Damiana liqueur is an alcoholic beverage made from the the leaves and roots of the damiana plant. This shrub-like plant, native to Mexico and Central America, is now grown in areas of California as well. The liqueur itself has a sweet and light flavor to it. It's most commonly packaged in a glass bottle shaped to resemble a pregnant woman, which is meant to symbolize the Incan goddess of fertility.
The origins if damiana liqueur are believed to date back to early Mayan times. The leaves and roots of the flowering shrub were often dried and then left to age in an alcohol-based liquid to create the primitive version of the liqueur. Over the years, modern manufacturers added sugars and other flavorings to make the beverage slightly more palatable and able to stand on its own. Most varieties of the liqueur, however, still posses the strong aromatic scent of the damiana flower, giving it a unique appeal.
Damiana liqueur is commonly used as a mixer in a variety of drinks. Many stories say that it was actually the original component of a margarita before triple sec became the common pairing of choice for the tequila-based classic. Certain areas of Mexico, particularly Los Cabos, still stand by the original version. It can also be served on its own, shot-glass style.
Homemade damiana liqueur is also a popular item and can be made by steeping the leaves of the plant in whiskey and then water. The mixture is strained, and the resulting liquid is then mixed with honey. Before being bottled, a variety of items, including berries, citrus extracts and other aromatic ingredients, can be added to create a unique blend. Left to age for several weeks to several months, creating this homemade version of damiana liqueur can be time-consuming, but also very rewarding. It is also a common item gifted to family and friends around the holidays in many areas of Mexico and Central America.
One of the main reasons damiana liqueur remains popular is due to the effects of the plant's leaves. Said to have an aphrodisiac quality when ingested, damiana is a common supplement taken for its libido-enhancing tendencies. It is also marketed for lessening the effects of a variety of other ailments, including anxiety, nausea, the common cold, and even menopause. While damiana liqueur possesses much lower concentrations of the herb than the supplements do, many people still claim to receive similar health benefits from it as well.