Does Maca Root Work Like Viagra, and How Long Does It Take to Activate and Work?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber, MD
Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2023

What is maca root?

Maca root is a native Peruvian plant known to increase sexual desire, improve semen production, soothe symptoms of menopause, and improve mental health. Its potential to positively affect sexual behavior begs the question: "Does maca root work like Viagra? And how long does it take for maca root to work?" 

In this article, we will discuss how maca root is processed in the body, its sexual effects, and how long it takes to activate. 

Maca, also known as Lepidium meyenii, is a Peruvian plant that grows exclusively in the central Andes between 4,000 and 4,500 meters above sea level. It is used as a dietary supplement for its medicinal properties. It has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years.

Scientific research shows that maca helps to enhance fertility and energy and is effective as a treatment for sexual dysfunction that may increase sperm count and motility.

Does maca root work like Viagra?

Viagra is commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation. The increased blood flow helps initiate and maintain an erection. However, Viagra does not cure erectile dysfunction in the long term or increase sexual desire.

Unlike Viagra, maca has been shown to improve sexual desire. Whether or not it helps with erectile function is still inconclusive. Several studies have shown that maca increases sexual behavior in animals, although conflicting results have been reported. 

In one study, researchers orally administered 25 and 100 mg/kg of maca to male rats for 30 days. They assessed sexual behavior after 1, 7, and 21 days of treatment and found that short-term administration of maca had only a tiny effect on rat male sexual behavior.

Another study that treated rats with pulverized maca showed a slightly different result. Researchers administered 15 or 75 mg/kg of maca to 60 male rats for 15 days. They found increased sexual behavior of males on treatment day 15. They concluded that acute and chronic maca oral administration significantly improved sexual performance parameters. 

In a randomized study, though, researchers could not demonstrate that maca helped with penile erection in healthy adult men after 12 weeks of treatment with gelatinized maca.

On the other hand, maca has been found to increase sperm count and sperm motility, unlike Viagra. In one study, researchers administered tablets of maca (1,500 or 3,000 mg/day) to nine healthy men for four months. The results showed an increase in seminal volume, sperm count, and sperm motility.

Meanwhile, Viagra helps treat erectile dysfunction but doesn't improve sexual desire. In comparison, maca has been shown to help improve sexual desire and increase sperm count and motility, but it doesn't help with penile erection. 

The instructions around taking these products are also different: You should only take Viagra as needed before sexual activity, ideally one hour before and no more than four hours before. The effects of Viagra are not long-lasting, whereas chronic maca consumption has been shown to improve sexual behaviors significantly. 

How long does it take for maca root to activate and work?

The time it takes for maca root to activate and work depends on the maca color, how you consume the maca, and how your body processes it.

There are many types of maca, which are classified by the color of their hypocotyls. Hypocotyls are the parts of the stem of the maca root. In the Peruvian highlands, 13 colors of maca have been described, ranging from white to black. Different types of maca have different biological properties.

One study tested three different types of maca (red, yellow, and black) and their effects on sperm production after 7 and 42 days. Researchers saw an increase in daily sperm production and sperm motility in the group treated with black maca, while the groups treated with red and yellow maca did not see the same results. 

How you consume maca also influences its sexual effects on the body. Maca must be processed correctly for it to produce biological effects. Maca should be boiled or extracted before you consume it. In experimental studies, maca extract was only effective after the pulverized maca hypocotyls were boiled in water.

Several studies demonstrate varying lengths of time for maca activation on sexual behavior. In one study on healthy adult men, researchers showed an improvement in sexual desire after eight weeks of treatment with gelatinized maca. Another study involving athletes reported an improvement in self-rated sexual desire after just two weeks of administering maca extract. 

Evidence suggests that maca extract seems to have better effects than gelatinized maca and maca flour on male sexual desire. Maca extract significantly improved the self-rated sexual desire in healthy adult men after as few as 14 days of treatment. That is significantly faster than the time it took for gelatinized maca to take effect: i.e., eight weeks of treatment.

Risks and side effects

Maca has been used for centuries in the Central Andes with no toxic effects reported after it has been boiled. Further research showed that freeze-dried maca extracts also did not have any discernible toxic effects. There are no known maca interactions with medicines, herbs, or supplements.

Human consumption of less than 1 g/kg of body weight per day is considered safe. However, patients with metabolic syndrome should be aware that maca consumption could result in a moderate elevation of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and diastolic arterial pressure.

People who are pregnant and breastfeeding should also consult with their doctors before taking maca supplements, as there isn't enough reliable information to determine its safety. Additionally, people with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer should be cautious, as maca extracts can act like estrogen and worsen certain conditions. 

Maca root seemingly has the potential to improve sexual desire and fertility, among many other benefits. Consumption of maca worldwide has significantly increased and will likely continue to do so, given the potential of this treatment.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer
Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2023

Andrologia: "Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men."

Asian Journal of Andrology: "Improved sperm count after administration of Lepidium meyenii (maca) in adult men."

Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: "Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands."

Food and Chemical Toxicology: "Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) in combination with silymarin as food supplements: in vivo safety assessment."

Journal of Ethnopharmacology: "A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen," "Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats," "Lepidium meyenii Walp. improves sexual behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor activity."

Journal of Sexual Medicine: "Acute and chronic dosing of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on male rat sexual behavior."

MedlinePlus: "Maca," "Sildenafil."