Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:

Passifloraceae (Turneraceae).

Other Common Name:

Mexican damiana, Mexican holly, old woman’s broom, chac-mixib, misibcoc, chat.

Common names in Spanish:

Damiana de California, damiana de Guerrero, hierba de la pastora, pastorcita, hierba del venado, oreganillo.

Where is it found?

This aromatic shrub is native to Tropical America, from Mexico to South- America and the Caribbean (Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008; Seidemann, 2005).

Parts of the plant used:

Mainly the leaves, although the flowers and fruit are sometimes used.

How is it used?

Damiana leaves and stems are steeped in water to make a tea. Currently, various dietary supplements containing damiana leaves are also available as capsules or liquid extracts. Certain liqueurs purportedly contain damiana as a flavoring (Mabberley, 2008; Seidemann, 2005).

What is it used for?

Approximately six species belonging to the Turnera genus are employed traditional medicine around the world, although damiana is the species most notably used, especially as an aphrodisiac. Various other traditional uses of related species include the treatment of anemia, anxiety, anti-aromatase, antibacterial (including antimycobacterial), antidepressant, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, adapatogenic (against stress), antimicrobial, anti-obesity, antispasmodic, antitumor, bronchitis, chronic cystitis, coughs, cytotoxic , expectorant, fever, frigidity, fungal infections, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, impotence, increase libido, laxative, to relieve pain, respiratory diseases, skin disorders, and to promote menstruation (emmenagogue) (Szewczyk and Zidorn, 2014; Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Vietch et al., 2013; Quattrocchi, 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009; Vanaclocha and Cañigueral, 2003).
The leaves are smoked for their purported narcotic effect, similar to that of marihuana (Van Wyk, and Wink, 2014). Apigenin is a natural compound found in the leaves that was identified in animal experiments as the antinociceptive (pain relieving) principle of damiana (Szewczyk and Zidorn, 2014) .
Snowden et al. (2014) assessed and compared various botanical extracts used in traditional medicine for their antimicrobial properties. Various plant extracts, including damiana were evaluated to determine their activity against the pathogenic bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus. The result of the study mentioned that damiana, among other plants, showed promising direct antimicrobial activity against S. aureus.
A study determined the antioxidant activities of various medicinal plants, including damiana. The results of the study indicated that damiana, among other species, could be a potential source of bioactive phenolic phytochemicals that possess potent antioxidant properties, which could be used for the treatment of various diseases (Wong-Paz et al., 2015).
Even though various beneficial health effects (some of them based only on anecdotal evidence) have been ascribed to damiana within traditional medicine, more and better designed clinical trials are needed to confirm them (Vietch et al., 2013; Bradley, 1992).

Safety / Precautions

  • The safety of using damiana during pregnancy and lactation has not been established (Gardner and McGuffin, 2013).
  • Avoid during pregnancy and lactation (Veitch et al., 2013; Vanaclocha  and Cañigueral, 2003 ).


Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; pp. 432-433.

Bradley P (Editor). British Herbal Compendium Vol. 1.
London: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992; pp. 71-72.

Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, Ottensen R. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009; pp.721-723.

Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 885-886.

Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 350-351.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol 5.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; p. 653.

Seidemann J. World Spice Plants.
Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2005; pp. 376-377.

Szewczyk K, Zidorn C. Ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and bioactivity of the genus Turnera (Passifloraceae) with a focus on damiana--Turnera diffusa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014; 152(3):424-43.

Snowden R et al. A comparison of the anti-Staphylococcus aureus activity of extracts from commonly used medicinal plants. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):375-82.
Van Wyk E, Wink M. Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press: 2014; p. 262.

Vanaclocha B, Cañigueral S. Fitoterapia: Vademécum de Prescripción 4ª ed.
Barcelona: Masson; 2003; pp. 204-205.

Veitch N, Smith M, Barnes J, Anderson L, Phillipson D. Herbal Medicines 4th ed.
London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2013; pp. 231-233.

Wong-Paz JE et al. Total phenolic content, in vitro antioxidant activity and chemical composition of plant extracts from semiarid Mexican region.
Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2015; 8(2):104-11.