Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult.

Last updated: 11 January 2016

Scientific Name

Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult.

Synonyms

Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward, Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca (Ward) Urb., Turnera diffusa var. diffusa, Turnera humifusa Endl. ex Walp., Turnera pringlei Rose. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Damiana, Mexican holly, old woman's broom. [2][3]

Geographical Distributions

Turnera diffusa is native to both Central and South America and now commercially cultivated in Bolivia and Mexico. T. diffusa thrives in direct sunlight and dry soil and is harvested when the small aromatic yellowish-white flowers appear. [3]

Botanical Description

T. diffusa is a member of Passifloraceae family. T. diffusausually growing to no more than 60cm in height, the semi-erect shrub is supported by glabrous stems usually deep red in color.  The leaves are small, usually 2.5 cm in length and 6mm in width, ovate-lanceolate leaves. The mostly glabrous leaves are rather pale on the upper side, and displaying darker ribs on the underneath. Each of the aromatic leaves has serrated edges, and short petioles. Between the early and late summer, T. diffusa produces solitary, axillary flowers.  The flowers are a bright yellow with five petals usually growing no more than 1.5 cm in width. The fruit is minute, globular and contains many seeds. [2][3]

Cultivation

No documentation

Chemical Constituent

T. diffusa has been reported to contain volatile oils (1,8-cineole, p-cymene, α and β-pinene, thymol, α-copaene, and calamene); luteolin; tannins, flavonoids (arbutin, acacetin, apigenin and pinocembrin), beta-sitosterol, damianin, and the cyanogenic glycoside tetraphyllin B. [4][5][6]

Plant Part Used

Leaf [2]

Traditional Use

T. diffusa translates to "to tame".  Although this plant is used for several health conditions in traditional medicine, the most common use is as an aphrodisiac.  This use can be dated back to the ancient Mayan civilizations.  Other traditional uses include bed wetting, kidney disorders, as a laxative and for certain stomach ailments.  In some tribal regions of South and Central American, T. diffusa is used for respiratory disorders such as asthma and also for pain from inflammatory conditions.  It has been used to alleviate problems during childbirth, and for general nervous disorders.  Its adaptogenic properties have led to its wide range of uses including that of a general tonic used for maintaining overall health and a sense of well-being. [2][3]

T. diffusa is used in some areas as a recreational drug which has similar effects to marijuana when smoked.  The smoking of this herb produces severe hangovers and creates a non-euphoric state of mind. The mechanism by which this psychoactive property is created is unknown but considered to be due to the chemical damianin. [2][3]

Preclinical Data

Pharmacology

In traditional medicines, T. diffusa use as an aphrodisiac, and studies support its ability to restore sexual health in laboratory animals. [7] The antioxidant flavonoids present in T. diffusa leaf are considered, in part, responsible for the enhanced sexual effects. [8] One animal study found that administration of T. diffusa extract increased the percentage of rats achieving ejaculation and significantly reduced mount, intromission and ejaculation latencies, post-ejaculatory interval and intercopulatory interval. [9] Other mechanisms for sexual health seen in men and women are the potential for estrogenic activity of T. diffusa. A laboratory animal study found that phytochemicals in T. diffusa (including apigenin) increased estrogenic activity. Interestingly, the study also found that other phytochemicals found in T. diffusa significantly suppress the enzyme aromatase, which blocks the synthesis of estrogen and protects against hormonally related cancers, like breast cancer. [10]

Laboratory animal studies have reported significant anti-anxiety activity of T. diffusa extracts. The authors contributed the anti-anxiety effects to the flavonoid constituent apigenin found in T. diffusa leaf. [11]

Toxicity

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Several human studies have reported that the proprietary product ArginMaxÒ (containing T. diffusa along with arginine, Panax ginseng, ginkgo and vitamins/minerals) can improved the sexual health of women including sexual desire, reduction of vaginal dryness, frequency of sexual intercourse and orgasm, and clitoral sensation. [12][13] Also, a small human study found that ArginMaxÒ in men improved the ability to maintain erection during sexual intercourse by 88% and improved satisfaction with their overall sex life by 75%. [14]

Precautions

No documentation

Side effects

T. diffusa has been reported safe in recommended doses. However, because T. diffusa supplements may contain low levels of cyanide-like compounds, excessive doses may be dangerous. [15]

Based on the potential of T. diffusa for estrogenic activity, do not use in those with hormone sensitive cancers or at risk for these cancers, such as breast, ovary and prostate. [10]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Based on pharmacology, use of T. diffusa only the supervision of a doctor if taking medications that can cause drowsiness, such as antianxiety agents (like alprazolam or Xanax) and antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclics (TCAs). [11]

Based on pharmacology, use only the supervision of a doctor if taking medications for hormonal regulation, including estrogen and progesterone. [4]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Dosage

Dosage Range

Dried leaf: 450mg, 1-3 capsules in the morning before breakfast. If stomach upset occurs, take after a low fat meal. Dried leaf tea: 2-5gm (1/2 - 1 teaspoonfuls) in 120ml (1 cup) hot water. Steep for 10 minutes and drink 2-4 times daily. [4]

Most Common Dosage

Liquid extract (1:4w/v): 60 drops (2ml) in favorite beverage, 2-4 times daily. 
It is recommended to take T. diffusa on a 2 week on, 1 week off schedule. [4]

Standardisation

No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation

References

  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Turnera diffusa Willd. ex Schult. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2016 Jan 14]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/tro-33100134
  2. Taylor L. The healing power of rainforest herbs:  A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. New York: Square One Publishers, 2005; p.259.
  3. Duke JA. Medicinal plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2009; p. 721.
  4. Kumar S, Taneja R, Sharma A. Pharmacognostic standardization of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J Med Food. 2006;9(2):254-260.
  5. Zhao J, Pawar RS, Ali Z, Khan IA. Phytochemical investigation of Turnera diffusa. J Nat Prod. 2007;70(2):289-292.
  6. Piacente S, Camargo EE, Zampelli A, et al. Flavonoids and arbutin from Turnera diffusa. Z Naturforsch C. 2002;57(11-12):983-985.
  7. Estrada-Reyes R, Ortiz-López P, Gutiérrez-Ortíz J, Martínez-Mota L. Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) recovers sexual behavior in sexually exhausted males. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;123(3):423-429.
  8. Nascimento MA, Silva AK, França LC, et al. Turnera ulmifolia L. (Turneraceae): preliminary study of its antioxidant activity. Bioresour Technol. 2006;97(12):1387-1391.
  9. Arletti R, Benelli A, Cavazzuti E, Scarpetta G, Bertolini A. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999;143(1):15-19.
  10. Zhao J, Dasmahapatra AK, Khan SI, Khan IA. Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa). J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;120(3):387-393.
  11. Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety activity studies of various extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J HerbPharmacother. 2005;5(4):13-21.
  12. Ito TY, Polan ML, Whipple B, Trant AS. The enhancement of female sexual function with ArginMax, a nutritional supplement, among women differing in menopausal status. J Sex Marital Ther. 2006;32(5):369-378.
  13. Ito TY, Trant AS, Polan ML. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of ArginMax, a nutritional supplement for enhancement of female sexual function. J Sex Marital Ther. 2001;27(5):541-549.
  14. Ito T, Kawahara K, Das A, Strudwick W. The effects of ArginMax, a natural dietary supplement for enhancement of male sexual function. Hawaii Med J. 1998;57(12):741-744.
  15. Kumar S, Taneja R, Sharma A. The genus Turnera.: A review update. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2005;43(5):383-391.