Species of Turnera, commonly called damiana, have traditional uses for increasing sex drive, relieving depression and calming anxiety. People harvest Turnera leaves throughout Mexico and Central America, and in parts of South America and the southwestern United States. Damiana is available in teas, capsules, tablets, liquid tinctures and extracts, and some stores that sell herbal smoke products carry damiana leaves. Smoking damiana is purported to create a sense of relaxation and mild euphoria. Little scientific evidence supports any effectiveness of damiana, according to Drugs.com. The website advises consulting with a licensed health care professional before using any herbal product.
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Damiana contains small amounts of chemical compounds called cyanogenetic glycosides that release hydrogen cyanide, a substance with poisonous properties. Negative effects of these compounds are linked to using large amounts of damiana, according to Drugs.com.
Dangers and Interactions
Although herbal products do not contain tobacco or nicotine, smoking these herbs still can have hazardous effects. As with tobacco cigarettes, smoking damiana produces tar, ash and carbon monoxide, and the smoke itself is harsh on the lungs.
People who take medication to control blood sugar levels should not use damiana, says Drugs.com. You may also experience complications if you have medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's.
Although rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction to smoking damiana. Signs of a serious allergic reaction may include difficult breathing, throat closing, hives, and facial or mouth swelling. Drugs.com advises emergency medical treatment if any of these signs occur while using damiana. An allergic reaction to an herbal product can lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, which involves a sudden drop in blood pressure and severe breathing problems.
Lack of Information
Research on the safety of damiana is lacking, according to Drugs.com, and most of the scant research has focused on taking it internally rather than smoking the leaves. The safety of damiana for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with liver or kidney disease, is unknown. Cyanide toxicity is an issue, and cyanide in the body could harm a fetus or a nursing baby. No research is available on the safety of damiana use in children, according to Drugs.com. Damiana affects brain chemicals, and using it may be dangerous for anyone with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mania, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease. Taking damiana internally can lower blood sugar, so if you plan to smoke damiana leaves, be cautious if you also take medication to regulate blood sugar.