The majority of our planet is engulfed in water, giving it its notorious blue colour, but where the water goes not, the Earth lies cloaked in 50 shades of green. With over 390,000 plants blanketing Earth, each one, remarkable in its own right, weaves its way across the globe, mingling with other plant species until a magnificent, rich tapestry of green reveals itself on the land beneath our feet.
And virtually every plant that has ever existed has something to "offer" us; shall we be wise enough to uncover it. Even today, our dependence on plants is undeniable, yet this dependence has never been more pronounced as in our predecessors' times. Without a doubt, our species would not exist if not for the generous and abundant gifts from our green-skinned allies.
Damiana, for example, is one of those classic herbs rich with cultural uses and tradition. Originating from Central and South America, its use dates back to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans' time. Traditionally, Damiana was used as a powerful sexual tonic for both men and women. Countless stories (known as anecdotes) have been told of this herb's ability to restore sexual vitality and strengthen male and female reproductive systems. Even its scientific name, Turnera aphrodisiaca, clearly indicates its intended uses, although the plant also goes by the name, Turnera diffusa.
Its reputation as a potent aphrodisiac, though controversial, remains to this day.
Herein lies the controversy: although the stories of Damiana's traditional uses have been worthy enough to pass down the generations, science has yet to "prove" its traditional uses as an aphrodisiac (or otherwise). There simply have not been many studies conducted on this herb as of yet.
That said, I would pose the question to you: if something has not yet been proven by science, should we altogether disregard the traditional uses of that plant over the millennia and avoid using it? Must we wait for science to confirm a plant's chemistry, thereby (and only then) unlocking its medicinal applications, or can we grant our ancestors the benefit of the doubt and trust in their ancient wisdom?
To be clear, I don't think it's wrong to have the desire to explore and unlock the great mystery that lies embedded within a plant's cell walls. I think it's wonderful that modern technology has granted us the opportunity to discover a plant's unique composition, thereby deepening (or confirming!) our understanding of it. I'm just not convinced that we have to wait for confirmation to reap the benefits of plant magic.
With that said, and perhaps now with an open mind, let's further discuss Damiana's potential gifts.
Possibly, even more important than its use as an aphrodisiac (at least in today's modern world), Damiana is a well-known antidepressant, relaxant, and nervine. For those who suffer from anxiety, depression, or nervous exhaustion, Damiana can wrap you in her loving arms while strengthening and restoring your central nervous system. My herbology teacher, Rosemary Gladstar, declares Damiana as one of her all-time favourite longevity herbs because of its restorative nature.
So although Damiana is used to increase libido, the thought behind this is that it does so because it is a tonic for stress and low energy. In other words, this is the herb to turn to when suffering from a low sex drive caused by fatigue and stress.
Let me count the ways to enjoy this herb!
The leaf is often infused in alcohol, and some claim the "original" margarita featured Damiana liqueur. It is used as a substitute for triple sec, and it plays a starring role in my teacher's famous Damiana Chocolate Love Liqueur. Her delicious potion is essentially homemade Damiana-infused alcohol sweetened with honey, and enhanced with other aphrodisiacs like chocolate, vanilla, rose water, and flavour extracts. Divine!!
Damiana makes a lovely addition to tea blends, as in our very own Love Potion Tea, made by yours truly. It is often blended with other flavourful herbs to lessen its potential to taste bitter, especially if steeped for too long. It is also commonly used as a tincture or powdered and encapsulated. It is even used in some traditional herbal smoking blends as a relaxant and euphoric, although using a high dose can be a hallucinogen. Although Damiana is generally considered safe, always do your due diligence when looking to incorporate a new herb consistently into your diet to determine if there are any contraindications you should be aware of.
Looking into the future, I look forward to seeing what clinical trials will unveil about the mysterious and magical Damiana! Until then, as it is Valentine's Day, I am off to enjoy a cup of Love Potion Tea with my husband. Fifteen years ago today, he proposed to me, and in my books, that is cause for celebrating with our dear friend, Damiana, whether her effects have been "proven" or not.