It is important to parse words carefully, especially when dealing with matters of health and wellness. There is a difference between “mood stabilizing” and “mood elevating,” and that difference can mean the world to someone suffering from an acute mental health issue. Similarly, I’ve seen a number of testosterone-boosting supplements that make one claim and then support it with something unrelated.
In this case, I’ll look at what the actual science says about Damiana leaf–does it improve testosterone, or only act as an aphrodisiac.
✲ Most data do not support Damiana having any serum testosterone benefits.
✲ There is, however, some research indicating it may improve self-reported sexual health factors.
✲ Some research has suggested that Damiana may have aromatase inhibiting properties, though there is no proof this would increase testosterone.
✲ Damiana may improve testosterone reductions resulting from some medications.
I’ve seen Damiana leaf or extract on probably 10 percent of all the testosterone boosting supplements I’ve ever been asked to look at. Usually something with proven, or even compelling, science behind it is better represented in the field.
Not surprisingly, many of the cases where I see Damiana listed on an ingredient list, it’s mentioned as beneficial for “sexual health,” not as a testosterone booster. This is borne out by the most rigorous study I could find, where scientists did indeed find significant increases in sexual performance.
Tellingly, though, so did two of the 36 placebo patients. And also telling was the fact that there was no increase in testosterone in the test group. This study has been cited by a number of supplement labels, and I’ve looked for any other data that directly researched Damiana and testosterone–no study to date exists showing a testosterone increase.
A group of researchers from the University of Mississippi submitted data from their research to the US Dept. of Agriculture, regarding Damiana leaf and aromatase inhibition. (I’ve written extensively on aromatase and testosterone in a few articles. The basic process is one in which the body converts testosterone to estrogen.)
These University researchers connected several dots that many people in the male supplement world have connected: aromatase decreases testosterone; testosterone influences sex drive; anything that increases sex drive may be boosting testosterone by aromatase inhibition. Their findings did find that Damia leaf reduces aromatase expression–but, again, there was no data showing a testosterone increase.
Lastly, there is another secondary study that attempted to alleviate some of the testosterone-reducing effects of Amitriptyline drugs. Amitriptylines are antidepressants, and given high numbers of men on antidepressants and the similarly high number of men with low testosterone, it is a promising intersection of study.
In this trial, scientists publishing quite recently in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy found a significant retention of testosterone and testes health in rats treated with Amitriptyline. This study needs to be carried over to human participants, but for now, it seems that in the limited case of some antidepressant drug use, Damia leaf can prevent testosterone loss, if not outright effect more hormone production.
Research into Damia leaf goes back several years, usually plenty of time for significant findings to be supported or refuted. In this case, however, it seems that there are still several loose ends. This could be from a lack of funding, or a lack of findings that are worthy of publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Whatever the reason, there are only studies showing that self-reported data–like “satisfaction” and “performance”–are improved by Damia leaf. There are also studies indicating that Damia leaf can inhibit aromatase, and prevent testosterone lowering from antidepressants. But none of these studies have effectively shown any increase in testosterone production. These data could change with human trials, but in the meantime, the proof is that there is no proof.