Discover the Function, Sources and Benefits of the Health Supplement Ingredient Maca, or Lepidium Meyenii
Maca – also known as Lepidium meyenii or Lepidium peruvianum – is a plant that is native to Peru and found in the high Andes. While it is sometimes called “Peruvian ginseng,” maca is not related to the ginseng plant; rather, it is a cruciferous root vegetable in the same family as mustard, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Maca extract or powder is often used as an ingredient in select health and bodybuilding supplements, such as Somatropinne HGH, Ana-GH and Testosterone Plus.
Functions of Maca
The nutritional value of maca has long been recognized in both traditional and modern cultures, and these nutritional properties underlie maca’s reputation for enhancing energy, strength and endurance. Powdered maca is estimated to contain 59% carbohydrates, 8.5% fiber and more than 10% protein. It is also a good source of vitamins and essential amino acids, and is particularly high in iron and Vitamin C. Maca has been shown to improve sexual performance and fertility in both animals and humans. Its fertility-enhancing effects are believed to result from aromatic isothiocyanates hydrolyzed from glucosinolates, while its libido-boosting properties are attributed to the prostaglandins, sterols and amides of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Maca also supports the immune system and overall health through its antiviral and antioxidant properties.
Sources of Maca
Maca is grown and harvested in the Peruvian Andes, which is generally the only place where fresh maca is consumed. In Peru, the root may be roasted or boiled; it is often made into a porridge (mazamorra) and its flour is used for bread, cakes and pancakes. Maca root is also used in a fermented beverage known as macha chicha, and its leaves may be eaten either raw or cooked. Outside of its immediate growing region, maca root is typically sold dried, in powder/flour form or as gelatinized maca. Supplements may contain extracts made from dried roots, maca flour or gelatinized maca.
Maca Benefits and Uses
As a food source or dietary supplement, maca has excellent nutritional value that may help increase energy, strength and endurance. It also promotes overall health and wellbeing through its antiviral and antioxidant activity. One of the most common uses of maca is to support sexual health; it has been documented to have aphrodisiacal and fertility-enhancing properties, including increased sperm count and motility in males. Some studies have indicated maca can improve menopausal symptoms, and reduce blood pressure and depression in postmenopausal women.
Side Effects of Maca and Potential Interactions
Maca supplements are generally considered safe for healthy adults; no side effects or interactions have been reported at dosages of up to 3 grams per day. However, some medical professionals advise women with hormone-sensitive conditions to avoid using maca, since it can potentially worsen breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids or endometriosis.
More detailed safety information on maca side effects and interactions can be found on WebMD. As with any medication or health supplement, it is best to consult your physician before taking dietary supplements containing maca.
Maca Research and Studies
Numerous studies have examined maca’s effects on various medical conditions as well as its impact on overall health and athletic performance. While further clinical research is needed to evaluate its effectiveness for many of these uses, animal and human studies have strongly supported maca’s aphrodisiacal and fertility-enhancing effects.
Two separate animal studies published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology explored maca’s impact on the sexual health of rats; their findings revealed that maca improved several measures of sexual behavior while black maca increased daily sperm counts and sperm motility. Other research has shown that maca has similar effects on humans. An article in the Asian Journal of Andrology reported that maca increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculum, motile sperm count and sperm motility in adult men. BioMed Central (BMC) Complementary & Alternative Medicine published a systematic review of random clinical trials; the authors found that maca improved sexual performance in patients with erectile dysfunction and had a significant positive effect on sexual dysfunction or sexual desire in healthy menopausal women or healthy adult men.
Beyond its abilities to increase sexual desire and performance, maca has been shown to benefit women in several ways. A systematic review published in Maturitas reported that maca demonstrated favorable effects on menopausal symptoms, while a study featured in Climacteric noted significant decreases in blood pressure and depression in postmenopausal women. Furthermore, maca was also found to have an antidepressant effect on mice exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress, according to research featured in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Many believe that maca has positive effects on athletic performance, metabolism and post-workout recovery, though further clinical trials are needed to conclusively support these benefits. One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology investigated maca’s effect on the sexual desire and athletic performance of trained male cyclists, and determined that maca supplementation improved both sexual desire and cycling time trial performance. An animal study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition stated that maca polysaccharides had a positive effect on lipid and glucose metabolism in rats – significantly decreasing the levels of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and total cholesterol; lowering the level of triacylglycerols in the plasma, VLDL and liver; and reducing glucose levels in blood.
Finally, several studies have shown that maca supports the immune system and overall health through its antiviral and antioxidant properties. The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine reported that maca exhibits antiviral activity against human influenza type A and B viruses (Flu-A and Flu-B), “providing remarkable therapeutic benefits.” Maca’s antioxidant activity has been recorded in numerous publications, including Carbohydrate Polymers and Food Chemistry.
