either Saint Damian, patron saint of pharmacists; or Peter Damiani, who railed against the immortality of the clergy in the eleventh century.

The use of damiana spread throughout North America in early times. Today it is grown on a large scale in California for commercial pharmaceutical purposes. The harvested plants are dried, powdered, and put into gelatin capsules to be exported throughout the world.

The first botanical description of the plant was written by Austrian botanist Josef August Schultes (1773-1831)in 1820. In the nineteenth century, the plant was included in the U.S. and Mexican pharmacopoeias as a tonic and aphrodisiac (Martinez 1994, 121B). It was introduced into Europe in 1880 (Hirschfeld and Linsert 1930, 174B)

Use as an Aphrodisiac
Damiana is often described as a love drug (Radakovich 1992). The dried herbage can be prepared as a tea or alcohol extract, and can be smoked or burned as incense. For aphrodisiac purposes, one can either smoke a joint made from the leaves or drink a tea prepared from the herbage (Gottlieb 1974, 27 ffB;Zubke 1998). Damiana herbage is an ingredient in some psychoactive smoking blends (Miller 1988, 33B). The plant has been regarded as a "legal high" since the late 1960s, as a substitute for marijuana as well as tobacco. It is especially popular as a substitute for tobacco when smoked with hashish.

In the voodoo cult that originates in Central and South America, damiana is consecrated to the love goddess Erzulie and is used in love magic. And in Mexican folklore, it is an ingredient in the original tequila-based cocktail, the margarita.

Damiana tea can be prepared as an infusion, a decoction, or a cold-water extract. An infusion of damiana herbage, to which orange blossoms can be added if desired, should be allowed to steep for three to five minutes. Boil the herbage for up to an hour to produce a more potent decoction. Cold-water extracts should be allowed to sit for twenty-four hours before drinking. The dosage for teas is 4g per cup or mug (Lowry 1984, 267). The dose can be increased as desired, as side effects are unknown.

For aphrodisiac purposes, damiana is often combined with equal parts of saw palmetto fruits and occasionally also with kola nuts (cf. wine). A preparation in earlier times was known as pildoras de damiana and consistened of 5.5. g phosphorus 9 g Strychnus nux-vomica, 10 g damiana (Martinez 1994, 122B). Around 1900, various damiana preparations were being sold in European pharmacies as aphrodisiacs and cures for impotence, including a product called Damiacithin- made from yohimbine, ovolecithin, damiana and muira puama extracts -- and Damiamuta lozenges (Kleist 1909; Latscher 1930, 16ffB). Damiana can also be combined with pure strychnine (Lowry 1984), but only with great caution and in extremely small doses.

The herbage is well suited for making alcohol extracts and liqueurs, In Mexico it is used to manufacture a liqueur alleged to have aphrodisiac effects. The recipe calls for a handful of the dried herb, 2-4 cinnamon sticks, 2 vanilla beans, some galangal root, nutmeg, and jasmine flowers; white rum is poured over all these ingredients. The liqueur can be consumed after one week. For best results, drink one small glass every evening.

The use of famiana herbage as an incense is most likely a modern invention. It is added to so-called Pan, Venus, or love incenses. When used as incense, damiana produce sa pleasantly herbal, sweet scent that is characteristic and easily recognizable when encountered again. It combines very well with frankincense (resin of Protium copal or Bursera spp.).

Text: The Encyclopaedia of Aphrodisiacs Psychoactive Substances For Use In Sexual Practices. Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, 2003.
Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnera_diffusa