5 Ways Maca May Benefit Your Health

Health Benefits, Uses, and Tips

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Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root that is used as a folk remedy to boost energy and libido and for hormonal balance. Also known as "Peruvian ginseng" (even though it isn't a member of the same botanical family as ginseng), maca root powder is typically added to smoothies or other food. In Peru, whole maca root is used in soup, roasted, or used to make a fermented beverage known as maca chica.

Uses for Maca

Proponents claim that maca may benefit: erectile dysfunction, low libido, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid conditions, depression, hair loss, as well as help with symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes.

Maca is also said to aid in the treatment of cancer. The root contains glucosinolates (plant compounds also found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage) which may have cancer-protective properties, but to date, there is no evidence supporting the claim that consuming maca in any form can prevent or treat cancer.

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Health Benefits of Maca

Although few scientific studies have examined the effectiveness of maca, some research suggests that it may offer certain health benefits. 

Sexual Function and Libido

There is "limited evidence" for maca's effectiveness in improving sexual function in men and women, according to a 2010 report published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The report's authors analyzed four clinical trials, two of which found 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.

Related:  Erectile Dysfunction Remedies

Fertility in Men

One small study looked at the effect of four 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 may have moderate effects.

For women, acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may help with fertility in women. Related: Acupuncture for Fertility

Mood in Menopause

Maca may help ease anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women, according to a small 2008 study from the journal Menopause. 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 suggested that maca helped reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve sexual function. 

Another small study published in Climacteric suggests that taking maca daily for six weeks modestly lowers blood pressure and improves depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women. Further research is needed, as both studies were extremely small.

Related: Natural Approaches to Menopause.


In Peruvian folk medicine, maca is sometimes used to enhance energy and athletic performance. Preliminary findings from animal-based studies suggest that maca extracts may improve recovery from muscle fatigue, however there is currently a lack of scientific support for the claim that maca can help boost energy and fight fatigue in humans.

Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

In a 2008 study from CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, researchers found that maca may help alleviate sexual dysfunction caused by use of selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs, a class of medications used in the treatment of depression). The study involved 20 people with depression, all of whom were experiencing SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. A 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared maca root to a placebo in 45 women with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. After 12 weeks, 1.5 grams of maca twice daily modestly increased remission rates.

Related: Remedies for Female Sexual Dysfunction 


Little is known about the safety and side effects of short-term or long-term use of maca. Maca should not be used by people with high blood pressure. Maca may have estrogenic effects, so it should not be used by people with hormone-sensitive cancers or conditions such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. 

As with other supplements, maca hasn't been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications. You can find out more about how to use supplements safely here, but if you're considering using maca, talk to your doctor first. Keep in mind that maca should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of any health condition.

Using the Root Powder

Maca root powder can be added to smoothies, juice, and shakes. Raw powdered maca root is available for people on a raw food diet. Maca is also available as a nutritional supplement, in liquid, capsule or pill form, or in foods such as coffee, chocolate or oil products. 

SEE ALSO:  Hidden Benefits of Green Tea | Matcha Tea for Health? | Natural Remedies for PCOS | Look Up Supplements A-Z


Balick MJ, Lee R. "Maca: from traditional food crop to energy and libido stimulant." Altern Ther Health Med. 2002 Mar-Apr;8(2):96-8.

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.

Dording CM, Schettler PJ, Dalton ED, Parkin SR, Walker RS, Fehling KB, Fava M, Mischoulon D. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:949036. doi: 10.1155/2015/949036. Epub 2015 Apr 14.

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.

Piacente S, Carbone V, Plaza A, Zampelli A, Pizza C. Investigation of the tuber constituents of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.). J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Sep 25;50(20):5621-5.

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.

Stojanovska L1, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, Apostolopoulos V, Haines C. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2015 Feb;18(1):69-78. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.929649. Epub 2014 Aug 7.

Valentova K et al. The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts. Cell Biology and Toxicology. (2006) 22.2:91-9.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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