What is a maca root? Peruvian Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root native to the Andean region of Peru and has been cultivated for at least 2,000 years. But still, maca root benefits aren’t very common. Let’s fix it!
Uses of Maca Root
Maca is rich in fiber, high amounts of essential amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients, including vitamin C, copper, iron, and calcium.
In addition to these essential nutrients, this root contains biologically active compounds responsible for benefits for the human body:
- maca alkaloids,
- volatile oils,
- macaena polyphenols .
Lepidium meyenii is traditionally used as a tonic, fertility enhancer for both humans and cattle, and for the treatment of various diseases such as rheumatism, respiratory distress, and anemia. Maca root is boiled, baked, fermented as a drink, and turned into porridge.
Health Benefits of Maca Root
After multiple studies and researches, we can state that maca root benefits are almost uncountable. Let’s review the most important and useful of them.
Maca has been introduced to the global market over the past twenty years. The demand for it has skyrocketed during that time, largely due to its positioning on the Internet as “Peruvian ginseng” – a libido and fertility supplement. It is also claimed to treat menopausal symptoms, erectile dysfunction, and benign prostatic hyperplasia. 
Differences were found between the effects of black, yellow, and red maca varieties. Black poppy has the best results on spermatogenesis, memory, and fatigue, while red poppy is a variety that reverses benign prostatic hyperplasia and experimentally induced osteoporosis.
In addition, maca has been shown to lower glucose levels, and its consumption is associated with lower blood pressure and improved health outcomes.
Experimental studies have shown that short-term and long-term consumption is not toxic in vivo and in vitro.
Impact on Sexual Function (Maca Root for Fertility)
Although maca root powder is a herbal extract and not a drug, it is one of the most frequently cited “natural remedies” on the Internet for improving sexual desire.
The hypothesis that maca may be effective in improving sexual function is supported by several lines of evidence. Animal experiments show that maca has spermatogenic and fertile activity, which is likely due to the phytosterols or phytoestrogens present in poppy .
Several in vivo studies have shown that maca can improve sexual behavior and potentiate androgen-like effects in rats [11,12].
Clinical trials have also shown a significant effect of maca on increasing sperm count and motility and improving sexual function in humans.
So, in 2001, a study was conducted to determine the effect of 4-month oral treatment with Lepidium meyenii (Maca root pills) on seminal analysis in nine normal adult men aged 24-44 years.
Men received pills containing maca (1500 or 3000 mg/day) for 4 months. Seed analysis was performed in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Serum luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin (PRL), testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) were measured before and after treatment.
Maca’s treatment resulted in an increase in semen volume, sperm count in the ejaculate, motile sperm count, and sperm motility. However, the level of hormones in the blood serum did not change.
The increase in sperm count was not related to the dose of maca used, suggesting that at least 1500 mg/day is sufficient to achieve a positive result .
Two years later, the same research group conducted a second study with the same dosages, but with an emphasis on the effect of maca on the level of reproductive hormones in serum in healthy adult men.
As before, the data showed that, compared with placebo, maca had no effect on any of the studied hormones, and the hormones did not show any changes over time .
The most recent publication (2020) is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled experimental study in which sixty-nine patients diagnosed with mild asthenozoospermia and/or mild oligozoospermia received maca (2 g / day) or placebo for 12 weeks.
Patients who received maca showed a significant improvement in sperm concentration (15.04 ± 5.61 versus 10.16 ± 3.59, respectively) compared with patients who received a placebo.
However, there were no significant differences between the groups in sperm volume, sperm motility, and morphology .
Benefits of Maca Root for Treating Sexual Dysfunctions
In another study, the authors sought to determine whether maca is effective for treating selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) -induced sexual dysfunction.
A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group pilot study was conducted comparing low dose (1.5 g / day) and high dose (3.0 g / day) of Maca in 20 outpatients with remission of depression (mean age 36 + / -13 years; 17 women) with SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction.
Libido improved significantly in the high dose group, but remained almost unchanged in the low dose group, suggesting a dose-dependent effect. Both dosages were well tolerated .
In another experiment, involving women, but during menopause, positive effects were recorded in improving sexual function at a dosage of 3.5 g / day, without changing the level of hormones .
In a double-blind clinical study of 50 European men with mild erectile dysfunction (ED) randomized to 2400 mg Maca dry extract or placebo for 12 weeks, the effect on ED and subjective well-being was tested.
The assessment was carried out using the international index of erectile function (IIEF-5) and satisfaction profile (SAT-P).
Both Maca and placebo patients showed a significant improvement in SAT-P associated with psychological effectiveness, but it was higher in the Maca group than in the placebo group (+9 +/- 6 versus +6 +/- 5).
However, patients treated with maca showed a significant improvement in SAT-P scores associated with physical and social activity compared with baseline (+7 +/- 6, +7 +/- 6).