For additional Maca research, refer to the PubMed site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
HGH.com Supplements With Maca
Athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can take advantage of maca’s nutritional and health benefits through natural fitness and bodybuilding supplements from HGH.com:
Somatropinne HGH – Purity Select’s natural Somatropinne HGH capsules contain a proprietary blend of plant extracts. As an over-the-counter HGH releaser, this supplement is formulated to help athletes build lean muscle and gain increased energy. It is also designed to provide weight-loss and anti-aging benefits.
Ana-GH – Each serving of Ana-GH contains L-group amino acids and other natural ingredients, including maca and horny goat weed. This supplement is intended to jumpstart bulking cycles by promoting muscle mass and weight gains while improving protein synthesis and contributing to joint and muscle repair.
Testosterone Plus – Purity Select’s HGH Testosterone Plus features a proprietary blend of maca, long jack, ginkgo biloba and other natural ingredients. These capsules are formulated to help build muscle, aid in muscle recovery and boost energy while delivering sexual health benefits such as improved libido and stamina.
References (Function, Sources, Benefits/Uses and Side Effects/Interactions):
Balick, Michael J. and Roberta Lee. “Maca: From Traditional Food Crop to Energy and Libido Stimulant”; Alternative Therapies; March/April 2002. <http://sciweb.nybg.org/science2/pdfs/mb/Maca_Mar_Apr_2002.pdf>
Bruno, Gene. “Maca”; Smart Supplementation, published by Huntington College of Health Sciences; 2000. <http://www.hchs.edu/literature/Maca.pdf>
Examine.com. “Maca”; published under “Supplements”; accessed May 26, 2015. <http://examine.com/supplements/Maca>
Johannes, Laura. “Maca: Can a Root Boost Energy and Sex Drive?”; The Wall Street Journal; December 22, 2014. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/maca-can-a-root-boost-energy-and-sex-drive-1419275240>
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Maca”; published under “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products” within Integrative Medicine area of website; last updated April 20, 2013; accessed May 26, 2015. <https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/maca>
WebMD and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “Maca”; published under “Vitamins & Supplements”; accessed May 26, 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-555-maca.aspx?activeIngredientId=555&activeIngredientName=maca&source=1>
Ai, Zhong; Ai-Fang Cheng; et al. “Antidepressant-Like Behavioral, Anatomical, and Biochemical Effects of Petroleum Ether Extract from Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) in Mice Exposed to Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress”; Journal of Medicinal Food; May 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24730393>
Cicero, A.F.G.; E. Bandieri; and R. Arletti. “Lepidium Meyenii Walp. Improves Sexual Behaviour in Male Rats Independently From Its Action on Spontaneous Locomotor Activity”; Journal of Ethnopharmacology; May 2001. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11297856>
del Valle Mendoza, Juana; Tomàs Pumarolab; et al. “Antiviral Activity of Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) Against Human Influenza Virus”; Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine; September 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25312160>
Gonzales, Carla; Julio Rubio; et al. “Effect of Short-Term and Long-Term Treatments With Three Ecotypes of Lepidium Meyenii (MACA) on Spermatogenesis in Rats”; Journal of Ethnopharmacology; February 20, 2006. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16174556>
Gonzales, Gustavo F.; Amanda Cordova; et al. “Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) Improved Semen Parameters in Adult Men”; Asian Journal of Andrology; December 2001. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11753476>
Lee, Myeong Soo; Byung-Cheul Shin; et al. “Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) for Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic review”; Maturitas; November 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21840656>
Sandoval, Manuel; Nataly N. Okuhama; et al. “Antioxidant Activity of the Cruciferous Vegetable Maca (Lepidium Meyenii)”; Food Chemistry; November 2002. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814602001334>
Shin, Byung-Cheul; Myeong Soo Lee; et al. “Maca (L. Meyenii) for Improving Sexual Function: A Systematic Review”; BioMed Central (BMC) Complementary & Alternative Medicine; August 6, 2010. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20691074>
Stojanovska, Lily; C. Law; et al. “Maca Reduces Blood Pressure and Depression, in a Pilot Study in Postmenopausal Women”; Climacteric; February 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24931003>
Stone, Mark; Alvin Ibarra; et al. “A Pilot Investigation Into the Effect of Maca Supplementation on Physical Activity and Sexual Desire in Sportsmen”; Journal of Ethnopharmacology; December 10, 2009. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19781622>
Večeřa, Rostislav; Jan Orolin; et al. “The Influence of Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) on Antioxidant Status, Lipid and Glucose Metabolism in Rat”; Plant Foods for Human Nutrition; June 2007. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17333395>
Zha, Shenghua; Qingsheng Zhao; et al. “Extraction, Purification and Antioxidant Activities of the Polysaccharides From Maca (Lepidium Meyenii)”; Carbohydrate Polymers; October 13, 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25037390>