Maca (Lepidium Meyenii)

Maca is a vegetable that is grown mainly in the Junin plateau of Peru’s Central Highlands. It is grown at a height of around 4,000 meters above sea level in a barren, treeless, inhospitable region of intense sunlight, turbulent winds and significant fluctuations in temperatures.

Although this may seems counter-intuitive, this harsh and unwelcome environment provides ideal conditions for its growth. The fact that it grows at such high altitudes also makes Maca one of the highest altitude crops on earth. It is believed that Maca has been cultivated in these highlands for more than 3,000 years by the local populations of Peru.

Maca has been used as a staple food for both humans and domesticated animals, as folk medicine for a number of ailments, for vitality and fertility and as an aphrodisiac for both men and women. Maca was considered so valuable at one point that its use was restricted mainly to the royalty’s court. The plant is related to radish and turnip and its size and proportions are similar to those of these plants. It grows as a rosette with dense and short leaves that hang off the vegetable and on to the ground.

The part of the plant that is most commonly used for its medicinal and nutritional purposes is what is called the hypocotyl. This is the fleshy part of the plant that grows underground, sits underneath the leaves and above the roots of the plant. This hypocotyl, which can be red, green, black, pink, purplish, yellow, or cream colored, is normally dried and then ground into powder. Although Maca is a perennial plant, it is normally grown as an annual and is harvested seven to nine months after planting.

Legend has it that during the height of the Incan empire, Incan warriors would consume Maca before entering into battle. This would give the warriors more strength, more endurance and boost their battle confidence. However, after conquering a city, these Incan soldiers were prohibited from continuing taking Maca because it would make these soldiers excessively sexually lustful. This prohibition was needed to protect the conquered women from the soldier’s intense sexual desires.

Also, soon after the Spanish conquest of Peru, the Spanish and their livestock found that they were struggling with health and vitality in the barren Andean highlands. The locals recommended that both the Spanish and their livestock consume Maca. The Spanish followed the recommendation of the locals, and soon after, their conditions improved significantly. In fact, the results were so remarkable that the Spanish wrote in-depth reports on the effects of Maca and sent them back to Spain. Because of its healing and rejuvenating abilities, Maca also became so highly sought-after during the Spanish conquest that it was used as a currency.

Maca has been described as a superfood because it contains an unusually high amount of essential nutrients. It is a very good source of protein, contains large quantities of amino acids, fatty acids, is a good source of several vitamins, calcium, chromium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, selenium, uridine, sterol, glucosinolate, polysaccharide, flavan-3-ol, macaenes, macamides and general phytochemicals.

It is not yet well understood which of the components in Maca that actually produce the positive effects on libido and sexual performance. However, research has indicated that the two components called macamides and macaenes might be the ones that hold the sex boosting powers of Maca.

Experiments with rats has shown that the frequency of copulation and sexual stamina increased substantially as the quantities of macamides and macaenes were increased in these experiments.

Other research point to a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, as the agent that provides the libido and erectile functioning improvements. Another theory claims that it is the overall rich content of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and other healthy components that cause these libido and erection effects. Although it is not yet firmly established exactly which substances that cause the benefits to libido and erectile functioning, several studies do in fact report that Maca can significantly improve the conditions of erectile dysfunction and a low libido.

One study supplemented healthy men with either 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg Maca on a daily basis, and measured differences in sexual desire. The study showed that libido increased by 24%, 40%, and 42% after 4, 8, and 12 weeks, respectively. Both the 1,500 mg and 3,000 mg dose had the same outcome on libido. The 3,000 mg group also reported an improvement in sexual function.

A study on 20 men and woman suffering from sexual dysfunction due to pharmaceutical drugs called SSRI inhibitors (these are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive and anxiety disorders), also provided the subject with either 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg of Maca on a daily basis. The study reported that 3,000 mg of Maca supplemented for 4 weeks improved SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction and also had a positive impact on libido. This study however, reported no benefits to libido or sexual function from the lower dose of 1,500 mg of Maca after the 4 week period. The study concluded that Maca may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction and may have a beneficial effect on libido.

In another study, scientists surveyed eight bicycle racers regarding their sexual desire, and then timed them on a 40 km course. The racers were then given either a placebo or 2,000 mg of a 5:1 extract of Maca daily. After two weeks, the racers rode the course again and completed another sexual desire survey. Compared with the placebo group, the racers taking the Maca supplement clocked faster times and reported improved scores on a sexuality desire rating scale.