Thus, the researchers conclude that these data support a small but significant effect of Maca supplementation on subjective perceptions of general and sexual well-being in adult patients with mild ED .
In another study, men aged 21-56 received maca at doses of 1500 mg and 3000 mg, or a placebo.
At 4, 8, and 12 weeks of treatment, self-awareness of sexual desire, the Hamilton score for depression, and the Hamilton test for anxiety were measured.
Improvement in sex drive was observed in the Maca groups starting at 8 weeks of treatment, but not in the placebo group. Serum testosterone and estradiol levels did not differ between men who received maca and those who received a placebo. Logistic regression analysis showed that maca had an independent effect on sexual desire during 8 and 12 weeks of treatment, and this effect was not associated with changes in Hamilton scores for depression or anxiety, as well as levels of serum testosterone and estradiol .
Impact on Quality of Life
To study the effect on the quality of life, 175 participants received 3 grams of placebo, black or red maca extract daily for 12 weeks. Consumption of red and black maca extracts resulted in improved mood, energy, and health, as well as a decrease in altitude sickness (some of the owners lived in high altitude environments). Both maca extracts were well tolerated and safe. 
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study was conducted in 29 postmenopausal women in Hong Kong. They received 3.3 g / day of poppy or placebo for 12 weeks. Initially, at 6 and 12 weeks, estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), total lipid profile, glucose, and serum cytokines were measured.
The Greene Climacteric Women’s Health Questionnaire, SF-36 Version 2, and the Utian Quality of Life Scales were used to assess the severity of menopausal symptoms and health-related quality of life. There were no recorded differences in estradiol, FSH, TSH, SHBG, glucose, lipid profile, and serum cytokines among those who received maca compared with the placebo group.
However, significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure and depression were evident after treatment with Maca .
These findings are similar to those of previous studies.
For example, in 2008, 14 postmenopausal women participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study.
They received 3.5 g / day of maca for a total of 12 weeks. There was no difference in serum concentrations of estradiol, FSH, LH, and SHBG between baseline, maca, and placebo.
However, the Greene’s climacteric scale showed significant reductions in scores in areas of psychological symptoms, including the subscales of anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction, after consuming maca compared to both baseline and placebo .
Overall, the effects of Maca supplementation on the body have been associated with improved sex drive, decreased levels of anxiety and depression, and some positive effects on fertility.
But human studies don’t record changes in sex hormone levels. This effect currently requires further study.
Dosage for Maca Root
So, what is the best time to take maca root? How to grab all the maca root benefits?
Analysis of the available publications shows that maca is effective in doses of 1500-3000 mg per day, which can be taken 1-2 times, regardless of food intake.
These dosages are not accompanied by any side effects.
- Medicinal effects of Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii): a review. da Silva Leitão Peres N , Cabrera Parra Bortoluzzi L , Medeiros Marques LL , Formigoni M , Fuchs RHB , Droval AA , Reitz Cardoso FA . Food Funct. 2020 Jan 29;11(1):83-92.
- Is the hype around the reproductive health claims of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) justified? Beharry S, Heinrich M. J Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Jan 30;211:126-170
- Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Asian J Androl. 2001 Dec;3(4):301-3.
- Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C. J Endocrinol. 2003 Jan;176(1):163-8.
- A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008
- 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 Carla Gonzales-Arimborgo, Irma Yupanqui, Elsa Montero, Dulce E Alarcón-Yaquetto, Alisson Zevallos-Concha. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2016 Aug 18;9(3):49.
- Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women L Stojanovska 1, C Law, B Lai, T Chung, K Nelson, S Day, V Apostolopoulos, C Haines. Climacteric. 2015 Feb;18(1):69-78.
- 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 Nicole A Brooks 1, Gisela Wilcox, Karen Z Walker, John F Ashton, Marc B Cox, Lily Stojanovska. Menopause. Nov-Dec 2008;15(6):1157-62.
- Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial T Zenico 1, A F G Cicero, L Valmorri, M Mercuriali, E Bercovich. Andrologia. 2009 Apr;41(2):95-9.
- Wang Y, Wang Y, McNeil B, Harvey LM. Maca: an Andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Food Res Intern. 2007;40:783–792
- Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats. Gonzales GF, Ruiz A, Gonzales C, Villegas L, Cordova A. Asian J Androl. 2001 Sep; 3(3):231-3.
- Effect of a lipidic extract from lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, Rogers L, Shao Y, Huang ZY, Lu Y, Yan SJ, Qien LC, Zheng QY Urology. 2000 Apr; 55(4):598-602.
- Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Gonez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002;34(6):367–372.
- Does Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improve seminal quality? Ana María Alcalde, Jordi Rabasa. 2020 Jul 12;e13755.
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