Damiana, also knows as Turnera Diffusa and Turnera Aphrodisica, is a small woody shrub native to Mexico that has been used in Central and South America since the times of the ancient Aztec. In Mexico, the plant is considered so important that it has been classed as a national treasure and is now prohibited export as a live plant.
Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual potency by the Mayan Indians and Aztec tribes for centuries and was first used by the indigenous Guaycura tribe in the Baja region of Mexico. Allegedly it was taken during religious ceremonies, but was later banned due to its "passion inspiring properties" getting out of hand! When the Guaycura started trading with the Aztecs, this herb found its way across the rest of the Americas.
The damiana plant grows up to 2 meters (6.56 feet) in height and has pale green serrated leaves. Damiana flowers have a distinct yellow colour, and usually grow when the leaves are ready to be harvested. Damiana blossoms in early to late summer and is followed by fruits that taste similar to figs. The shrub itself has a scent and flavour similar to chamomile.
The damiana leaf is considered to be the most important part of the plant because of its various uses. According to studies, damiana leaves contain various flavonoids, tannins and other compounds, which positively affect the human body.
Aside from its popularity as a ‘love potion’ studies are now focusing on the other health benefits of damiana and how it can significantly help with the symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks and mild depression.
The damiana plant is often used as a stress inhibitor as it functions as a nervous system relaxant and helps to improve nervous system function. One of the active constituents is thymol, a chemical compound with antiseptic and tonic properties. The relaxing and mild psychoactive effects of damiana are attributed to a compound called apigenin, which has scientifically proven anxiolytic effects at smaller doses, and functions as a sedative, if consumed in larger amounts.
Damiana makes its Botanic Lab debut in our brand new coconut PLANTMILK range. Launching on 4 September across Waitrose stores nationwide. Pop into the chiller and pick one up or read more about it on our website.