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Maca is the hottest aphrodisiac health food in recent years, also known as Inca radish, Peruvian Viagra or Peruvian ginseng


In addition, Maca has anti-fatigue, anti-oxidation, neuroprotection, hormone balance, improvement of sexual function, prevention of benign prostatic hyperplasia, improvement of conception rate, relief of menopausal discomfort, immune regulation, etc., but so far, there are still few related literatures , only a partial effect was confirmed


From a pharmaceutical and medical standpoint, the enthusiasm for Maca is understandable, as drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction or benign prostatic hyperplasia have various side effects and contraindications that may not be suitable or acceptable for everyone.


In evidence-based medicine, what are the benefits  of using Maca? Are there any side effects or contraindications? See the latest analysis in the text for details

What is Maca?

Maca, a traditional Peruvian cruciferous plant, has had both edible and medicinal properties for centuries. It only grows in the Andes at an altitude of 4,000 to 4,500 meters in the extreme cold, strong sunlight, low oxygen and strong winds. Earth, because few plants can survive in this environment, thus creating its toughness.


The main and edible part of the plant is a radish-like tuber (i.e. hypocotyl, 10-14 cm long and 3-5 cm wide), which constitutes the hypocotyledon and the root of the plant, after natural drying, the hypocotyl The size of the shaft decreases dramatically to 2-8 cm


There is great genetic diversity in the morphology of Maca roots, with different weights (1-5 kg), different shapes (globular, oval, globular-elliptic, spindle-shaped), and various colors (white, cream, yellow , orange, red and purple), each with different biological properties.


What are the nutritional components of Maca?

Primary Metabolites


Dry Maca contains 10.2% protein, 59% carbohydrate, 2.2% lipid and 8.5% fiber, and contains free fatty acids, the most abundant of which are linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid.


Minerals per 100 grams: iron 16.6 mg, calcium 150 mg, copper 5.9 mg, zinc 3.8 mg, potassium 2050 mg


Secondary Metabolites


Macamides Maca alkaloids


beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, glucosinolates


What are the recommended empirical effects (benefits) of Maca?

1. Good for bone health

Osteoporosis is a major public health problem among adults worldwide, with approximately 10 million Americans over the age of 50 living with osteoporosis and another 34 million with low bone density


Calcium and vitamin D are key nutrients for preventing osteoporosis in older adults. Other recommended prevention methods include regular exercise, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake


A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (4 months in 34 menopausal women) found that oral gelatinized organic maca powder improved bone density markers as measured by limb quantitative computerized scan (pQCT). ).


*Conclusion: For menopausal women, Maca may help improve bone quality, but limited by the small sample size, more research is still needed to prove it


2. Beneficial for chronic mountain sickness

Chronic Mountain Sickness (CMS) is a pathological phenomenon observed by local or long-term residents above 2500 meters. Increased red blood cells.


May develop cor pulmonale leading to right ventricular failure if left untreated, prevalence increases with altitude and age, higher incidence in men


A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (12 weeks in 175 adult human subjects) showed that consumption of a spray-dried extract of maca improved mood, energy and health, and reduced chronic mountain sickness (Chronic Mountain Sickness) score. 


*Conclusion: For chronic mountain sickness, oral administration of Maca extract may bring positive help, but limited by the small number of samples, more research is still needed for further verification

3. Improve sperm quality and promote fertility

Infertility is a reproductive system disease, which refers to the inability to achieve clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, which has a great psychological and physical impact on couples.


There is no reliable data on the prevalence of infertility worldwide, but it is estimated that nearly 72.4 million couples worldwide have fertility problems, with a prevalence of about 8% to 12%, of which 40%-60% are infertile couples related to masculinity


The clinical evaluation method of male infertility is mainly based on the analysis of semen parameters. Currently, the reference lower limit of semen analysis published by the World Health Organization is:


Semen volume: 1.5 milliliters (mL)

Sperm density: 15 million sperm cells per milliliter

Total sperm count: 39 million sperm per ejaculate

Morphology: 4% of normal

Vitality: at least 58%

Progressive motility sperm count: at least 32%


A systematic review (including 5 clinical studies) pointed out that whether it is infertile or healthy men, oral Maca can help improve sperm quality parameters (semen quality parameters), including: sperm morphology, sperm concentration, sperm Quantity, sperm count and sperm mobility.


The underlying mechanism may be related to the fact that the active ingredients of Maca can affect the sperm production process of semiferous tubules and reduce oxidative stress


*Conclusion: Oral Maca may have a positive effect on improving sperm quality. However, limited by the number of trials, total sample size and risk of bias, more well-designed randomized controlled trials are still needed to support

4. Improve female sexual dysfunction (induced by antidepressants)

Sexual dysfunction is a common side effect of antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).


