Lepidium meyenii, or the better-known as maca, made its first public appearance in the Western world much later than it did on South American soil. It is a plant from the Brassicaceae family that is grown exclusively at an altitude of 4,000-4,500 m in Peruvian central Andes. Maca has traditionally been used for its nutritional and potential healing properties. Maca is exported as powder, capsules, pills, flour, liqueur, and extracts, and is considered one of seven products of the Peruvian flag. There are three types of maca: yellow, black and red. Studies have proven the positive effects of maca on fertility, memory and mood.
Maca and men
One double-blind study was conducted in which men consumed maca daily (3,000 mg/day), and the results were compared with the placebo group. Eating as a dietary supplement compared to placebo showed increased sexual desire after 8 weeks of treatment and in addition, improved mood and decreased anxiety were also observed. No difference was observed between the groups taking 1500 or 3000 mg of maca per day. Another study of 9 men taking maca for 4 months showed an increase in sperm count and motility. In three other studies on patients with sexual dysfunction, maca treatment improved libido. At a dose of 2400 mg, maca improved self-esteem in a sexual context in men with mild erectile dysfunction after 12 weeks of treatment.
Maca and women
One study conducted on female rats showed a specific increase in serum LH (luteinizing hormone) levels among pituitary hormones, the time associated with the rise of LH and subsequent initiation of the release of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) was related to the action of the maca. These effects promote ovulation through the pituitary function of the HHG (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad) axis. This confirms the traditional use of maca for fertility about the increase in serum LH levels in female rats. Furthermore, one double-blind, randomized study of parallel groups was conducted in women with sexual dysfunction due to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to determine the effect of maca on sexual dysfunction. Patients were given 1.5 or 3.0 g of maca per day. An improvement in sexual dysfunctions was observed at a dose of 3 g/day. In postmenopausal women, treatment with 3.5 g of maca per day for 6 weeks reduced psychological symptoms including anxiety and depression and reduced the measure of sexual dysfunction.
As a dietary supplement, maca has certainly found its place in the category of sexual health. Its proven effect on increasing fertility through LH, increasing sperm count and increasing libido have unquestionably given it an advantage when choosing dietary supplements to improve an individual’s reproductive health. In the bustling Western world, perhaps returning to traditional curls from the Andes territory is just what is needed for our sexual and general well-being.
Translated by Filip Sakoman
2. Uchiyama, Fumiaki, et al. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca) enhances the serum levels of luteinising hormone in female rats.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 151.2 (2014): 897-902.