Maca and Male Enhancement

Like most herbal “folk remedies,” maca has a long history of use.  The root of the maca plant is like a turnip and it is grown in the Andes Mountains in Peru and Bolivia.  For many centuries, the maca root was boiled and mashed into a porridge or dried and ground into a powder to use as flour in cakes and bread since it was considered highly nutritious.  Traditionally, it was recommended for supporting increased energy, endurance, and vitality.[1]  Indeed, it is said that Inca warriors consumed large amounts of maca root in preparation for battle.

Research studies examining the effects of maca supplements on the body have found that these traditional beliefs are generally supported in clinical trials.  Firstly, claims that the maca root enhances feelings of strength and energy appear to have merit.  One 2009 article published in Italy described that maca root extract can affect a person’s general sense of vitality and well-being.  For this study, a 12 week double-blind clinical trial was conducted, for which 50 participants completed a Satisfaction Profile (SAT-P) both before and after the study.  Subjects taking maca extract scored significantly higher than those taking a placebo in the SAT-P measures for psychological, physical, and social performance.[2]  A supplement containing maca appears to positively contribute to feelings of strength, confidence, and ability.

This feeling of strength and ability was also was also reported by participants in a 2009 study based in the UK.[3]  A number of male cyclists completed several 40-kilometer time trials before and after two weeks of taking either a maca root extract or a placebo.  After one week, the groups were switched, and time trials were conducted again.  Although participants did not report a difference in the rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and heart rate levels did not change for participants between the time trial following the placebo or the time trial following the maca supplementation, participants completed the time trial faster after taking maca root for two weeks.  Such results are fascinating and will undoubtedly spark further research in the field.

Along with providing a feeling of vigor and vitality, researchers have been particularly interested in the role that maca root may play in the enhancement of the sex drive and sexual performance, and this has been the focus of the majority of the research on the benefits of maca root.  Researchers from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru suggest that for the support of a healthy and robust sex drive, natural, plant-based products are the preferred solution for many men.[4]  For this reason, they carried out a study to measure the influence of maca root extract on the levels of reproductive hormones in 56 healthy males.  Subjects received varying amounts of gelatinized maca root or a placebo and their hormone levels were measured at the start, and then biweekly until the twelfth week.  Neither the placebo group nor the subjects receiving maca showed any change in hormone levels during or after the study.  This seems to indicate that maca works without raising hormones.

Moreover, along with these positive effects, several studies have indeed found that taking maca root extract can boost the sex drive.  At the end of a 2005 study exploring the amount of maca necessary to increase libido, participants in a high-dose group reported a higher rating on the ASEX (Arizona Sexual Experience) Scale than those in the low-dose group and those taking a placebo, and the authors found significant improvements to participants’ libido.[5]  An increase in sexual desire was also reported by participants in a 2005 study who took maca for 3 months.[6]  Half of the study’s 56 male participants took a maca extract, while the other half took a placebo.  A significant effect on sexual desire was observed by participants who took maca.  The male cyclists who found that their time trial performance was improved after taking maca for two weeks also reported an increase in sexual desire, while no difference was reported by those who took a placebo.[7]

Furthermore, a systematic review of studies involving the use of maca to support and stimulate sexual function and libido was published in 2010 and it compiled the results of four eligible randomized clinical trials (including the study of the cyclists).[8]  These reports all compared the effects of taking a maca extract to taking a placebo and all reported benefits to participants’ sexual function, including one study whose participants consisted of healthy, postmenopausal women.  This last study, from 2008, examined the effect of maca on postmenopausal women and found that taking maca especially appeared to support women’s psychological health during the postmenopausal stage.[9]  Additionally, a 2005 study also found that postmenopausal women reported beneficial effects when taking a maca extract.[10]  A 2006 follow-up research study by the same lead author confirmed his previous findings.  He performed a double-blind crossover randomized trial using a maca supplement and a placebo.  Twenty perimenopausal women, divided into two groups, took either maca or the placebo for two months and then switched.  Hormone levels were measured and subjects completed questionnaires discussing their perception of symptoms before, during, and after the study.  The results showed that nearly all the women experienced a positive effect while taking maca extract, compared to those taking a placebo.  Additionally, researchers suggested that taking a maca supplement can help support hormone levels for women who are postmenopausal.[11]

While maca root has long been a dietary staple for those living in the rugged terrain of the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, its nutritional benefits are quickly becoming better understood around the world.  For centuries, men and women alike consumed maca in order to feel energized and vigorous, and often to stimulate their sex drive.  Research carried out in the last decade has largely found that a maca supplement provides these same benefits.  Taking maca can boost your libido, endurance, and feelings of vitality.

[1] M. J. Ballick & R. Lee, “Maca: from traditional food crop to energy and libido stimulant,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 8, No. 2 (2002): 96-98.

[2] T. Zenico, et al., “Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial,” Andrologia 41, No. 2 (2009): 95-99.

[3] M. Stone, et al., “A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126, No. 3 (2009): 574-576.

[4] G. F. Gonzales, et al., “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men,” Journal of Endocrinology 176, No. 1 (2003): 163-168.

[5] Christina .M. Dording, et al., “A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction,” CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics 14, No. 3 (2008): 182-191.

[6] G. F. Gonzales, et al., “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men,” Andrologia 34, No. 1 (2002): 367-372.

[7] M. Stone, et al., “A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126, No. 3 (2009): 574-576.

[8] Byung-Cheul Shin, et al., “Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 10, No. 1 (2010): 44.

[9] Nicole A. Brooks, et al., “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: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society 15, No. 6 (2008): 1157-1162.

[10] H. O. Meissner, W. Kapczynski, A. Mscisz, & J. Lutomski, “Use of Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) in Early Postmenopausal Women – a Pilot Study,” International Journal of Biomedical Science 1, No. 1 (2005): 33-45.

[11] H. O. Meissner, H. Reich-Bilinksa, A. Mscisz, & B. Kedzia, “Therapeutic effects of pre-gelatinized Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon) used as a non-hormonal alternative to HRT in perimenopausal women – clinical pilot study,” International Journal of Biomedical Science 2, No. 2 (2006): 143-159.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease including impotency or erectile dysfunction. Intended for healthy individuals only.