What Is the Damiana Plant?

B. Koch

Damiana is an herb native to southern North America as well as Latin America. It is native to tropical areas, but can be cultivated as a houseplant indoors in cooler areas. It is known for its sweet scent as well as its medicinal qualities.

Damiana is often sold in dried loose leaf form.
Damiana is often sold in dried loose leaf form.

This plant is considered a shrub, and grows to be 4 to 6 feet tall (1 to 2 meters). It has green leaves that have jagged edges, and during the summer, it produces small, yellow flowers. The plant also produces edible fruit after the flowers have fallen.

A possible side effect of consuming damiana is hypoglycemia.
A possible side effect of consuming damiana is hypoglycemia.

Native to warm areas, damiana is native to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America as well as the West Indies. The home gardener can also grow damiana, either outdoors in tropical climates, or indoors, as a houseplant, in cooler climates. They enjoy moist soil yet are very drought tolerant, making them ideal to grow in drier climates. They also thrive in organically rich soil, although they can survive in soil that is less fertile. This plant cannot survive in cold weather or frosts, so it is essential to keep it inside during colder seasons.

In Latin America, damiana is an ancient medicinal herb that was used by the Aztec and Mayan people during ceremonies. The plant is still used in a number of herbal remedies. Damiana is thought to lessen anxiety and ward off depression. It has also been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of menopause. Sometimes it is used as an aphrodisiac and is thought to boost libido. The herb is often used in Latin America to flavor drinks.

Typically damiana is consumed dried, either in a pill or as a tea infusion. The leaves of the plant are consumed, and they are harvested while the plant's yellow flowers are in bloom. Sometimes the leaves are consumed fresh, or this herb can be purchased as a powder. For its full effect, it is recommended that 3 cups of a damiana infusion be consumed throughout the day or that two 3 to 4 gram pills be taken.

Although generally considered safe for consumption, several warnings should be taken into consideration. Pregnant women should not take this herb as it can cause a miscarriage. Also, damiana is known to prohibit the body's absorption of iron, so individuals consuming this herb should be aware of their iron levels. Another side effect is hypoglycemia, so those prone to low blood sugar level should avoid it.

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