An estimated 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women taking these drugs experience side effects in at least one area of sexual function, yet as many as 50 percent do not discuss these issues with their healthcare provider.


Both studies pointed out that for women, oral administration of Maca root preparations can reduce sexual dysfunction induced by antidepressant drugs (SSRI/SNRI), and there may be a dose-related effect.


*Conclusion: Oral Maca may be helpful in improving female sexual dysfunction induced by antidepressants, but limited by the small number of samples, more large-scale trials are still needed to prove it

5. Beneficial for athletic performance

Exercise exerts physiological stress on the body, which requires a coordinated response from the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and nervous systems to increase blood flow and deliver oxygen to working skeletal muscles.


At rest, muscles receive approximately 20 percent of total blood flow, but during exercise, this percentage can increase to over 80 percent.


As a result, athletes often use dietary supplements to increase metabolic capacity, delay the onset of fatigue, improve muscle hypertrophy, shorten recovery periods, or help prevent injury during high-intensity training


A randomized crossover double-blind trial (14 days in 8 male cyclists) indicated that Maca significantly improved performance over a 40 km cycle time compared to baseline testing (but not compared to placebo ). Note 1


*Conclusion: Maca supplementation may improve athletic performance, especially in endurance sports, however, its effects on muscle mass and strength have yet to be studied.

6. Improve erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction refers to the continuous inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis to satisfy sexual behavior. About 50% of men aged 40 to 70 have some degree of erectile dysfunction


While penile erection has long been a sign of a man's masculinity and sexual performance, impairments often have a negative impact on partnerships, relationships and mental health


The main risk factors for the development of erectile dysfunction are: age, coronary and peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle, hyperlipidemia, pelvic or spinal trauma, diabetes, benign prostatic hypertrophy, lower urinary tract Symptoms, hypogonadism, fibrocavernitis, endocrine disorders, smoking, depression, alcohol and drugs, etc.


Although there are many treatment options for erectile dysfunction, there are still some patients who do not respond to treatment or cannot tolerate it.


A double-blind, randomized clinical trial (for 12 weeks, the subjects were 50 patients with mild erectile dysfunction unrelated to psychiatric diseases, endocrine system diseases, and cardiovascular disease drug use) pointed out that,


Compared with placebo, oral administration of maca extract capsules (daily dose 2400 mg) has a significant improvement effect on both the International Index of Erectile Function and Satisfaction Profile.


*Conclusion: For patients with mild erectile dysfunction, oral Maca has a small but statistically significant improvement effect on sexual function and overall well-being, but limited by the small sample size, more large-scale studies are still needed to prove it.


7. Boost male libido

Sexual desire is a complex interplay of multiple levels, including structural, physiological, psychological, developmental, cultural, and relational factors.


All contribute to an individual's libido to varying degrees at different points in time and continue to change throughout the lifespan.


As we age naturally, desire also decreases, but sometimes loss of libido is linked to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, Cushing's disease, temporal lobe disease, menopause, coronary Arterial disease, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and human immunodeficiency virus, among others


A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial (12 weeks in 57 healthy men aged 21-56 years) showed that oral maca (daily dose 1.5 to 3 grams) Sexual desire increased by 24.4%, 40%, and 42.2% during the week, and the increase in libido was not associated with changes in mood or increased serum testosterone and estradiol levels.


Another double-blind randomized crossover trial (14 days, 8 male cyclists) pointed out that oral Maca not only significantly improved the performance of 40 kilometers of riding time, but also improved the score of sexual desire.


*Conclusion: Oral Maca may help improve male sexual desire, but limited by the small number of samples, more large-scale trials are still needed for further verification.


8. Boost reproductive hormones such as testosterone

Testosterone, the main male sex hormone, is also present in women, albeit in much lower concentrations, and has significant effects on metabolic functions in various parts of the body in addition to being associated with reproductive function


From the age of 30-40, men's testosterone levels slowly decline by about 1% per year.


Low testosterone levels are often associated with symptoms including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, cognitive decline, depression, lethargy, osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass and strength


A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial (12 weeks in 56 healthy men) indicated that oral maca (1.5 or 3 g per day) was more effective than placebo on the subjects covered in the study. There were no effects or changes over time in any hormonal targets (including: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone and its precursors or metabolites 17-alpha hydroxyprogesterone, 17-beta estradiol).


*Conclusion: Oral Maca has no significant effect on raising reproductive hormones (such as testosterone)


9. Relieves menopausal symptoms in women

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation and ovulation caused by ovarian failure. When the menopause lasts for 12 months or more without any pathological factors, it is called natural menopause, and it usually occurs between the ages of 42 and 58.


