Maca Health Benefits
Maca health benefits include an ability to improve erectile dysfunction, enhance sperm integrity and libido, improve sexual function, and help manage BPH symptoms. While maca (Lepidium meyenii) was used in ancient times to increase physical strength, today it is suggested to improve libido and erectile dysfunction and other sexual and prostate health problems.
Maca is an annual plant native to the highlands of Peru, and a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family. The Peruvian people use the root of the maca, which looks like a turnip, in a porridge and in various other foods and beverages. Because of its ability to influence libido, stamina, and sexual function, maca has been called a “Peruvian ginseng,” even though maca and ginseng are not related biologically.
Maca Health Benefits: How It Works
Dried maca is composed of about 59% carbohydrate, 10% protein, 2.2% fats, and several sterols, including sitosterol, campestrol, ergosterol, brassicasterol and ergostadienol. Maca also provides calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and potassium. (Dini 1994; Hermann 1997)
Preliminary studies in animals suggest that two types of novel substances in maca — macamides and macaenes — are responsible for improving libido and stamina. Animals’ sexual activity and stamina increased when the amounts of macamides and macaenes in their diet were increased. (Zheng 2000; Zheng 2002) A study in the Asian Journal of Andrology reported that maca improved spermatogenesis of male rats, while a subsequent study noted differences in how certain maca extracts improved rat sexual performance. (Gonzales 2001; Cicero 2002)
Studies of Maca Health Benefits
Scientists have explored the biochemistry behind maca health benefits. In one study, maca tablets increased seminal volume, sperm count, and sperm motility. (Gonzales 2001) In another, the effect of 1,500 mg and 3,000 mg of maca were compared with placebo in a 12-week randomized controlled trial. After 8 weeks, men who took maca reported an improvement in sexual desire. (Gonzales 2002) A Massachusetts General Hospital study also found that 3,000 mg daily improved sexual dysfunction in depressed men and women. (Dording 2008)
Investigators conducted a double-blind trial that included 50 men who had mild erectile dysfunction. Half were given 2,400 mg maca root daily and the other half received placebo. After 12 weeks, men in the maca group experienced a more significant increase in the International Index of Erectile Function than men in the placebo group. The authors concluded that maca health benefits include a small supplements provide a small but significant effect on sexual health in men who have mild erectile dysfunction. (Zenico 2009)
Maca health benefits may extend to BPH. Maca, which is a cruciferous plant (the cancer-fighting family) has been shown to reduce prostate size in rats with induced BPH. (Gonzales 2005; Gasco 2007) Maca comes in different colors: red maca appears to have the prostate-reducing effect, while the yellow variety has only a mild impact, and the black has none on BPH. (Gonzales 2009)
Maca health benefits appear to include improved sexual desire and sperm health without affecting hormone levels. Studies have found no difference in levels of testosterone, estradiol, luteinizing hormone, or follicle-stimulating hormone in men treated with maca when compared with placebo. (Gonzales 2003)
How To Take Maca
Maca is available as a powder and in standardized extracts, capsules, and tablets. Some extracts are standardized to 0.6% macramides and macaenes. Although several studies have shown 3,000 mg daily to be an effective, safe dose, it is best to take maca according to package directions. No significant side effects, potentially harmful interactions, or allergies have been associated with the use of maca.
References for Maca Health Benefits
Cicero AF et al. Hexanic maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic maca extracts. Andrologia 2002; 34:177–79.
Dini A et al. Chemical composition of Lepidium meyenii. Food Chem 1994; 49: 347–49.
Dording CM et al. 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
Gasco M et al. Dose-response effect of Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on benign prostatic hyperplasia induced by testosterone enanthate. Phytomedicine 2007; 14(7-8): 460
Gonzales GF et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats. Asian J Androl 2001; 3:231–33.
Gonzales CG et al. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru—from tradition to science. Forsch Komplementmed 2009 Dec; 16(6): 373-80
Gonzales GF et al. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asia J Andology 2001; 3(4): 301-4
Gonzales GF et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia 2002; 34(6): 367-72
Gonzales GF et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. J Endocrinol 2003; 176(1): 163-68
Gonzales GF et al. Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reprod Biol Endocrin 2005; 20(3): 5
Hermann M et al. Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon, 1st ed., (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, 1997): 173–78.
Zenico T et al. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia 2009; 41(2): 95-99
Zheng B et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology 2000; 55: 598-602
Zheng B et al. Effect of an aqueous extract from Lepidium meyenii on mouse behavior in forced swimming test. Quality Management of Nutraceuticals, ACS symposium series 803. American Chemical Society. Washington, DC 2002: 259-69