Updated: Oct 11
Damiana, sometimes called Turnera aphrodisiaca, or grows natively throughout Mexico and South America and was traditionally used as medicine by indigenous cultures of Mexico and Central America dating back to Aztec and Mayan times. This beautiful low growing shrub plant with aromatic leaves and happy yellow flowers, blossoms throughout the summer. The shrub has been known to have a strong spice aroma that can be similar to chamomile and the flowers are followed by fruits that taste similar to figs, but they're pretty small and I don't know that many people eat them. Nowadays it grows in hot, humid locations as far as Southern Africa.
As we can see in it’s alternate long name, Damiana is a powerful aphrodisiac and has been used for centuries to aid in relaxation, mental and physical stamina, and depression. It has also been called Damiana the love leaf and was traditionally used as a sex tonic for both men and women. We can see how, as its abilities to ease stress and exhaustion would naturally increase libido.
Traditional folklore also claims it was used in the original margarita. It was infused with alcohol to create a Damiana liqueur and replaced what is now triple sec in the modern version. This version of the margarita is still popular in the Los Cabos region of Mexico and you can still buy Damiana Liqueur in specialty markets.
In some of it's most fun history, Damiana was an ingredient in the original medicinal French Wine Coca created by John Pemberton, which would later turn into today’s Coca-cola. Sadly the leaves were omitted in the non-alcoholic version along with the famous cocaine. Fun fact: this original tonic was created to combat disease brought on by industrialization and increasing competitive business. It was used for depression, as well as gastrointestinal issues, physical exhaustion, and nerve trouble. Sooooo, yeah capitalism has been making us sick for some time now.
Though "science" has yet to “prove” any of the ancient traditional uses as factual, around here we trust the tradition and indigenous wisdom...obviously. It was only in the 19th century that European herbalists were even recording this plant and taking any notice in it’s uses. There actually isn’t much research being done and very little of its uses are being tested on humans anyway.
So how have we been using Damiana lately? Herbalists are still using this plant regularly and it’s a staple on most witches shelves so let me go over some of the most common ways to add it to your practice.
You could always go a traditional medicinal route and create a tincture, or powder it and take it in a capsule (please do your due diligence when taking any supplements) It’s still being used for libido and relaxation but can also be helpful for gastrointestinal issues as well as fatigue and nervousness.
Blend it with other flavorful herbs to lessen it’s bitter taste in teas and potions. It can be paired with relaxing herbs such as lavender and chamomile when you’re trying to rest or make yourself a love potion by adding other aphrodisiacs like chocolate, vanilla, or rose.
Of course, one of the most popular uses is in a smoking blend or as a cannabis substitute. It is said to be a euphoric, and relaxing smoke and in large doses sometimes hallucinogenic. I’ve read sources that report hallucination at a 200g dose.
This herb is also popular for meditation, whether smoked or brewed, as it is relaxing and used for focus.
How are you using this herb? Are you considering picking up some in the future? After reading of its relaxing properties and the ability to help some chronic pain disorders I’m going to start brewing my teas now.
*All images found on Canva