A different study gave 2,400 mg of Maca daily to men affected by mild erectile dysfunction for 12 weeks. The research study reported a small but statistically significant improvement in erectile functioning for these men after the 12 weeks.

There are also other studies showing similar results. In addition, not only do a variety of studies on humans show increased libido and improved erectile functioning as a result of consuming Maca, but studies on animals have also shown similar results.

One study on male rats showed that the rats that were fed either a 15 mg or 75 mg extract of Maca supplement demonstrated significantly greater sexual activity than the control group after one week. Rats that were fed the higher amounts also exhibited more activity than those fed the lower dose. This increased activity remained constant during the second week, and was also coupled with increased locomotion.

None of these studies have shown any statistically significant increases in testosterone levels as a result of Maca consumption. In other words, the improvements reported in libido and erectile functioning have been independent of testosterone. Neither have any increases in testosterone been seen in women taking Maca in research studies. In addition to having no effect on raising testosterone, Maca has in research studies not been found to increase blood levels of any other hormones, including prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen or estradiol.

Studies on Maca have shown that it has the ability to increase both sperm production and health, in both humans and rats. Maca has been reported to increase seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, as well as sperm motility. Maca has also been reported to make the decline in sperm production as a result of toxins being induced in the body, less severe. Maca has also been reported to have positive effects on female fertility. It is neither documented which substances provide these fertility-boosting properties, but it has been theorized that this could be attributed to its glucosinolate levels, or simply due to the fact that Maca contains several of the components that are vital for reproductive functions, such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, chromium, selenium, etc.

Maca is also claimed to be an adaptogen. An adaptogen targets systems and functions within the body that are working sub-optimally and restores these systems and functions to perform optimally. By doing this, it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s glandular-hormonal system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, musculature and other systems. Adaptogens don’t overstimulate, they simply normalize bodily functions that are out of balance.

In addition to Maca‘s positive effect on libido, sexual function and fertility, Maca is also reported to help athletes with faster muscle gain, more stamina, more energy and more rapid recovery times.

Maca also appears to be a potent neuroprotective agent, may possess blood pressure reducing properties, may reduce cortisol leels, is noted to strengthen the immune system, battle fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome, sooth menopause symptoms, regulate PMS, hot flashes and be a potent suppressor of prostatic hypertrophy. Research also indicates that Maca may reduce psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression. Maca is also used to combat anemia, improve memory functions and mental clarity, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, leukemia and thyroid problems.

My Experience

  • Form: Loose powder
  • Dose: Two half-topped tablespoon (approximately 14 grams)
  • When: One hour before sexual activity
  • Effect on Libido: Good
  • Effect on Erections: Good
  • Effect on Sensation: Good
  • Taste: Has a nutty flavor
  • Verdict: A great supplements
  • Noticed Side-Effects: None

The first time I tried Maca, I took it in capsules and would take about 1.5 g a day. However, this produced zero effect in me. I then tried a half-topped tablespoon, or about 7 grams. This did something too me, but the effect was still not great. It was only when I took two half-topped tablespoon, or about 14 grams that Maca opened my eyes to its capabilities.

Btw, the Maca I have used has simply been the powder of the ground up hypocotyl. It has not gone through a process where certain parts have been extracted. Therefore this powder is of a relatively normal vegetable and hence it would probably be hard to consume too much of it.

Also, Maca is grown in very high altitudes where almost nothing else grows or survives, so there is normally no need to use pesticides or herbicides or similar to help it grow. Hence, Maca will by default normally be organically grown.

I take Maca about one hour before sexual activity. I mix two half-topped tablespoon of the powder (about 14 grams) with cold water in a cup. I stir with a fork until the powder is dissolved in the liquid, and then drink the mixture. To me, the taste is nice. It’s to me reminiscent of hazelnuts, and I never have any issues drinking it. Btw, I also add one tablespoon Maca to my smoothie in the morning.

I find that the effects I get from Maca are wonderful! The effects may be slightly more subtle than the effect from some of the other herbal supplements, but the effects are still impactful. I have experienced three possible effects on sex from supplements. And Maca is able to produce all three in me.

The first effect I get is an increase in libido. After about 45 minutes or an hour after taking this supplement I can sometimes start to sense a slight jump in sex drive and I often start having random sexual thoughts.

