3.4.5 Damiana

Damiana #

Binomial / Botanical Name Turnera Diffusa
Street Names Herba de la Pastora; Old Woman’s Broom
Major Active Compound Apigenin (Unconfirmed)
Indigenous Source Central America, South America, Texas
Form Plant Matter
RoA Oral / Smoked
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale ± / ++


I had dabbled with damiana tea on a number of occasions, and had marked it firmly down as, at best, a slightly relaxing herbal drink. It was only after I had smoked it with hashish, as a filler, that I began to suspect that there may be more to it. Stand-alone experimentation via this RoA proved this to be the case.

The intensity of the first couple of smoking experiences came as a surprise, as reflected in one of my forum posts at the time:

Damiana has been used traditionally in Central America and the northern parts of South America for many centuries. The Mayas and Aztecs, for example, used it as an aphrodisiac and a relaxant.

Strangely, identification of its active psychoactive content has proven to be problematic. Azarius.com describes this apparent conundrum in the following terms:

Damiana contains from 0.5% to 1% of a complex volatile oil (thymol, alpha-copaene, 8cadinene, calamene, 1,8 cineole, alpha pinene, beta pinene, calamenene) that gives the plant its characteristic odor and flavor. It also contains the flavonoids and tannins. None of these ingredients are known to have psychoactive or aphrodisiac qualities. Hence there is no substantive data available to confirm the claimed effects.”

Whilst this may imply that damiana is a psychoactive dud, studies with rats have demonstrated “increased sexual activity in sexually exhausted or impotent males” (Wikipedia, ref: sciencedirect.com, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

This is scant evidence, of course. More persuasive may be the number of ad hoc reports scattered around the Internet which unambiguously cite its effectiveness as a sedative, and indeed, its value as an aphrodisiac.

Some people will be familiar with this herb as the foliage used in spice and other synthetic cannabinoid brands, as sold in shiny packets from head shops. In this context however, any effect from damiana would be almost completely expunged by whatever chemical was sprayed upon to it.

Others have used it with cannabis, for which the same question applies: what effect is produced courtesy of the weed, and what effect is invoked via the damiana, if any? Most tokers assume everything stems from the former.

How many here have smoked damiana alone? Or taken it as a tea?

My first experiment was via the latter, which is the most common method of stand-alone use. The experience was underwhelming. A gentle relaxing aura emerged, but it was very mild. As an aphrodisiac, again, perhaps there was something there, but certainly not in comparison to serious stimulants or empathogens.

Smoking it, however, produced an entirely different outcome. Indeed, my initial expectation was such that its effects took me entirely by surprise.

Sedating? Relaxing? Yes. It wasn’t in the same league of cannabis, but equally, it wasn’t a placebo effect, nor was it barely noticeable. It actually worked: it was calming and there was a small mood life courtesy of an anxiolytic edge.

Was there any evidence that this could be used as an aphrodisiac? Yes, there was. This was not on the stim-binge level, but it was certainly there, and the phenomenon of stim-dick was entirely absent.

The experience lasted perhaps a couple of hours or so, as I slowly worked through the joint. However, yet another effect emerged later, in the form of repeated and lucid dreaming.

Since this experiment I have used damiana occasionally, and always on a dry day. In other words, when not under the influence of any other chemical or botanical, and usually when I am at a loose end, just wanting to chill. It is not mind blowing but it can be effective in certain circumstances.


I should make a couple of other points here. Firstly, not all damianas are the same: source matters. Fresh strong damiana may work, whereas old or substandard damiana won’t have any real effect. Secondly, the effects seem to vary by person, with some individuals claiming no effect at all.

Bear in mind that many of the latter group will have been under the influence of other materials, and that some will have procured bunk damiana, but there are enough people stating this to suggest that it is true in some cases.

Why post such a long report at this point in time?

One reason is the recent post regarding nicotine addiction: it struck me that a damiana joint might prove to be an aid for people who are trying to quit tobacco, or some other toxic substance.

Another is that it doesn’t yet appear to be on the radar for the UK’s PSA legislation, perhaps because of the difficulty in isolating what occurs chemically or perhaps because it is so common. With this in mind, again, it might be useful as a route to legally ease cravings for substances which are no longer obtainable.

One final point: although I haven’t seen anything linking this to any serious side effects, smoking combustible material always comes with a certain degree of risk. Your lungs prefer fresh air, so anyone who samples it should take this on board. Consider it to be a research herb and act accordingly.

Following these initial smoking experiences, I found that damiana became more hit and miss. The effects were much less pronounced on subsequent experiments.

I have experienced this with other materials too: it is hard if not impossible to continue to reach the same intensity as that enjoyed on the first few occasions. Sometimes a gap of months or years may reset the body and mind, and sometimes not. In this case, on returning to damiana a year after these prior experiments the effects were once again solid.

Overall, it is surprising that such an interesting herb remains relatively unknown outside this niche. There is something to it, it is multi-faceted, and I didn’t note any particularly strong negatives.