Turnera diffusa or Damiana is an aromatic shrub that can be found growing throughout Mexico, Central and South America. This small plant will only grow to a height of about 30cm, with its leaves being very small at 2 cm and it produces small yellow flowers that bloom in the late summer and fall. It has no specific soil types for it to grow, however it does prefer a warm and hot climate, and can actually grow well in a desert.
For over a century, T. diffusa has been regarded as a sexual stimulant that improves sexual function in both men and women. Used medicinally, it also acts as an anti-depressant and a tonic; it is useful for anxiety, treatment for coughs, as well as a mild laxative. It can also relieve headaches, prevent bedwetting, and stimulate muscular contractions of the digestive tract. It is a stimulating nerve tonic used for debility and lethargy, and is considered as an aphrodisiac. An aphrodisiac comes from the name of the Greek goddess of sensuality and beauty, Aphrodite.
There is no history that T. diffusa has been used ritually, however the Mayans have used this plant as a medicine. They called it mis kok, which translates to ‘asthma broom’, as it helps to sweep away problematic breathing. The leaves were dried and ground into a fine powder, which was then made into a strong tea or decoction and drunk. They would also smoke the leaves as well. In the Northern Mexico regions, it has been used to treat nervousness and weakness, as well as for stomach upset, rheumatism and scorpion stings.
For the treatment of headaches, in the Bahamas, they would boil the leaves in water to make a steam inhalant. It has been noted to be effective as a mood elevator and useful for the treatment of cramps and menstrual pain.
All the parts of the plant can be used except for the roots. The leaves consist of volatile oils, hard and soft resin, tannins, and starch. The leaves also contain the antimicrobial hydroquinone arbutin.