Scientific Review: Maca Root for Fertility and Mood
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is one of the hardiest plants found in Peru. It is cultivated at an altitude of 4000m - 4500m in the Peruvian Central Andes and has to resist extreme winds, intense sunlight, and very cold temperatures. It grows where most other plants simply cannot grow. In Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs that grow at these altitudes are believed to be charged with Yang Energy (the warm, solar, expanding, and rising properties of energy).
A scientific review from 2009 Gonzales et al. compiled the available research from animal and human studies on 3 different types of Maca (yellow, black, and red maca).
Black Maca, in particular, was found to have the most beneficial effect on sperm production when compared to yellow maca (which only had some benefit on sperm production) and red maca (which showed no benefit on sperm production).
In a study of 45 men that used 1.5-3g of Maca per day, it was observed that sexual desire increased, anxiety decreased, and overall there was a reported improvement in mood. Another study on Maca in men found that the individuals receiving maca root daily for 4 months showed an improvement in sperm count and sperm motility. 3 other studies found that the use of Maca in patients with sexual dysfunction reported an increase in libido and overall sexual well-being. Maca also exhibits antioxidant properties to help protect sperm cells against oxidative damage.
Animal studies have found that consumption of maca may increase daily sperm production numbers.
Studies evaluating the use of Maca also found that it was able to decrease scores of depression and anxiety, while having an overall energizing effect. Maca falls in to a category of herbs called "adaptogens." Adaptogens are herbs that help induce physiological adjustments to protect the body and mood against stress.
Mechanism of Action:
Contrary to popular belief, most of the studies done on maca have shown that it actually does not increase testosterone or other hormone levels. The researchers of the review believed that the mechanism by which Maca has an effect on fertility is by directly increasing IGF-1 (Insulin-like-growth factor 1) activity on the target organs.
When used as a food, there are no reported adverse reactions to the use of Maca root. It is recommended by the natives to boil the fresh maca when preparing the extract to help inactivate certain compounds which may have an adverse effect on health. The safe dose cited by the researchers for human consumption was 1 gram/kg of body weight as safe. However, the use of 0.6g/kg in individuals with metabolic syndrome, it was observed that maca root may increase diastolic blood pressure and AST (liver enzyme) levels slightly.
1. Gonzales, G. F., Gonzales, C., & Gonzales-Castañeda, C. (2009). Lepidium meyenii(Maca): A Plant from the Highlands of Peru – from Tradition to Science. Forschende Komplementärmedizin / Research in Complementary Medicine, 16(6), 373-380.
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor or Primary Care Provider.