The second effect I get is that my erections are fuller and come more easily. Also after about 45 minutes or an hour after taking Maca, if I start thinking about sex, I normally easily get an erection. And when I have sex, my erections are noticeably firmer and stronger. Not only that, but my erections normally last pretty much for as long as I want. Also, if I stop sex and restart a few minutes later, it is normally easy to again get erections.

Lastly, the pleasurable sensations I get from sex are also stronger when I use Maca. Its like the scale of enjoyment from sex has been expanded and I am able to get even more pleasure from sex than before. The sensations are more intense, more amplified and just more blissful. For me, Maca is in other words able to make sex even better!

Also, I have never experienced any side effects from Maca.

Although Maca is great on its own, the effects are even more intense when I have combined it with other supplements, such as l-arginine (or l-citrulline), pine bark and ZMA. When taking these supplements together, the effects and experiences I have had have simply been amazing.

This has further increased my libido, made my erections even stronger and also made the sensations from sex even more powerful. You can learn more about this in the section called The Solution. And the best thing is that these combinations are relatively reliable, meaning I normally always have the same positive experience.

Research Studies

Bogani P, Simonini F, Iriti M, Rossoni M, Faoro F, Poletti A, Visioli F. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) does not exert direct androgenic activities. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr 6; 104(3):415-7.

Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. Beneficial Effects of Lepidium Meyenii on Psychological Symptoms and Measure of Sexual Dysfunction in Postmenopausal Women Are Not Related to Estrogen or Androgen Content. Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec; 15(6):1157-62. DOI: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953.

Bustos-Obregon E, Yucra S, Gonzales GF. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) reduces spermatogenic damage induced by a single dose of malathion in mice. Asian J Androl. 2005 Mar; 7(1):71-6.

Chacon RC. A study of the chemical composition of Lepidium meyenii. Dissertation, Univ Nac Mayor de San Marcos, Peru, 1961.

Chung F, Rubio J, Gonzales C, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Apr 8; 98(1-2):143-7.

Cicero AF, Bandieri E, Arletti R. Lepidium meyenii Walp. improves sexual behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001 May; 75(2-3):225-9.

Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall; 14(3):182-91.

Gasco M, Aguilar J, Gonzales GF. Effect of chronic treatment with three varieties of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on reproductive parameters and DNA quantification in adult male rats. Andrologia. 2007 Aug; 39(4):151-8.

Gasco M, Villegas L, Yucra S, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Dose-response effect of Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on benign prostatic hyperplasia induced by testosterone enanthate. Phytomedicine. 2007 Aug; 14(7-8):460-4.

Gonzales C, Cárdenas-Valencia I, Leiva-Revilla J, Anza-Ramirez C, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Forsch Komplementmed 2010 16;17(3):137-43.

Gonzales C, Rubio J, Gasco M, Nieto J, Yucra S, Gonzales GF. Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Feb 20; 103(3):448-54.

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; 3:301-3.

Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia 2002; 34:367-72.

Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. J Endocrinol. 2003 Jan; 176(1):163-8.

Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Córdova A, Chung A, Rubio J, Villegas L. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on spermatogenesis in male rats acutely exposed to high altitude (4340 m). J Endocrinol. 2004 Jan; 180(1):87-95.

Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Malheiros-Pereira A, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Antagonistic effect of Lepidium meyenii (red maca) on prostatic hyperplasia in adult mice. Andrologia. 2008 Jun; 40(3):179-85. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00834.

Gonzales GF, Gonzales-Castañeda C. The Methyltetrahydro-{beta}-Carbolines in Maca (Lepidium meyenii). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Sep;6(3):315-6. DOI: 10.1093/ecam/nen041.

Gonzales GF, Miranda S, Nieto J, Fernández G, Yucra S, Rubio J, Yi P, Gasco M. Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2005 Jan 20; 3:5.

Gonzales GF, Nieto J, Rubio J, Gasco M. Effect of Black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats. Andrologia. 2006 Oct; 38(5):166-72.

Gonzales GF, Rubio J, Chung A, Gasco M, Villegas L. Effect of alcoholic extract of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on testicular function in male rats. Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec; 5(4):349-52.

Gonzales GF, Ruiz A, Gonzales C, Villegas L, Cordova A. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats. Asian J Androl. 2001 Sep; 3(3):231-3

Gonzales GF, Vasquez V, Rodriguez D, Maldonado C, Mormontoy J, Portella J, Pajuelo M, Villegas L, Gasco M. Effect of two different extracts of red maca in male rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia. Asian J Androl. 2007 Mar; 9(2):245-51.

Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012:193496. DOI: 10.1155/2012/193496.

Labbate LA, Lare SB. Sexual dysfunction in male psychiatric outpatients: validity of the Massachusetts General Hospital Sexual Functioning Questionnaire. Psychother Psychosom. 2001 Jul-Aug; 70(4):221-5.

Lentz A, Gravitt K, Carson CC, Marson L. Acute and chronic dosing of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on male rat sexual behavior. J Sex Med. 2007 Mar; 4(2):332-9; discussion 339-40.

McCollom MM, Villinski JR, McPhail KL, Craker LE, Gafner S. Analysis of macamides in samples of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) by HPLC-UV-MS/MS. Phytochem Anal 2005 Nov-Dec; 16(6):463-9.

Pino-Figueroa A, Nguyen D, Maher TJ. Neuroprotective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca). Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jun; 1199:77-85. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05174.

Ranilla LG, Kwon YI, Apostolidis E, Shetty K. Phenolic compounds, antioxidant activity and in vitro inhibitory potential against key enzymes relevant for hyperglycemia and hypertension of commonly used medicinal plants, herbs and spices in Latin America. Bioresour Technol. 2010 Jun; 101(12):4676-89. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2010.01.093.

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. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-6-23

Rubio J, Dang H, Gong M, Liu X, Chen SL, Gonzales GF. Aqueous and hydroalcoholic extracts of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) improve scopolamine-induced memory impairment in mice. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Oct; 45(10):1882-90.

Rubio J, Qiong W, Liu X, Jiang Z, Dang H, Chen SL, Gonzales GF. Aqueous Extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on Memory Impairment Induced by Ovariectomy in Mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011:253958. DOI: 10.1093/ecam/nen063.

Rubio J, Riqueros MI, Gasco M, Yucra S, Miranda S, Gonzales GF. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) reversed the lead acetate induced — damage on reproductive function in male rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2006 Jul; 44(7):1114-22

Rubio J, Yucra S, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Dose-response effect of black maca (Lepidium meyenii) in mice with memory impairment induced by ethanol. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2011 Oct; 21(8):628-34. DOI: 10.3109/15376516.2011.583294.

Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Maca EE. (L. Meyenii) for Improving Sexual Function: A Systematic Review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine August 2010.

Srikugan L, Sankaralingam A, McGowan B. First case report of testosterone assay-interference in a female taking maca (Lepidium meyenii). BMJ Case Rep. 2011 Mar 25; 2011. pii: bcr0120113781. DOI: 10.1136/bcr.01.2011.3781.

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 Dec 10; 126(3):574-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.012.

Tellez MR, Khan IA, Kobaisy M, Schrader KK, Dayan FE, Osbrink W. Composition of the essential oil of Lepidium meyenii (Walp). Phytochemistry. 2002 Sep; 61(2):149-55.

Valentová K, Buckiová D, Kren V, Peknicová J, Ulrichová J, Simánek V. The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts. Cell Biol Toxicol. 2006 Mar; 22(2):91-9.

Valentová K, Ulrichová J. Smallanthus sonchifolius and Lepidium meyenii – prospective Andean crops for the prevention of chronic diseases. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2003 Dec; 147(2):119-30.

Vecera R, Orolin J, Skottová N, Kazdová L, Oliyarnik O, Ulrichová J, Simánek V. The influence of maca (Lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2007 Jun; 62(2):59-63.

Yábar E, Pedreschi R, Chirinos R, Campos D. Glucosinolate content and myrosinase activity evolution in three maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) ecotypes during preharvest, harvest and postharvest drying. Food Chemistry. Volume 127, Issue 4, 15 August 2011, Pages 1576–1583.

Yucra S, Gasco M, Rubio J, Nieto J, Gonzales GF. Effect of different fractions from hydroalcoholic extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on testicular function in adult male rats. Fertil Steril. 2008 May; 89(5 Suppl):1461-7

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 Apr; 41(2):95-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.

Zhang Y, Yu L, Ao M, Jin W. Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr 21; 105(1-2):274-9.

Zhao J, Muhammad I, Dunbar DC, Mustafa J, Khan IA. New alkamides from maca (Lepidium meyenii). J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Feb 9; 53(3):690-3.

Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, Rogers L, Shao Y, Huang ZY, Lu Y, Yan SJ, Qien LC, Zheng QY. Effect of a lipidic extract from lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology. 2000 Apr; 55(4):598-602.

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