Plant Profiler

Damiana (Turnera diffusa)

Damiana (Turnera diffusa) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
1,8-cineol, Bignoniaceae (family), bourrique, caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, Damiana aphrodisiaca, damiana de Guerrero, damiana herb, damiana leaf, delta-cadinene, elemene, flavone glycoside, herba de la pastora, flavonoids, Mexican damiana, Mexican holly, mizibcoc, old woman's broom, oreganillo (Spanish), p-arbutin, ram goat dash along, rosemary, Turneraceae (family), Turnera aphrodisiaca, Turnera diffusa, Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult., Turnera diffusa Willd. var. afrodisiaca (Ward) Urb., Turnerae diffusae folium, Turnerae diffusae herba, Turnera microphylla, Turnera ulmifolia.

Combination product examples: ArginMax® (Damiana, L-arginine, ginseng, ginkgo, multivitamins, minerals), YGD (Ilex paraguayensis leaves, Paullinia cupana seeds, Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca leaves).

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The most abundant constituents of damiana oil are caryophyllene oxide, caryophyllene, delta-cadinene, elemene and 1,8-cineol.6 Other constituents of damiana include albuminoids, alpha-copaene, alpha-pinene, arbutin, barterin, beta-pinene, beta-sitosterol, calamenene, caoutchouc, chlorophyll, 1,8-cineole, cymene, cymol, damianin, essential oil, gamma-cadinene, gonzalitosin-i, hexacosanol-1, luteolin, quinovopyranosides, tannins, tetraphyllin b, thymol, triacontane, and trimethoxyflavones.
  • A flavone glycoside, five flavonoids and p-Arbutin have been identified in the aerial parts of Turnera diffusa.7
  • Antibacterial effects: p-Arbutin may be responsible for damiana's antibacterial effects.
  • Anti-hyperglycemic effects: Two animal studies by the same author have conflicting results as to the anti-hyperglycemic effects of damiana. In one study, Turnera diffusa decreased the hyperglycemic peak and/or the area under the glucose tolerance curve in temporarily hypergyclemic rabbits.3 In a later study by the same author, the water ethanol extract of Turnera diffusa Willd. did not show any hypoglycemic activity in healthy and alloxan-diabetic mice.4
  • Antioxidant effects: Nascimento et al., evaluated the in vitro radical scavenging capacity of a 50% hydroethanolic (HE) extract of Turnera ulmifolia L. by beta-carotene/linoleic acid coupled oxidation system for the inhibition of oxidation and the lipid peroxidation inhibition in rat brain homogenates, using thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and chemiluminescence (CL).5 Results indicated, through peroxidation suppression, that the extract exhibited greater antioxidative activity (77.4% +/- 10%) than alpha-tocopherol (58.4% +/- 3.7%). TBARS and CL inhibition was concentration-dependent and Q(1/2) values were 8.2 and 6.0mcg/mL for TBARS and CL, respectively. For alpha-tocopherol these values were 7.1mcg/mL (TBARS) and 9.8mcg/mL (CL). Nascimento et al., theorize that T. ulmifolia's phenolic compounds may be responsible for this antioxidant capacity.
  • Cardiovascular effects: Damiana may have some slight ability to widen blood vessels, an effect that may relieve some male impotence.
  • Hormonal effects: In an in vitro study, damiana was tested for its relative capacity to compete with estradiol and progesterone binding to intracellular receptors for progesterone (PR) and estradiol (ER) in intact human breast cancer cells.2 Damiana was one of the six highest PR-binding herbs and spices commonly consumed. Some herbs and spices high in phytoestrogens and phytoprogestins were further tested for bioactivity based on their ability to regulate cell growth rate in ER (+) and ER (-) breast cancer cell lines and to induce or inhibit the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase, an end product of progesterone action, in PR (+) cells. In general, PR-binding extracts were neutral or antagonists.
  • Neurological effects: Ethanol extracts of the leaves and stem may have CNS depressant effects.
  • Sexual potency effects: In an animal study, Turnera diffusa fluid extract (0.25, 0.50, 1.0mL/kg) improved the copulatory performance of sexually sluggish/impotent rats.1 The highest dose of the extract (1mL/kg) increased the percentage of rats achieving ejaculation and significantly reduced mount, intromission and ejaculation latencies, post-ejaculatory interval and intercopulatory interval.


  • Insufficient available evidence.


  1. Arletti, R., Benelli, A., Cavazzuti, E., Scarpetta, G., and Bertolini, A. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1999;143(1):15-19. 10227074
  2. Zava, D. T., Dollbaum, C. M., and Blen, M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998;217(3):369-378. 9492350
  3. Alarcon-Aguilara, F. J., Roman-Ramos, R., Perez-Gutierrez, S., Aguilar-Contreras, A., Contreras-Weber, C. C., and Flores-Saenz, J. L. Study of the anti-hyperglycemic effect of plants used as antidiabetics. J Ethnopharmacol  1998;61(2):101-110. 9683340
  4. Alarcon-Aguilar, F. J., Roman-Ramos, R., Flores-Saenz, J. L., and Aguirre-Garcia, F. Investigation on the hypoglycaemic effects of extracts of four Mexican medicinal plants in normal and alloxan-diabetic mice. Phytother Res 2002;16(4):383-386. 12112298
  5. Nascimento, M. A., Silva, A. K., Franca, L. C., Quignard, E. L., Lopez, J. A., and Almeida, M. G. Turnera ulmifolia L. (Turneraceae): preliminary study of its antioxidant activity. Bioresour Technol  2006;97(12):1387-1391. 16226027
  6. Alcaraz-Melendez, L., Delgado-Rodriguez, J., and Real-Cosio, S. Analysis of essential oils from wild and micropropagated plants of damiana (Turnera diffusa). Fitoterapia 2004;75(7-8):696-701. 15567246
  7. Piacente, S., Camargo, E. E., Zampelli, A., Gracioso, J. S., Souza Brito, A. R., Pizza, C., and Vilegas, W. Flavonoids and arbutin from Turnera diffusa. Z Naturforsch [C] 2002;57(11-12):983-985. 12562080

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