05 Jul Herb of the Month; Turnera diffusa
The July magickal moon herb goes to.. Turnera diffusa, better known as damiana.
Native to: Southern-North America, Central America, South America
This brilliant herb has a long history of use throughout Meso-American cultures, popular amongst Mayans namely for its euphoriant and aphrodisiac qualities. If you’re feeling inspired to experiment, according to Mexican folk-lore, Damiana was the key ingredient to the original margarita; tequila, citrus, and damiana could be an interesting recipe to try! A 19th century alcohol drink by the inventor of Coca-Cola incorporated Damiana into a product called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, which was a mix of Kola nut, Coca leaves, and Damiana.
Damiana in action:
Aphrodisiac: The key historical use of this plant is its powerful actions on the reproductive system to increase sexual desire and improve fertility, acting directly on the reproductive organs to tonify. Damiana is also a nervous system tonic, which interplays with the hormonal system, and therefore sexual function. The main actions on the sex drive are thought to be through its anti-depressant and anxiolytic actions.
Anti-depressant: Due to its mildly euphoric actions, damiana is used to lift both depression and balance out anxiety, aiding in refreshing and revitalising one’s mood. The anxiolytic qualities may be due to the glycoside apigenin, which has been shown to reduce cortisol, relieving depression & anxiety in studies on mice. Damiana has also been found to reduce stress by regulating GABA, a key neurotransmitter involved in pain reduction and sedation.
Bitter: “The more potent the truth, the harder it is to swallow”, a little saying I like to apply to bitter medicines, which are profoundly healthy for us. It’s also a flavour that has become a bit lost from the Western diet. The key bitter principle is damianin. Bitters stimulate digestive enzymes, readying the body to absorb. This helps the body to digest, and stimulates peristalsis, explaining it’s laxative effects. As constipation is also linked to feelings of anxiety, and holding on, the laxative effects are especially useful for constipation where fear is involved. We can begin to see an wholistic picture of the dynamic and extensive role of a plant, never working on just one part of the body.
Antimicrobial: When combined with antibiotics, damiana is said to improve their effectiveness. It does this by blocking some strains of bacterias from rejecting antibiotics, making it useful in preventing antibiotic resistance and the development of superbugs.
Just to name a few…
Other Medicinal Actions: Analgesic, Antitussive, Laxative, Diuretic, Stimulant, Nervine tonic, Antibacterial, Anticancer, Antifungal, Euphoric,
Constituents: resins, essential oils, damianin, tetraphyllin B, gonzalitosin I, arbutin, tricosan-2-one; acacetin, p-cymene, β-sitosterol, 1,8-cineole, apigenin, α-piene, β-carotene, β-pinene; tannins; thymol and hexacosanol.
In the genus Turnera, flavonoids, phenolics, cyanogenic glycosides, monoterpenoids, sesquiterpenoids, triterpenoids, fatty acids, and caffeine have all been identified.
Turnera diffusa is commonly misidentified and often is actually Turnera ulmifolia, “False Damiana”.