Maca

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What other names is Maca known by?

Ayak Chichira, Ayuk Willku, Ginseng Andin, Ginseng Péruvien, Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum, Maca Maca, Maca Péruvien, Maino, Maka, Peruvian Ginseng, Peruvian Maca.

What is Maca?

Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in this area for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine.

People take maca by mouth for "tired blood" (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, and memory. People also take maca by mouth for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, symptoms of menopause, improving fertility, and sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants, weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.

In foods, maca is eaten baked or roasted, prepared as a soup, and used for making a fermented drink called maca chicha.

In agriculture, it is used to increase fertility in livestock.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant drugs. Early research suggests that taking maca twice daily for 12 weeks slightly improves sexual dysfunction in women taking antidepressants.
  • Male infertility. Early research shows that taking a specific maca product (Maca Gelatinizada La Molina, Laboratories Hersil, Lima, Peru) daily for 4 months increases semen and sperm count in healthy men. But it's not clear if this results in improved fertility.
  • Postmenopausal conditions. Research suggests that taking maca (Maca Powder Healthychoices, Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia) daily for 6 weeks slightly improves blood pressure and some aspects of mood, including depression and anxiety, in postmenopausal women. But benefits are very small.
  • Sexual desire. Early research shows that taking a specific maca product (Maca Gelatinizada La Molina, Laboratories Hersil, Lima, Peru) daily for 12 weeks can increase sexual desire in healthy men.
  • "Tired blood" (anemia).
  • Leukemia.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Improving energy and athletic performance.
  • Improving memory.
  • Depression.
  • Female hormone imbalance.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Symptoms of menopause.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Stomach cancer.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of maca for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Maca work?

Maca root contains many chemicals, including fatty acids and amino acids. However, there isn't enough information to know how maca might work.

Are there safety concerns?

Maca is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken in amounts found in foods. Maca is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in larger amounts as medicine (up to 3 grams daily) for up to 4 months. Maca seems to be well tolerated by most people.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking maca if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use these extracts.

Dosing considerations for Maca.

The appropriate dose of maca depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for maca (in children/in adults). Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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