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Maca

Maca is a vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family. It resembles a turnip and has a history of being used as an aphrodisiac.

Our evidence-based analysis on maca features 67 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Maca

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

What is Maca?

Maca is the common name for Lepidium meyenii, a plant in the Brassicaceae family. ‘Maca root’ refers to the root of the plant, which resembles a turnip. It is divided into categories based on the color of the root, which can be red, black, pink or yellow and has historically been grown in Peru. As a supplement, it tends to be turned into a dried powder which is then mixed into smoothies and other beverages.

What are Maca’s benefits?

It has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac and a small amount of research suggests that it can notably increase libido. Further research is needed to determine the main mechanism but it doesn’t work through hormones and does not increase testosterone. It might increase estrogen for women, but studies are quite mixed. Since the majority of research on Maca comes from Peru, research from other regions would go a long way toward confirming Maca’s effects. Maca exports are important to Peru’s economy, and sometimes, new evidence regarding exports can be manipulated, as was the case with policosanol. There is, however, no evidence to suggest tampering with studies on Maca.

It may also reduce the symptoms of menopause, particularly those related to mood, but also possibly hot flashes, though more research is needed to decide if it's particularly effective.

What are Maca’s side-effects and drawbacks?

No significant toxicity has been reported in human consumption. However, there is very little toxicological or safety information available.

What does Maca root do for men?

It may have an inherent ability to treat erectile dysfunction, though it doesn't do so through altering hormones. Much more research is needed to confirm this.

📝 Want a quick summary of maca's potential benefits?

We've analyzed over 100 studies to summarize the research on maca's potential health benefits.

How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

The standard dose for maca is 1,500-3,000mg.

Maca can be supplemented by eating maca root, or through a maca extract. Extracts should be water or ethyl acetate-based.

Maca should be taken daily, alongside food.

Traditionally, maca is treated as a food product, rather than a dietary supplement. Animal studies use 1,000-2,200mg/kg bodyweight doses of maca, which translates into:

  • 10.9-24g of the maca vegetable for a 150lb person

  • 14.5-32g of the maca vegetable for a 200lb person

  • 18.1-40g of the maca vegetable for a 250lb person

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Maca has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Notable Very High See all 4 studies
An increase in libido appears to occur following Maca ingestion, which is notable as it appears to influence all demographics and is not associated with systemic hormones
grade-b Minor - See all 8 studies
It's possible that it can increase estrogen in postmenopausal women, and some studies suggest a considerable increase, though the evidence is weak and inconsistent. More research is needed to determine its effects in postmenopausal and premenopausal women.
grade-b - Very High See all 8 studies
While a small reduction for postmenopausal women has been found in some studies, this isn't reliable and more research is needed to determine its effects.
grade-b - Very High See all 8 studies
No significant influence on luteinizing hormone noted with maca ingestion
grade-b - Very High See all 5 studies
No significant influences on testosterone in any tested demographic
grade-c Minor Moderate See 2 studies
An anxiety reducing effect has been noted in postmenopausal women but not otherwise healthy young men
grade-c Minor Moderate See 2 studies
May reduce depression in postmenopausal women, unlikely to occur in otherwise healthy youth
grade-c Minor - See study
An increase in erection frequency has been noted in men, likely related to the libido enhancing properties
grade-c Minor Very High See all 3 studies
An improvement in SSRI induced sexual dysfunction has been noted with Maca supplementation
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
An increase in well being has been noted
grade-c Minor Very High See all 5 studies
Several studies have noted reduced symptoms associated with menopause; libido was possibly independently increased, but anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, and depression appear to also be reduced. More research is needed to judge its effectiveness.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on anaerobic running capacity associated with Maca
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No significant influence on heart rate noted with Maca ingestion
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No significant influence on prolactin levels
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on the rate of perceived exertion associated with Maca root
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study of postmenopausal women.
grade-d
Minor
- See study
Possible small increase or decrease in postmenopausal women depending on the order of placebo vs maca in a crossover trial. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was an improvement after 4-months in cortical + subcortical and total density, but not trabecular bone, though the researchers didn't determine a p-value due to the small population size. Much more research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was a notable reduction compared with placebo in postmenopausal women who took placebo first in a crossover trial, but not those who took maca first. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was a reduction in healthy adults at low altitudes but not high altitude in one study. The effect was more potent for red than black maca.
grade-d Minor - See study
Black maca, and to a lesser extent, red maca saw a reduction at high altitude compared with placebo, but not at low altitude.
grade-d
Minor
Moderate See 2 studies
There was a reduction compared with placebo in those who took placebo for one month first before two months of maca rather than two months of maca before one month of maca, and no effect of the reverse in one study. In another study, those who took placebo first saw an increase and those who took it second saw a decrease. More research is needed.
grade-d
Minor
- See study
There was a possible reduction in one of the groups in a crossover trial, but not for the other group. More research is needed
grade-d Minor - See study
There were some small improvements in morphology and motility that weren't statistically significant in one study. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
Both red and black maca seemed to reduce symptoms, but red maca was more potent and reliable over the full 12 weeks.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
Two studies have found reductions for postmenopausal women. More research is needed.
grade-d - - See study
Possibly a reduction at high altitude but the difference wasn't statistically significant in one study. Much more research is needed.
grade-d - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 3 studies.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
There was an increase compared with placebo for postmenopausal women who took maca first but not those who took it second in one trial, and no effect in another trial.
grade-d - Moderate See all 4 studies
Mixed evidence, with some studies suggesting an increase for postmenopausal women, but the overall evidence not pointing to a consistent or reliable effect.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in subjective ratings at low or high altitudes in one study of healthy adults.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect in two studies.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
There was a possible small reduction in one study but the difference wasn't statistically significant as compared with placebo. Another study didn't imply a meaningful effect.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
No apparent effect, overall. One study noted an increase in the group that received placebo first in a crossover trial, but not in the group that received maca first. Another study found a reduction in the group to receive placebo first but not the group that received maca first, though none of the effects were statistically significant.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
Meaningful and convincing differences compared with placebo haven't been found in two studies.

Studies Excluded from Consideration

  • Confounded with Uncaria guianensis 300mg[1]

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Maca

Four Testosterone Boosters and Sketchy Research

Things to Note

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Lepidium meyenii, Maca root, Peruvian Ginseng

  • Maca Root may increase sexual desire, but is otherwise non-stimulatory

  • Maca Root does not taste nice, a very dirt-like grassy taste; capsules are generally better liked than powders for the uninitiated

📝 Want a quick summary of maca's potential benefits?

We've analyzed over 100 studies to summarize the research on maca's potential health benefits.

Click here to see all 67 references.