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Maca Root

Maca Root

The maca plant, also known as “Lepidium meyenii” or Peruvian ginseng, is a cruciferous vegetable that mainly grows in central Peru. The main edible part of the maca plant is the root, which is usually dried and taken in powder form, but it is also available in tablets, capsules, and liquid extract. While maca root has an earthy and nutty taste, it’s a nutrition powerhouse because it contains calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, iron, and copper.

Overall Health Benefits of Maca Root

  • Improves symptoms of diabetes [1-3]
  • Lowers blood pressure [4-5]
  • Boosts fertility and improves sexual health [6-14]
  • Speeds up wound healing [5] [15]
  • Relieves pain [16]
  • Boosts cognitive function [17-18]
  • Wards off depression and improves mood [4] [10] [19-20]
  • Improves sports performance and energy levels [21-25]
  • Treats symptoms of menopause [26-29]

How Maca Root Works

Aside from vitamins and minerals, maca root contains glucosinolates, which are plant compounds that possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In addition, maca root also has polyphenols, which are micronutrients known to possess potent antioxidant properties that are necessary for immune and cognitive function, as well as cardiovascular, skin, and respiratory health.

Proven Health Benefits of Maca Root

Improves Symptoms of Diabetes

Studies show that maca root has beneficial effects on blood sugar levels and symptoms of diabetes:

  1. A study showed that the aqueous extract of black maca root notably improved lipid and glucose metabolism disorder. [1]
  2. A study found that maca root extract consumption improved blood sugar levels as well as quality of life parameters. [2]
  3. In mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, maca root supplementation reduced blood sugar levels. [3]

Lowers Blood Pressure

Evidence also suggests that maca root supplementation has antihypertensive effects:

  1. In postmenopausal women, maca root reduced diastolic blood pressure. [4]
  2. A study found that the consumption of maca root was associated with lower blood pressure. [5]

Boosts Fertility and Improves Sexual Health

Several lines of evidence also support the beneficial effects of maca root on fertility and sexual function in both men and women:

  1. In men with erectile dysfunction, maca root supplementation led to significantly higher ejaculation frequency. [6]
  2. In adult patients with mild erectile dysfunction, maca supplementation improved subjective perception of general and sexual well-being. [7]
  3. In healthy men, maca root improved sexual desire at 8 and 12 weeks of treatment [8]
  4. In postmenopausal women, maca root supplementation resulted in increased libido. [2]
  5. A review of several studies found that maca root is effective in improving sexual function. [9]
  6. In women with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, maca root supplementation resulted in improvement in sexual function. [10]
  7. In men with erectile dysfunction, consumption of 2.4 g of maca root daily for 12 weeks improved perception of general and sexual well-being. [11]
  8. In healthy adult men, supplementation with maca root for 12 weeks increased sperm concentration and motility. [12]
  9. In adult men, treatment with oral maca root tablets for 4 months increased seminal volume, sperm count, motile sperm count, and sperm motility. [13]
  10. A review of several studies on maca also found that maca root consumption was effective in improving semen quality. [14]

Speeds Up Wound Healing

Evidence also shows that maca root can help accelerate the wound healing process:

  1. In adult male mice, treatment with red maca accelerated wound closure, decreased the level of epidermal hyperplasia, and decreased the number of inflammatory cells at the wound site. [15]
  2. A study reported that maca root can help speed up wound healing by decreasing the levels of inflammatory substances such as serum interleukin-6. [5]

Relieves Pain

Maca root supplementation can also produce an analgesic effect, according to a study:

  1. In different rat models of persistent pain, maca root extract treatment relieved joint and nerve pain. [16]

Boosts Cognitive Function

Studies found that maca root can help improve various areas of cognitive function:

  1. In middle-aged mice, maca root supplementation preserved cognitive function by preventing mitochondrial dysfunction of brain cells. [17]
  2. In mice, administration of maca root resulted in best response in the water finding task, which is suggestive of improved memory. [18]

Wards off Depression and Improves Mood

There are also studies supporting the antidepressant effects of maca root:

  1. In postmenopausal women, maca root supplementation reduced symptoms of depression. [4]
  2. In women with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, maca root supplementation for 12 weeks improved scores in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. [10]
  3. In mice exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress, maca extract supplementation at dose of 250 and 500 mg/kg showed antidepressant-like effects. [19]
  4. In rats, administration of pre-gelatinized organic preparation of maca root produced antidepressant effects. [20]

Improves Sports Performance and Energy Levels

Evidence suggests that maca root has beneficial effects on sports performance and energy levels:

  1. In trained male cyclists, maca root extract supplementation for 14 days improved 40 km cycling time trial performance. [21]
  2. In male mice, higher dose of maca root was associated with better resistance to fatigue. [22]
  3. In rats, supplementation with 100 mg/kg of maca root extract improved swimming endurance capacity by decreasing exercise-induced oxidative stress. [23]
  4. In mice, supplementation with an aqueous extract of maca root increased swimming time by decreasing the concentration of lactic acid in the blood. [24-25]

Treats Symptoms of Menopause

Several lines of clinical evidence also found that maca root can help treat the unpleasant symptoms of menopause:

