Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root plant consumed as a food and for medicinal purposes. Maca is also known as “Peruvian ginseng” (even though it is not a member of the ginseng family), because it is used as a folk remedy to increase stamina, energy, and sexual function. It is typically taken as a pill or liquid extract or as powdered maca root.
Health Benefits of Maca
1) Sexual Function
Maca’s ability to improve sexual function in men and women is highly debated. A 2010 report published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found in two studies the evidence suggests that maca may have positive effects on sexual dysfunction or sexual desire in healthy menopausal women or healthy adult men. However, the other two trials found that maca failed to produce any positive effects on sexual function.
In a 2008 study from CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, researchers found that maca may help decrease sexual dysfunction caused by use of selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors which are commonly used for the management of depression. The study involved 20 people with depression, all of whom were experiencing SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Results revealed that maca may also help improve libido.
One small study looked at the effect of 4 months of treatment with maca tablets on semen quality in nine adult men. Treatment with maca resulted in increased semen volume, sperm count, and sperm motility. Serum levels of testosterone and estradiol were not affected.
There are different types of maca, including yellow, black, and red maca. Black maca appears to have the greatest effect on sperm count, followed by yellow maca, which has moderate effects.
.3) Mood in Menopause
A study from the journal Menopause in 2008 suggested that maca may help ease anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women. For the study, 14 postmenopausal women took 3.5 grams of powdered maca for six weeks and then took a matching placebo for another six weeks. Study results showed that maca helped reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve sexual function.
Preliminary findings from animal-based studies indicate that maca may help improve endurance, however to date no human studies have been done.
Other Common Uses for Maca
Proponents claim that maca can also benefit:
- erectile dysfunction
- promote hair growth
- thyroid conditions
- promote weight loss
There have been no reports of any adverse reactions from taking Maca over short or long term periods. Maca should not be used by people with high blood pressure or by those with hormone-dependent cancers such as breast or prostate cancer.
How to Use the Root Powder
Maca root powder can be added to smoothies, juice, and shakes. Maca is also available as a nutritional supplement, in liquid, capsule or pill form, or in coffee, chocolate or oil products.
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Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. “Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content.” Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62.
Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. “A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction.” CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall;14(3):182-91.
Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian Journal of Andology. 3.4 (2001):301-3.
Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science.” Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Dec;16(6):373-80.
Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. “Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review.” BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.
Valentova K et al. The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts. Cell Biology and Toxicology. (2006) 22.2:91-9.
ENERGIZING RAW COCONUT MACA FUDGE
- 1 cup organic coconut oil, melted
- 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt
- Extra cacao powder for top, optional
- Melt coconut oil and mix with cacao powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract, maca powder, and shredded coconut.
- Line small baking dish or glass container with parchment paper and pour mixture into dish.
- Sprinkle sea salt and additional cacao powder (if using) over the top.
- Refrigerate about 1 hour, or until solid, then slice and serve.
- Store in the refrigerator until eating and use within 5 days.
– For a low-sugar version, reduce maple syrup and use only 2 tablespoons, or substitute with stevia as needed.
– Please know that cacao powder is slightly different than cocoa powder, but cocoa powder can also be used in this recipe.
– The smaller the baking dish or glass container, the thicker and denser these will be. (I used a 6×6 glass dish.)