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Damiana extract is taken from the turnera diffusa shrub common to Central and South America. The extract may come powdered and in pill form or as a liquid tincture made from the extract added to water or alcohol. Damiana leaves have long been used because of the positive stimulation they often have on the digestive and reproductive systems. The extract is perhaps most popular as an aphrodisiac. It is also said to relieve indigestion problems and boost one’s mood.
The extract is thought to balance hormone levels, which could lead to several benefits. The plant may help one kick depression and anxiety. As the extract often increases blood flow throughout the body, headaches may be alleviated, while energy levels and metabolism could increase. Damiana extract can be found in some energy drinks for this reason.
The effect of damiana extract on the digestive tract has been related to the effect of parsley in some ways. Damiana supplements typically boast the ability to cure constipation by acting as a diuretic and a laxative. The extract is, on the other hand, also believed to stop diarrhea and dysentery.
Evidence suggests that the damiana plant was first used as an aphrodisiac by both the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, as recorded by Spanish missionaries. The leaves of the shrub were sometimes boiled into a tea with sugar and other ingredients. Due to the potential boost in one’s overall mood, as well as the increased blood flow to sexual organs as a result of alleviating digestion problems, damiana extract is thought to enhance sexual desire, performance and stimulation. Some women say that the extract can also ease the pain of menstrual cramps.
Some nutritionists point out that damiana has also long been used in various types of alcohol—some of the shrub’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities may actually come from the effects of the alcohol. Likewise, the plant grows only in warm climates and usually in the summer season, and evidence suggests that sexual desire is often higher in warmer months. There is no medical evidence that damiana extract does enhance sexual desire or performance.
If one chooses to take the extract in tincture form, it is best not to ingest the mixture straight because of its strong taste and concentration. One can dissolve the recommended dosage of drops into water or juice or onto a piece of bread. As with most plant-based supplements, it is possible to have an allergic reaction as a result of taking the supplement. Damiana extract also has the ability to inhibit iron absorption and should not be taken by those prone to anemia.