Maca, Libido and Fertility—Does it Really Work?
Maca is a well-known aphrodisiac grown in the harsh high mountain regions of Peru, and is prized for its ability to increase libido and enhance fertility. It is sometimes called “Peruvian Ginseng”. Maca is a part of the cruciferous vegetable family and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale. It has been used for many, many years both as a food and as a medicine, especially in Peru. Maca is valued for its root, primarily, and is used for many things, making it a pretty awesome superfood, although it usually is not eaten raw or whole, but generally consumed in its powdered form, as a supplement.
Maca root has some pretty powerful benefits–aside from the bedroom! Maca root is great for added energy, immune function, memory, mood, performance and antioxidants. Maca also contains 20 amino acids and a ton of healthy fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, C, and E; calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, selenium, sodium, iron and zinc, along with a smattering of healthy phytonutrients such as glucosinolates and polyphenols.
Maca, Fertility, and Libido
Maca root really does seem to work as an aphrodisiac! Several studies were conducted on its libido-enhancing ability, that were all double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized—meaning that study subjects couldn’t ‘cheat’.
In one study, researchers gave 57 men varying doses of maca or a placebo for 12 weeks. After just 8 weeks, men were reporting increased sexual desire. And another study looked at men who were taking antidepressants—known to decrease sex drive. Just 3mg a day significantly increased their interest in sex, and this study on women taking antidepressants found the same thing. One more study done on endurance athletes found higher doses increased sexual desire, and also improved athletic performance as well. So yes, maca improves libido in men and women.
Maca also has a positive effect on fertility in men as well. Studies show that 1.5g and 3g of maca a day increases sperm count and sperm motility, and another study shows that it actually helps erectile dysfunction. In spite of all the positive studies on maca, fertility and libido, the mechanism is really not yet known.
Researchers have measured testosterone and estrogen in test subjects, but no changes were found in levels, even as the subjects reported increased sexual desire. Black maca seems to have the most positive effects on sperm production over yellow or red maca. Several studies show that red maca, however, is very beneficial to men with an enlarged prostate gland. BPH is common in men over the age of 50, and red maca has been proven to shrink the enlarged prostate gland. It is thought that the powerful phytochemicals it contains, glucosinolates, are part of the reason it works so well on this gland. Maca is also effective at helping to prevent prostate cancer as well.
Maca, Women, Hormones and Fertility
Maca is not just for men either—it’s libido enhancing ability extends to women too. Maca has been shown to also help balance women’s hormones, help with pms, menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome. A study done in 2008, from the journal Menopause shows positive benefits on menopausal women’s moods, decreasing both anxiety and depression, mood swings that often result from tumultuous hormone levels. This same study showed maca increased sexual libido, and increased serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Other animal studies have shown that egg follicles were able to mature successfully, which helps ovulation, fertility and overall reproductive health. Maca also helps with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep problems which are all common in menopausal women.
Maca, Mood and Memory
Maca supplementation helps people feel more awake and energized—even better than coffee, which can cause a jittery response from the caffeine. Studies show that maca has very positive effects on energy, stamina and mood. It is not exactly understood how maca works on moods, however, it is thought that it may have something to do with stabilizing blood sugar (making it beneficial for diabetics), adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, and the thyroid.
Maca is also thought to actually improve brain function and has been used for years in Peru as a way of improving children’s school performance, partly due to the fact that it helps to improve learning and memory. Studies have shown black maca to be especially effective for improved mental function.
Powerful Antioxidants, Better Athletic Performance
Maca contains high levels of antioxidants and can increase the levels of glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD), some of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, protecting against chronic disease, toxins, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Maca is also very popular amongst athletes who say it helps them gain muscle, increase strength, boost energy and endurance, while decreasing muscle soreness. While it doesn’t increase testosterone, it does boost energy and mood, possibly helping athletes to feel more energetic during workouts or competition, while its powerful antioxidants may help decrease the inflammation post-workout.
How to Take Maca
While the Peruvians sometimes consume up to a pound of dried or even fresh maca root a day, most people do not need near that much! The optimal dose for medicinal use has not been established. However, the dosage of maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5–5 grams per day.
Maca is usually available in health food stores and online. It comes in a powdered form, capsules or a liquid extract. Yellow maca is the type most often available, but there are red and black forms as well, and some studies show the different colors are better to treat specific issues. Be sure to purchase a quality brand that is 100% maca, and ideally look for raw and organic if possible. Maca fans say it adds a pleasant earthy, nutty flavor to foods ― making it a natural pair for chocolate and almond. You can try adding it to smoothies, coffees, granola, waffles, energy bars, muffins, oatmeal, etc. Here’s also an article with 37 ways to drink maca.
Because maca does have an effect on hormones, physicians believe that maca should not be consumed by people who rely on hormone-altering medications for serious illnesses like breast cancer or prostate cancer, or other serious conditions. People who have high blood pressure are also advised to not consume maca. More research is still needed on whether or not maca is safe for use in pregnant or nursing women. Peruvian natives believe that consuming fresh maca root may have adverse health effects and recommend boiling it first. And if you have thyroid problems, you may want to be careful. Maca contains goitrogens which may interfere with thyroid function if over-consumed too frequently.
>> We talked a little bit about Testosterone in this article, and Maca can be a great addition to your regular routine if you’re worried about your T-levels, but, there’s more to the story, because Testosterone levels in men over 40 are getting SCARY low — here’s EXACTLY what to do to fix it naturally, safely, and quickly (and NO, it’s not a prescription, which can do more harm to your already sluggish T-levels)