The Safest Choice?
This maca review almost didn't get written. I have to admit among all the plants I looked at, I was the most skeptical of the effects of maca. This cruciferous plant known as lepidium meyenii (brassica, like garlic) is cultivated almost exclusively in the Peruvian Andes at altitudes over 4000 ft and is known as an aphdrodesiac.
One reason I was so skeptical here is that we aren't dealing with some funky vine extract or jungle plant. Instead, we're talking about a FOOD! That's right, roasted maca is a delicacy in Peru. But it was also something traditionally consumed by warriors before battle (1). A second reason for my hesitation on this herb is that it is prescribed for increasing libido in both men and women (2). While I realize that I'm being silly, a less-than-rational part of me wants to be taking MAN PILLS, not some pan-sexual tonic.
Maca Review: You could eat it for dinner
Yes, maca is a food-- it has been used for centuries to feed both humans and livestock in Peru. Probably the closest common food you could compare maca to is a root vegetable like a turnip or a beet. As a result of this history, we can be reasonably certain of the safety of maca.
Maca Review: Scientifically Proven in Humans
An excellent scientific review breaks down all the effects of maca based on over 200 published papers (3). The long and the short of it is that maca impacts sperm health, as measured by semen volume, sperm count, and motility. Mood and libido are also impacted by maca intake, but interestingly, this effect does not occur by increasing testosterone or other sex hormones (4). If you're buying supplements, black maca has the most pronounced effects on sperm production, while yellow maca is less potent and red maca does not impact sperm production. Red maca, however, has been shown to impact.
Unlike a number of other supplements, maca has been examined for both safety and efficacy in controlled clinical trials (5). Although this particular study is far from perfect in terms of clinical design, no adverse events were reported and statistical improvement of sexual desire was observed.
Maca Review: My Experience
I have to start by saying that I did not have any preconception around what would happen to my libido upon my taking maca. I actually came into the picture with a considerable degree of skepticism. Fortunately, I found myself pleasantly surprised. What I noticed was that my libido was strongly improved upon taking maca. But that's about where things ended. I didn't become superman in bed. No magic fireworks. I just really really wanted to be there with a woman. And like Woody Allen says "90% of life is just showing up."
Considering the overall history of safe use of maca and my own experience with efficacy, I can conclude this maca review by recommending maca for occasional dips in libido. I even would consider using it as a long term supplement.
If you like this maca review, check out the rest of my phytoandrogen reviews here.
1. Balick, MJ, Lee, R. "Maca: from traditional food crop to energy and libido stimulant." Alter Ther Health Med. 8 (2002) 96-8.
2. Rowland, DL, Tai, W. "A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions." J Sex Marit Ther. 29 (2003) 185-205.
3. Gonzales, GF, Gonzales, C, Gonzales-Castaneda, C. "Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru-- from tradition to science." Forsch Komplementmed. 16 (2009) 373-80.
4. Gonzales, GF, Cordova, A, Vega, K, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reporductive hormone levels in adult healthy men." J Endocrinol. 176 (2003) 163-8.
5. Gonzales, GF, Corodova, A, Vega, K, et al. "Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men." Andrologia 34 (2002) 367-72.
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