The damiana leaf has a long history of medicinal use in the native cultures of the Caribbean, South America, Mexico and other Central American countries. Typically brewed as tea or made into incense, the damiana leaf has been given as a treatment for many ailments including impotency, infertility, pre-menstrual syndrome, depression, constipation, upper respiratory infections, fibromyalgia, and Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s disease. In addition to its use as a medical treatment, damiana is made into a liqueur in Mexico that is sometimes added to margaritas and has also been an ingredient in some beauty products. The United States Food and Drug Administration lists the damiana leaf as a food additive that is “generally recognized as safe.”
One of the principal and most common uses of damiana leaf is as an aphrodisiac, and studies have confirmed its potency as a treatment for sexual dysfunction. It may be an especially effective treatment if anxiety and stress are suspected to be the root causes of impotency. When treating impotency with damiana, a tea with sugar is typically drunk before bed.
The symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and hot flashes are often treated with damiana leaf by practitioners of natural or alternative medicine. It is thought that the leaf helps the body to regulate hormone production and levels. The herb has a soothing effect on the central nervous system and as a result can relieve painful headaches.
In Mexico, the damiana leaf is used to make a liqueur that is occasionally added to margaritas in lieu of tequila. The liqueur is a light golden color and can also be enjoyed over ice. It is said to have a mildly herbal and sweet taste.
As an herb damiana leaf may be added to beauty products. Lavender bars of soap may include some damiana tea as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also sometimes added to perfumes, makeup and lotions because of the leaf’s potency as an aphrodisiac.
Damiana leaf is sold in several different forms. Capsules, incense, powder and loose dried leaves are commonly available. Damiana is typically brewed as a tea and consumed with sugar before bedtime or made into a tincture. The dried leaves can also be smoked, though this method of consumption has been associated with hallucinations and seizures.
There are few serious side effects associated with the consumption of damiana leaf. Nausea and indigestion are possible and in large doses the plant may induce manic behaviors. Damiana can significantly lower blood sugar and should therefore be avoided by diabetics. Pregnant women should also avoid this herb because it can contribute to miscarriage. People who are considering taking damiana leaf should consult with a medical professional to prevent any unforeseen drug interactions.