  1. In healthy early-postmenopausal women volunteers, administration of 2 g gelatinized maca root powder reduced feelings of discomfort associated with menopause. [26]
  2. In early-postmenopausal women, administration of maca root capsules at a dose of 2 g per day relieved menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. [27-28]
  3. In postmenopausal women, administration of 3.5 g/day of powered maca root for 6 weeks reduced anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction. [29]

References:

  1. Wan W, Li H, Xiang J, et al. Aqueous Extract of Black Maca Prevents Metabolism Disorder via Regulating the Glycolysis/Gluconeogenesis-TCA Cycle and PPARα Signaling Activation in Golden Hamsters Fed a High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:333. Published 2018 Apr 6. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00333.
  2. Gonzales-Arimborgo C, Yupanqui I, Montero E, et al. 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 (Basel). 2016;9(3):49. Published 2016 Aug 18. doi:10.3390/ph9030049.
  3. Gonzales GF, Gonzales-Castañeda C, Gasco M. A mixture of extracts from Peruvian plants (black maca and yacon) improves sperm count and reduced glycemia in mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2013;23(7):509-518. doi:10.3109/15376516.2013.785656.
  4. Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, et al. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2015;18(1):69-78. doi:10.3109/13697137.2014.929649.
  5. Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Lozada-Requena I. Role of maca (Lepidium meyenii) consumption on serum interleukin-6 levels and health status in populations living in the Peruvian Central Andes over 4000 m of altitude. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2013;68(4):347-351. doi:10.1007/s11130-013-0378-5.
  6. Zhang, Y., Zhou, F. & Ge, F. Effects of combined extracts of Lepidium meyenii and Allium tuberosum Rottl. on erectile dysfunction. BMC Complement Altern Med 19, 135 (2019).
  7. Zenico T, Cicero AF, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia. 2009;41(2):95-99. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x.
  8. Gonzales, Gustavo & Cordova, Amanda & Vega, Karen & Chung, A & Villena, Arturo & Góñez, C & Castillo, S. (2003). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 34. 367-72. 10.1046/j.1439-0272.2002.00519.x.
  9. Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010;10:44. Published 2010 Aug 6. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-44.
  10. Dording CM, Schettler PJ, Dalton ED, et al. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:949036. doi:10.1155/2015/949036.
  11. Zenico T, Cicero AF, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia. 2009;41(2):95-99. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x.
  12. Melnikovova I, Fait T, Kolarova M, Fernandez EC, Milella L. Effect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:324369. doi:10.1155/2015/324369.
  13. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001;3(4):301-303.
  14. Lee MS, Lee HW, You S, Ha KT. The use of maca (Lepidium meyenii) to improve semen quality: A systematic review. Maturitas. 2016;92:64-69. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.07.013.
  15. Nuñez, Denisse & Olavegoya, Paola & Gonzales, Gustavo & Gonzales-Castañeda, Cynthia. (2017). Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands, Promotes Skin Wound Healing at Sea Level and at High Altitude in Adult Male Mice. High altitude medicine & biology. 18. 10.1089/ham.2017.0038.
  16. Tenci B, Di Cesare Mannelli L, Maresca M, et al. Effects of a water extract of Lepidium meyenii root in different models of persistent pain in rats. Z Naturforsch C J Biosci. 2017;72(11-12):449-457. doi:10.1515/znc-2016-0251.
  17. Guo SS, Gao XF, Gu YR, et al. Preservation of Cognitive Function by Lepidium meyenii (Maca) Is Associated with Improvement of Mitochondrial Activity and Upregulation of Autophagy-Related Proteins in Middle-Aged Mouse Cortex. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:4394261. doi:10.1155/2016/4394261.
  18. Rubio J, Caldas M, Dávila S, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006;6:23. Published 2006 Jun 23. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-23.
  19. Ai Z, Cheng AF, Yu YT, Yu LJ, Jin W. Antidepressant-like behavioral, anatomical, and biochemical effects of petroleum ether extract from maca (Lepidium meyenii) in mice exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress. J Med Food. 2014;17(5):535-542. doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.2950.
  20. Meissner HO, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(3):260-272.
  21. Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, Stevenson E. A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;126(3):574-576. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.012.
  22. Miao H. The Research on the Impact of Maca Polypeptide on Sport Fatigue [retracted in: Open Biomed Eng J. 2016 Dec 30;10 :112]. Open Biomed Eng J. 2015;9:322-325. Published 2015 Oct 19. doi:10.2174/1874120701509010322.
  23. Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2015.1087036.
  24. Available from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-2002-0803.ch018.
  25. Yang Q, Jin W, Lv X, et al. Effects of macamides on endurance capacity and anti-fatigue property in prolonged swimming mice. Pharm Biol. 2016;54(5):827-834. doi:10.3109/13880209.2015.1087036.
  26. Meissner HO, Kapczynski W, Mscisz A, Lutomski J. Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. Int J Biomed Sci. 2005;1(1):33-45.
  27. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4):375-394.
  28. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4):360-374.
  29. Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. 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. 2008;15(6):1157-1162. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953.

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