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Damiana

Damiana comes from a wild shrub that grows in Mexico and Central and South America. Traditionally, people use it to try to boost sex drive.

Why do people take damiana?

There's some limited evidence that damiana might affect sex drive in animals. Specifically, it helped rats that were impotent. However, damiana didn't have any effect on healthy rats. There is no research on its effect in humans.

Other animal studies found that damiana might ease anxiety and lower blood sugar levels. Lab research has found that damiana may fight bacteria. One small study found that a mixture of damiana with other supplements -- yerba mate and guarana -- helped with weight loss.  Further research is needed to prove this.

Because most of these studies were done on animals or in test tubes, we don't really know if taking damiana supplements helps people.

In traditional medicine, people use damiana as a stimulant and a treatment for menstrual problems, constipation, and kidney disease. We don't have evidence to back up these uses.

In the 1960s, some people used damiana as a recreational drug. It supposedly caused a high similar to marijuana. It's not clear if damiana really has this effect.

There's no standard dose for damiana. Ask your health care provider for advice.

Can you get damiana naturally from foods?

Many people take damiana as a tea. In Mexico, it's used to flavor alcohol, drinks, and foods.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

  • Side effects. Damiana is generally safe but may cause diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, or hallucinations. Very high doses -- 200 grams of damiana extract -- have caused convulsions.
  • Risks. Don't take damiana if you have diabetes, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or breast cancer. We don't know if damiana is safe for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using damiana or any other supplements. Because it may affect blood sugar, damiana could interact with drugs for diabetes.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 31, 2012

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