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Turnera diffusa


Turnera diffusa


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Damiana, Mexican holly, Old Woman's Broom


Turnera diffusa is a small shrub of the family Tuneraceae.  Usually growing to no more than measures  60cm in height, the semi-erect shrub is supported by glabrous stems usually deep red in colour.  The leaves of T. diffusa are small, usually measures 2.5cm 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 1.5cm in width.  The fruit of T. diffusa is minute, globular and contains many seeds.

Origin / Habitat

T. 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.  

Chemical Constituents

The leaf includes volatile oils (1,8-cineole, p-cymene, alpha- and beta-pinene, thymol, alpha-copaene, and calamene); luteolin; tannins, flavonoids (arbutin, acacetin, apigenin and pinocembrin), beta-sitosterol, damianin, and the cyanogenic glycoside tetraphyllin B [1] [2] [3].

Plant Part Used

Leaf [4].

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 [4] [5].



In traditional medicines, ‘Mexican holly’ (Turnera spp.) is considered as an aphrodisiac, and studies support its ability to restore sexual health in laboratory animals [6].The anti-oxidant flavonoids present in T. diffusa leaf are considered, in part, responsible for the enhanced sexual effects [7]. 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 [8]. 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 [9]. 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.

Laboratory animal studies have reported significant anti-anxiety activity of extracts of T. diffusa [10]. The authors contributed the anti-anxiety effects to the flavonoid constituent apigenin found in T. diffusa leaf.


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 [11] [12].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% [13].


Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

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

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

Based on historical use, not to be used in combination with any psychotropic medications.

Precautions and Contraindications

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 [14].

Based on T. diffusa’s potential for estrogenic activity, do not use in those with hormone sensitive cancers or at risk for these cancers, such as breast, ovary and prostate [9].

Discontinue if allergy occurs.


Do not use in pregnancy or breastfeeding due to a lack of research in these areas.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Kumar S, Taneja R, Sharma A. Pharmacognostic standardization of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J Med Food. Summer2006;9(2):254-260.
  2. Zhao J, Pawar RS, Ali Z, Khan IA. Phytochemical investigation of Turnera diffusa. J Nat Prod. Feb 2007;70(2):289-292.
  3. Piacente S, Camargo EE, Zampelli A, Gracioso JS, Souza Brito AR, Pizza C, Vilegas W. Flavonoids and arbutin from Turnera diffusa. Z Naturforsch C. Nov-Dec2002;57(11-12):983-985.
  4. Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:  A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals  New York: Square One Publishers; 2005.259.
  5. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis; 2009. 721.
  6. 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 Jun 25;123(3):423-429.
  7. Nascimento MA, Silva AK, França LC, et al. Turnera ulmifolia L. (Turneraceae): preliminary study of its antioxidant activity. Bioresour Technol. Aug2006;97(12):1387-1391.
  8. 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). Mar1999;143(1):15-19.
  9. Zhao J, Dasmahapatra AK, Khan SI, Khan IA. Anti-aromatase activity of the constituents from damiana (Turnera diffusa). J Ethnopharmacol. 8Dec2008;120(3):387-393.
  10. Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety activity studies of various extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca Ward. J Herb Pharmacother. 2005;5(4):13-21.
  11. 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. Oct-Dec2006;32(5):369-378.
  12. 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. Oct-Dec2001;27(5):541-549.
  13. 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. Dec1998;57(12):741-744.
  14. Kumar S, Taneja R, Sharma A. The Genus Turnera.: A Review Update. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2005;43(5):383-391.

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