5 Ways Maca May Benefit Your Health

Health Benefits, Uses, and Tips

maca
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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. It is 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. It may also be roasted or used to make a fermented beverage known as maca chica.

Common Uses for Maca

Proponents claim that maca may benefit erectile dysfunction, low libido, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid conditions, depression, and hair loss. It's also reported to help with symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes.

It is also said that maca may 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. However, there is no evidence to date that supports the claim that consuming maca in any form can prevent or treat cancer.

5 Potential Health Benefits of Maca

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

1) Sexual Function and Libido

There is "limited evidence" for maca's effectiveness in improving sexual function in men and women. This is according to a 2010 report published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The report's authors analyzed four clinical trials. Two of those 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.

2) A Boost to Fertility

One small study looked at the effect of taking maca tablets on the semen quality in nine adult men over the period of four months. 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. 

2) Improved Mood During 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. The 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.

4) Improved Energy

In Peruvian folk medicine, maca is sometimes used to enhance energy and athletic performance. The scientific evidence is still not sufficient on this matter.

One study looked at several factors that affect a person's quality of life, including energy levels. The results showed that both red and black maca improved mood, energy, and "health status." Red maca had a greater effect on mood and energy.

5) Combat Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

Researchers have looked into the effectiveness of maca as a treatment for sexual dysfunction caused by selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs).

This is a class of medications used in the treatment of depression. Sexual dysfunction in women is a common side effect. 

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 in the postmenopausal women.

Before You Take Maca

Little is known about the safety and side effects of the short-term or long-term use of maca. Most of the researchers state that it was well-tolerated by the participants of their studies.

Maca should not be used by people with high blood pressure. Maca may have estrogenic effects. For this reason, 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 has not been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications. It's important to learn how to safely take any supplement.

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. You may also find it in foods such as coffee, chocolate, or oil products. 

Sources:

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. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953.

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. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015:949036. doi: 10.1155/2015/949036. 

Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Lepidium Meyenii (Maca): a Plant From the Highlands of Peru--From Tradition to Science. Forschende Komplementarmedizin. 2009 Dec;16(6):373-80. doi: 10.1159/000264618.

Gonzales-Arimborgo C, et al. Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals. 2016 Aug 18;9(3). pii: E49. doi: 10.3390/ph9030049.

Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. Maca (L. Meyenii) for Improving Sexual Function: A Systematic Review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010 Aug 6;10:44. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-10-44.

Stojanovska L, 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. 

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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