Learn More About Maca
What Is Maca?
Maca, or Lepidium meyenii, one of nature’s more interesting and exotic herbs, can be found in the remote Andes Montains. The Peruvian natives there in that chilly, arid region have cultivated this cruciferous vegetable for several thousand years. A hardy plant, Maca root is an important part of their diet, which is otherwise limited due to the inhospitable conditions of life at 15,000 feet.
Maca has lately become much sought after by the outside world, due to its reputed medicinal and health effects.
What Is Maca Used For?
In addition to the high esteem in which Andean peasants have held Maca, another early hint of its possible benefits came with several studies involving male laboratory rats. These tests consistently show that regular administration of oral doses of Maca greatly boost sexual function in the rodents, and in one particularly intriguing case revealed a 100% increase in semen production.
All of this seems in line with Maca’s long-held folk reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac, but do human studies bear out these results? A possible answer to that question lies with work carried out at an Italian hospital in 2009. Two-and-a-half grams of Maca extract was given daily to twenty-five men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, while a equally large group of men with the same medical problem received a placebo. Three months out no improvement was noted among those dosed with the placebo. whereas the subjects getting the Maca reported more frequency and satisfaction in their sex lives.
Related research that took place in Boston in 2008, when clinicians at a hospital administered Maca in doses ranging from fifteen hundred milligrams to three thousand milligrams per day to a group of two dozen patients whose regimen of SSRI antidepressants had caused a loss of sexual function. As judged by a highly technical questionnaire that the doctors doing the study used, the lower amounts of Maca had no effect on the subjects libido, although neither did they report any side effects. But the group that took 3000 milligrams each day experienced a major benefit from Maca even though they also stayed on the drug that had induced their problem.
Maca may have other applications as well, as suggested by one trial that involved over a dozen postmenopausal women given thirty-five hundred milligrams of Maca per day for nearly two months. The women generally reported markedly less anxiousness and dysphoria, and also experienced in increase in sexual desire and activity. Oddly, the above study, as do a number of others, show that Maca appears to cause no change at all in hormone levels, including testosterone and estrogen. Its effect on libido and other aspects of sexual health appear to happen through some other biochemical mechanism that has yet to be understood.
Anecdotally, a great many athletes as well as "weekend warriors" and even the sedentary also report a similar aphrodisiac effect from Maca, but also gains in strength and energy, as well as an increase in fertility. Given Maca’s still somewhat mysterious properties, speculation as to how these changes come about is premature. How is maca taken?
Some people simply consume the entire Maca root, but a number of others find its starch difficult to digest. For this reason many herbalists and nutritionally oriented doctors suggest either a liquid extract or capsule form of this herb.
As indicated by the studies that have been mentioned, an amount of Maca in the range of a thousand to three thousand milligrams per day seems reasonable.
Is Maca Safe?
That Maca has no known effect on hormone levels seems to suggest that it has a good safety profile. No side effects from using Maca have been reported at this time, although you should always discuss this and any other nutritional supplements that you wish to take with your health care provider.
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