Damianita daisy (Chysactinia mexicana) is all over my new neighborhood. It hadn’t yet made it into my old neighborhood, just 7 miles away in Tempe, AZ, so it was new to me. Once I saw it, I had to find out its name. First off, it is obviously a DYC (aka, Damn Yellow Composite – fellow botanists, you know what I mean). Thousands of these kinds of species dot the landscape, making it a bit of a challenge to nail down the correct identification. Now that I know what it is, C. mexicana turns out to be a pretty cool plant, especially if you are a sad little mouse.

After identifying the new weed as C. mexicana, I found some pretty interesting stuff about it. First off, it has spread up from Mexico, into Texas and New Mexico. My old copy of the Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1970) describes its range as far west as New Mexico. It is apparently on the move, like all weeds. Now we have it in desert landscapes in central Arizona. It is even available at local nurseries.

Chrysactinia mexicana has been bounced around a little taxonomically. A synonym, Pectis taxifolia, was published by E.L. Greene in 1905. The original species description as C. mexicana, published by Asa Gray in 1849, the currently accepted one.

The Really Cool Stuff

Research on C. mexicana reveals some interesting studies about its potential medicinal properties. The main one of interest — i.e., about depressed mice — came out recently, here:

Cassani J, Ferreyra-Cruz OA, Dorantes-Barrón AM, Villaseñor RM, Arrieta-Baez D, Estrada-Reyes R. 2015. Antidepressant-like and toxicological effects of a standardized aqueous extract of Chrysactinia mexicana A. Gray (Asteraceae) in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 171:295-306.

Interest in this weed stems from Mexican folk medicine. As an herb it is used for fever, rheumatism and as a diuretic, antispasmodic, general tonic or adaptogenic herb, and as a stimulant agent. One more thing is a reference in Standley’s Trees and Shrubs of Mexico (Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, 1922) about C. mexicana as an aphrodisiac.

Add it to the list of thousands of herbs that have been used somewhere in the world as aphrodisiacs. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a trend throughout human history. Hmm.

Thus, the study above on mice.

WARNING: If you are queasy about how animal studies are done, you probably don’t want to find out what they did to the mice in the first place. Just don’t click on that link above and you should be fine.

The next logical step for me in exploring a new weed is, of course, to check out what is listed about it on PubMed (U.S. National Medical Database). Here is what I found:

1: Gómez-Cansino R, Guzmán-Gutiérrez SL, Campos-Lara MG, Espitia-Pinzón CI,
Reyes-Chilpa R. Natural Compounds from Mexican Medicinal Plants as Potential Drug
Leads for Anti-Tuberculosis Drugs. An Acad Bras Cienc. 2017 Jan-Mar;89(1):31-43.
doi: 10.1590/0001-3765201720160298. Epub 2017 Feb 9. PubMed PMID: 28198919.

2: Estrada-Reyes R, Ferreyra-Cruz OA, Jiménez-Rubio G, Hernández-Hernández OT,
Martínez-Mota L. Prosexual Effect of Chrysactinia mexicana A. Gray (Asteraceae),
False Damiana, in a Model of Male Sexual Behavior. Biomed Res Int.
2016;2016:2987917. Epub 2016 Aug 30. PubMed PMID: 27656650; PubMed Central PMCID:
PMC5021457.

3: Zavala-Mendoza D, Grasa L, Zavala-Sánchez MÁ, Pérez-Gutiérrez S, Murillo MD.
Antispasmodic Effects and Action Mechanism of Essential Oil of Chrysactinia
mexicana A. Gray on Rabbit Ileum. Molecules. 2016 Jun 16;21(6). pii: E783. doi:
10.3390/molecules21060783. PubMed PMID: 27322223.

4: Cassani J, Ferreyra-Cruz OA, Dorantes-Barrón AM, Villaseñor RM, Arrieta-Baez
D, Estrada-Reyes R. Antidepressant-like and toxicological effects of a
standardized aqueous extract of Chrysactinia mexicana A. Gray (Asteraceae) in
mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Aug 2;171:295-306. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.05.055.
Epub 2015 Jun 10. PubMed PMID: 26070520. (previously noted)

5: Guerra-Boone L, Alvarez-Román R, Salazar-Aranda R, Torres-Cirio A,
Rivas-Galindo VM, Waksman de Torres N, González González GM, Pérez-López LA.
Chemical compositions and antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the
essential oils from Magnolia grandiflora, Chrysactinia mexicana, and Schinus
molle found in northeast Mexico. Nat Prod Commun. 2013 Jan;8(1):135-8. PubMed
PMID: 23472479.

6: Guevara Campos BM, Torres Cirio A, Rivas Galindo VM, Salazar Aranda R, Waksman
de Torres N, Pérez-López LA. Activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae of the
essential oil and 5-(3-buten-1-ynyl)-2, 2′-bithienyl isolated from Chrysactinia
mexicana roots. Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Jul;6(7):1035-8. PubMed PMID: 21834252.

7: Cárdenas-Ortega NC, Zavala-Sánchez MA, Aguirre-Rivera JR, Pérez-González C,
Pérez-Gutiérrez S. Chemical composition and antifungal activity of essential oil
of Chrysactinia mexicana gray. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Jun 1;53(11):4347-9.
PubMed PMID: 15913293.

8: LAPPAS L, GUSTAFSON CB. Investigation of Chrysactinia Mexicana, A. Gray. J Am
Pharm Assoc Am Pharm Assoc. 1950 Oct;39(10):591-4. PubMed PMID: 14778782.

Those Lucky Rats

Item number 2 above looked into the aphrodisiac properties of C. mexicana, using a lab rat model of … well, lab rats. There were apparently some positive effects. Improved sexual performance was indicated, “…by reducing the number of intromissions and shrinking ejaculation latency.”

There, doesn’t that just turn you on?

If you are really, really curious about this study, the good news is that the entire article is available for free online, here.

I am sure that it will satisfy your scientific and/or prurient interests. (Buzzkill: the only images in the article are of graphs and tables.)

That’s it for now.

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