Lepidium meyenii Walpers, Lepidium peruvianum
Underground part (tuberous taproot, sometimes called the hypocotyl)
Central Andean plateau of South America
Maca, a root vegetable native to the Andes Mountains, has a long history of cultivation and consumption. The name "maca" is believed to come from the Quechua language, spoken by indigenous peoples in the region. Archaeological evidence shows that wild maca plants were used as food as early as 7700 BC, and by 1200 BC, humans had begun cultivating maca. This coincided with the domestication of llama-like animals, which may have provided ideal habitats for maca to thrive. Today, maca is still widely consumed for its purported health benefits.(1)
Several studies on maca which have been conducted in humans have shown subjective effects without measurable changes in circulating hormone levels.conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy men, and found that maca caused a significant increase in self-perception of sexual desire, but did not affect serum hormone levels. likewise found in clinical trials that men with erectile dysfunction experienced a significant subjective improvement in sexual and general well-being after treatment with maca. In post-menopausal women, maca was found to lower sexual dysfunction and have a beneficial effect upon indices of anxiety and depression, without affecting circulating hormone levels.(2)
A clinical trial conducted in women experiencing antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction found that maca could help alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction and have a beneficial effect upon libido, particularly in post-menopausal women . Another recent study in post-menopausal women found that treatment with maca reduced symptoms of depression and diastolic blood pressure, but did not have an effect on circulating hormone levels.(3)
Dosage recommendations vary, because maca is traditionally used as a food product and not a supplement. 1,500 – 5,000 mg of maca powder appears to be the standard recommendation.
Maca has been used traditionally as a food for over 2,000 years. While it has been used traditionally even during pregnancy and lactation, there is not conclusive toxicological research to show its safety and therefore should be avoided in pregnant and breastfeeding women. In addition, caution should be exercised in cases of hormone-sensitive cancers until further research can clarify its effect upon hormone levels.
(1)Pearsall, D. M. (1989). Adaptation of prehistoric hunter-gatherers to the high Andes: the changing role of plant resources. In: Harris, D. R., Hillman, G. C. (editors). Foraging and farming: The evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin Hyman, London, UK, p 318–332.
(2)Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. (2008). 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.
(3)Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. (2008). 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. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00052.x.
Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca(Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study.
Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Role of maca (Lepidium meyenii) consumption on serum interleukin-6 levels and health status in populations living in the Peruvian Central Andes over 4000 m of altitude.
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