Alternative Names: Lepidium meyenii, Maca root, Peruvian Ginseng
Maca is widely used to promote sexual function of both men and women. It boosts libido and increases endurance, while at the same time balancing hormones and increasing fertility.
Maca is the common name for Lepidium meyenii, a plant in the broccoli family. 'Maca root' refers to the root of the plant, which resembles a turnip.
Maca has been used by Peruvian consumers for many centuries, since before the time of the Incas. The Incas found maca so potent that they restricted its use to their royalty's court. Upon overrunning the Inca people, conquering Spaniards became aware of this plant's value and collected tribute in maca roots for export to Spain. Maca was used as an energy enhancer, increasing male potency or improving other hormonal function.
Maca, a root that belongs to the radish family, is most commonly available in powder form. Grown in the mountains of Peru, it has been called "Peruvian ginseng." Locally, maca is consumed as a food. Once placed on the endangered plant list, it is now grown on thousands of acres as a commercial product. The maca root is dried and ground, then used to make everything from soups to alcoholic beverages. The leaves are brewed for tea.
Maca is divided into categories based on the color of the root, which can be red, black, pink or yellow.
Maca does not work through hormone-like effects, and does not increase testosterone or estrogen. Instead, the supposed mechanism of action is by normalizing steroid hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. It acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido. Maca may boost desire but does not share Viagra's erection-enhancing properties.
Maca has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. It has been used all over the world and affects both genders.
Aguila Calderon, MD, the former dean of the Faculty of Human Medicine at the National University of Federico Villarreal in Lima uses maca for male impotence, erectile dysfunction, menopausal symptoms and general fatigue, and claims good results. Arizona physician Gary F. Gordon, MD, former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, is also a maca supporter. He calls it "nature's Viagra".
Scientist Gustavo Gonzales of Peru's Cayetano Heredia University, who led what the scientists say is the world's first scientific study into maca's effect on humans, told a news conference that the three-month trial involving 12 volunteer men pointed to an 180-200% lift in libido and up to a doubling of sperm production. Maca produced an increase in sex drive within two weeks. The study, funded by Peruvian pharmaceuticals company Hersil, also found maca reduced blood pressure and had no adverse effect on the heart.
Men supplementing with maca have reported an increase in sperm production. Although maca does appear to boost the production and movement of sperm, more research is needed.
In animal studies, the more maca animals consume, the stronger and more sexually active they become.
Energy and stamina levels often increase within days of using maca. For this reason, many athletes take maca for peak performance. Those who feel tired most of the time might want to try maca to see if it helps.
There is evidence that maca can protect the brain from damage and improve cognitive ability in healthy people.
Maca is rich in iron and helps restore red blood cells, which in turn helps with anemia and cardiovascular diseases. It keeps bones and teeth healthy and allows wounds to heal more quickly. When used in conjunction with a proper workout regimen, muscle mass should increase.
Maca can help clear acne and skin blemishes, and reduce skin sensitivity so that it is better able to withstand extremes in temperature.
It can also improve bone health.
To be consistent with Peruvian usage levels one should take 3,000-5,000mg per day of maca, but one can certainly take more. The more maca or maca extract that is consumed, the more the likely benefit.
When you first start using maca, it's best to begin by taking smaller amounts and building up; even 1/2 teaspoon is a good place to start. Later, 1 tablespoon of the powder is an average daily dose. Rotating a few days on and a few days off is often recommended.
Toxicity studies conducted on maca in the U.S. showed absolutely no toxicity or adverse pharmacologic effects.
There are always a few individuals who will show an allergic reaction or who fall into a group of women or men for whom a pituitary stimulator such as maca is contraindicated in the absence of studies that prove its safety. Men using maca on a regular basis should undergo periodic PSA tests, which detect the early signs of an enlarged prostate.
Pregnant or lactating women should avoid taking maca.
Dr. Malaspina, a respected cardiologist in Lima, has been using the maca root in his practice for a decade and reports finding maca to be effective for women with menopausal symptoms, including one who had already had her ovaries removed. Maca is usually taken several months before symptoms subside.
Women with a history or risk of hormone-related cancers, such as endometrial cancer, should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.
Women with a history or increased risk of breast cancer should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.