If you’re looking to improve your mood, support hormonal and sexual health, or increase your energy levels, maca root may help. Thanks to its many health benefits and impressive nutrient composition, maca root has gained popularity as a dietary supplement within the last two decades. (3) Continue reading to learn more about the clinical applications of this popular supplement.
What is maca root?
Native to the Andes Mountains in Peru, maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root that has been cultivated and used for culinary and medicinal purposes for over 2,000 years. (3)
There are a number of different varieties, including red, yellow, and black maca. In its powder form, maca root is often described as having a nutty flavor with hints of caramel or butterscotch, making it a tasty addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and other foods. (11)
Maca contains a wide variety of micronutrients including vitamin C, zinc, calcium, copper, and iron. It also contains over 19 amino acids, as well as other phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the body and help combat free radical damage. Maca root is also a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. (2)(3)
Maca root benefits for women and men
Maca root has been shown to have positive effects on mood and energy levels, as well as male and female sexual health.
Women’s sexual and hormonal health
Maca has been shown to benefit female hormonal health in several ways. For example, maca may help balance hormones such as estrogen and cortisol (stress hormone). Healthy hormone levels may improve sex drive, fertility, menstrual cycle regularity, energy, and symptoms associated with menopause in women such as hot flashes and low mood. (1)(4) In a clinical trial of post-menopausal women, maca was shown to improve sexual dysfunction after six weeks. (1)
Men’s sexual and hormonal health
In addition to women, maca has also been shown to benefit male hormonal health. For example, maca consumption may help to balance testosterone and cortisol levels, supporting sex drive, regular prostate function, and greater sperm count. (4)(8) In one clinical trial of healthy men between the ages of 21 and 56, participants experienced an increase in sexual desire following eight weeks of supplementing with maca versus a placebo. (5)
Energy and mental focus
While existing research has been conducted primarily in animal subjects, some evidence suggests that regular intake of maca may improve your memory and increase your energy levels, helping you feel more awake and focused. Animal studies have found that intake of maca root improves memory impairment and cognitive function in mice. (7)(9)
One human trial examined the health effects of maca by providing 175 participants with either a placebo, black maca extract, or red maca extract for 12 weeks. Those who were administered black or red maca reported an increase in energy levels, with the effects being more pronounced in the group receiving red maca extract. (6)
Although human studies are currently limited, some evidence suggests that maca root may be useful for improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression, particularly in postmenopausal women. In one randomized placebo-controlled study of 29 postmenopasual women, maca supplementation appeared to reduce symptoms of depression. (10) Another study determined that maca supplementation resulted in a significant reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms in postmenopasual women. (1)
Maca root supplements
Maca root is widely available in powder, capsule, and liquid form. (4) A simple way to consume maca root powder is by adding it to your morning smoothie. Sprinkling maca root powder on oatmeal or adding it to raw desserts are also great options.
When used as directed by a healthcare practitioner, maca supplementation is considered safe for most individuals. (4) Certain populations, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions, such as endometriosis and breast cancer, are generally advised to refrain from consuming maca root. (11)
The bottom line
More research is needed to better understand the health benefits of maca root, however, existing research indicates that maca may improve energy levels, enhance mood, and promote sexual and hormonal health in men and women. If you’re a patient, consult your integrative healthcare practitioner before using maca.
- Brooks, N. A., Wilcox, G., Walker, K. Z., Ashton, J. F., Cox, M. B., & 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, 15(6), 1157–1162.
- Chen, L., Li, J., & Fan, L. (2017). The nutritional composition of maca in hypocotyls (lepidium meyeniiWalp.) cultivated in different regions of China. Journal of Food Quality, 2017, 1–8.
- da Silva Leitão Peres, N., Cabrera Parra Bortoluzzi, L., Medeiros Marques, L. L., Formigoni, M., Fuchs, R. H. B., Droval, A. A., & Reitz Cardoso, F. A. (2020). Medicinal effects of Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii): A review. Food & Function, 11(1), 83–92.
- Gonzales, G. F. (2012). Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii(Maca), a plant from the peruvian highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–10.
- Gonzales, G. F., Cordova, A., Vega, K., Chung, A., Villena, A., Gonez, C., & Castillo, S. (2002). Effect of lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia, 34(6), 367–372.
- Gonzales-Arimborgo, C., Yupanqui, I., Montero, E., Alarcón-Yaquetto, D., Zevallos-Concha, A., Caballero, L., … Gonzales, G. (2016). 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, 9(3), 49.
- Guo, S.-S., Gao, X.-F., Gu, Y.-R., Wan, Z.-X., Lu, A.-M., Qin, Z.-H., & Luo, L. (2016). Preservation of cognitive function byLepidium meyenii(Maca) is associated with improvement of mitochondrial activity and upregulation of Autophagy-Related proteins in Middle-Aged mouse cortex. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016, 1–9.
- Melnikovova, I., Fait, T., Kolarova, M., Fernandez, E. C., & Milella, L. (2015). Effect ofLepidium meyeniiWalp. On semen parameters and serum hormone levels in healthy adult men: A Double-Blind, randomized, Placebo-Controlled pilot study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1–6.
- Rubio, J., Yucra, S., Gasco, M., & Gonzales, G. F. (2011). Dose–response effect of black maca (Lepidium meyenii) in mice with memory impairment induced by ethanol. Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, 21(8), 628–634.
- Stojanovska, L., Law, C., Lai, B., Chung, T., Nelson, K., Day, S., … Haines, C. (2014). Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric, 18(1), 69–78.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, November). Maca. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/555.html