During menopause, approximately 85% of women report symptoms of varying types and severity, including hot flashes, depression, anxiety, urinary incontinence, vaginal atrophy, loss of libido, etc.


A systematic review (systematic review, including 4 randomized controlled trials, the participants were 202 near or postmenopausal women) pointed out that oral maca (daily dose 2 to 3.5 g) has the effect of improving menopause-related symptoms (with Greene Climacteric Scale and Kupperman Menopausal Index).


The author pointed out that although the underlying mechanism is unknown, it is speculated that it may be related to the estrogen hormone balance effect of Maca components


*Greene Climacteric Scale.: Involves 21 questions in 5 areas: anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, vasomotor symptoms and sexual function. The higher the score, the worse the quality of life


*Kupperman Menopausal Index.: Numerical index of 11 menopausal symptoms: hot flushes, paresthesias, insomnia, nervousness, depression, dizziness, weakness, arthralgia or myalgia, headache, palpitations and forms. Each symptom is scored from 0 to 3 according to severity, with higher scores indicating poorer quality of life


*Conclusion: For menopausal women, oral Maca may have the effect of improving related menopause symptoms, but limited by the number of studies, total number of participants and method quality, more large-scale experiments are still needed to confirm the effectiveness and safety


10. Maca Improves Cognitive Function (Tested on Animals)

The brain is considered the most complex system in the animal kingdom, with complex modes of operation, and the degree of connection between structure and function depends on spatial resolution and time scale


Dietary factors have long been thought to have plastic effects on neural function and synapses, with modulatory effects on cognitive processes and mood


An animal experiment pointed out that black maca improved the experimental memory impairment induced by alcohol to a certain extent, which may be related to the content of polyphenols. Note 2


*Conclusion: Oral Maca may have a positive effect on improving cognitive function, but human studies still need further verification


11. Maca May Help Enlarged Prostate (Animal Studies)

Prostatic hypertrophy is a disease with a high prevalence rate. About 50% of men over 60 years old are affected, and 90% of men over 80 years old are affected. The relevant clinical manifestations are lower urinary tract symptoms, nocturia, sepsis, irreversible bladder failure, etc.


The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but it is generally accepted that sex hormones are fundamental, for example, androgen-stimulating epidermal growth factor, keratinocyte growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor


At present, the treatment methods for benign prostatic hyperplasia include finasteride, tamsulosin and other drugs. In severe cases, transurethral resection of the prostate can be performed. Although it can improve the symptoms of lower urinary tract symptoms, it may be accompanied by hematuria, loss of libido, abnormal ejaculation, etc. Side effects, for these reasons the medical community is looking for better treatments, including natural products


An animal study pointed out that oral red maca extract can reduce the size of the prostate gland in response to the phenomenon of prostatic hypertrophy induced by testosterone enanthate.


*Conclusion: Maca may have a positive effect on prostate hypertrophy, but human studies still need further verification


Does Maca Have Any Side Effects?

Maca has been used as food for thousands of years. Under normal use, no significant toxic reactions have been found, and the safety is extremely high


However, possible adverse reactions or side effects that have been reported include: attention disturbance, menstrual cycle changes, weight loss, depression, anxiety, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, insomnia, headache, nausea, vomiting, and liver function abnormalities


A study found that taking Maca powder (600 mg for 3 consecutive months), there was a slight increase in ALT (Alanine transaminase) and blood pressure.


Maca use taboo (6 safety precautions)

  1. If you suffer from autoimmune thyroid disease, goiter or other thyroid nodular diseases, please consult a medical professional before use (because Maca is rich in iodine and glucosinolates, excessive use may induce adverse reactions)


  1. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children and those with liver and kidney dysfunction should not use it (because the related safety is unknown)


  1. Do not use if you suffer from related hormone-sensitive diseases (such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids) (because Maca may have phytoestrogens effects, which may cause symptoms to worsen)


  1. Do not use if taking related anti-hormonal drugs (may interfere with drug effect)


  1. Consuming fresh maca root may have adverse health effects and it is recommended to boil it before using it.


  1. Since Maca is rich in vitamin K, the main effect of vitamin K on the human body is to help blood coagulate, so do not take it together with anticoagulants, so as not to interfere with the drug effect


How to eat Maca (how much dose is helpful)?

Raw maca retains most of its nutrients but can be difficult to digest due to its fiber content.


Macado is therefore processed and sold in powder or capsule form, and the optimal dosage to use has not been determined. The standard daily dose of maca in most studies is about 1.5 to 3 grams, either as a direct supplement or added to foods such as smoothies, oatmeal, and coffee.

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