Evidence suggests that there has been a global decline in the quality of human sperm in just the last few decades alone (Jorgensen et al., 2001; Sengupta et al., 2018).
One research group looked at almost 43,000 men over 40 years and found that there was a significant decline of 50-60% in sperm counts. These men hailed from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand (Levine et al., 2017).
These findings are not reassuring, and have sparked great concern over the apparent decline in sperm count of Western men. This trend can be explained by significant lifestyle factors that are unique to modern men.
These include cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, the use of recreational drugs (e.g., marijuana), obesity, psychological stress, and advanced paternal age (Durairajanayagam, 2018).
In an attempt to reverse sub-optimal fertility or even infertility, many men have resorted to pharmacotherapy.
Pharmacotherapy for infertility includes clomiphene, anastrozole, and testosterone supplementation. These options care not without their adverse effects. In this article, we introduce a natural alternative to these drugs – Maca root.
What is Maca Root?
Maca (Lepidiummeyenii) is an Andean cruciferous root vegetable that belongs to the brassica (mustard) family and has been leveraged by the ancient Andeans for years to enhance fertility (Tharakan and Manyam, 2005).
Maca is a hardy and perennial plant that is cultivated in the Andes of Peru and grows at altitudes over 13,000 feet. It has been shown to improve sexual health, balance hormone levels, and boost energy levels, mood, and memory. Maca root is also referred to as Peruvian ginseng and was discovered in the late 15th century.
To the untrained eye, Maca resembles a radish, turnip or parsnip, and its cream-colored root is sweet to taste. Although Maca root was discovered hundreds of years ago, it grew in popularity from the 1990s to 2014 because of its impressive effects on fertility.
Indeed, preparations of the maca root have been reported to enhance sexual function in healthy people as well as animals (Chung et al., 2005; Zheng et al., 2000).
In Peru, Maca is prepared by mashing and boiling its root to produce a sweet and viscous liquid. This liquid can subsequently be converted into a flour or powder after letting it dry. Maca is considered to be a precious Peruvian commodity because it exclusively grows in a very limited area around Lake Junin in central Peru.
Maca root has been shown to increase sperm production and even sperm motility (Gonzales et al., 2001) as well as increase one’s libido (Zenico et al., 2009; Brooks et al., 2008). In the next section, we discuss the evidence for this purported effect as well as some other benefits of ingesting Maca root.
The Benefits of Maca Root Extract
1) Maca root significantly boosts sperm count and sperm quality
- One study evaluated the effects of a four-month oral treatment with tablets of Maca root on the production and quality of sperm in nine men.
- The men received 1,500 and 3,000 mg of Maca extract per day for four months, and a seminal analysis was performed at the end of the study.
- The researchers observed that treatment with Maca increased the volume of ejaculate, sperm count and motility of the sperm.
- Importantly, the researchers did not observe and hormonal changes in testosterone amongst the nine men (Gonzales et al., 2001).
- Another more recent study in 2015 looked at twenty men aged 20-40 years old and divided them into experimental (Maca) and control (placebo) groups
- The Maca group received 1,750 mg of Maca extract a day, whereas the control group did not.
- After 12 weeks, the researchers observed that the concentration and motility of sperm were increased in the Maca group as compared to the control group (Melnikovova et al., 2015).
2) Maca can alleviate the symptoms of menopause
- One double-blind placebo-controlled trial looked at twenty Caucasian women who were in early menopause.
- The researchers administered placebo (dummy medication) to the women for one month, followed by Maca for two months and eight months respectively.
- Hormone levels were determined in the blood of these women at periodic intervals.
- The researchers found that the hormones responsible for the symptoms of menopause significantly decreased when the women were ingesting Maca root extract.
- These hormonal changes were accompanied by significantly reduced feelings of discomfort that are associated with menopause (e.g., hot flushing and night sweating) (Meissner et al., 2005).
3) Maca can improve libido in women even after menopause
- Another double-blind placebo-controlled trial looked at the effects of Maca root on post-menopausal women who had sexual dysfunction that was brought about by anti-depressant therapy.
- The researchers administered women with 3,000 mg of Maca root extract a day for 12 weeks.
- The women’s’ sexual function was assessed at the end of 12 weeks with two scientifically validated questionnaires.
- The women who consumed Maca root had significantly better sexual function than those in the placebo group (Dording et al., 2015).
- Another study looked at the effects of maca root on post-menopausal women with sexual dysfunction caused by the use of anti-depressants. Compared to a placebo, maca root was able to improve sexual function significantly.
4) Maca can reduce Blood Pressure in patients with Hypertension
- In another study that was scoped to 29 post-menopausal women, researchers administered them with 3,300 mg of Maca root extract daily for 6 weeks.
- No differences in sex hormones were seen between the Maca group and the control group.
- However, the researchers observed significant decreases in blood pressure (Stojanovska et al., 2015).
5) Maca can improve mood in both men and women
- In the same study referenced above, the researchers also observed that the same women who experienced decreases in blood pressure enjoyed the relief of their depressive symptoms as well (Stojanovska et al., 2015).
6) Maca may improve memory and cognitive function in men and women
- Although there are no human studies that look at the memory and cognition boosting effects of Maca, several animal studies attest to these properties.
- One mouse study showed that Maca root extract not only improved cognitive function but also improved motor coordination and physical endurance (Guo et al., 2016).
- Another mouse study showed that the ingestion of a variant of Maca root – black Maca, was associated with improved memory and brain health (Rubio et al., 2011).
7) Maca may reduce enlarged prostate glands in men
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is characterized by an enlarged prostate gland which can cause obstructive lower urinary tract symptoms.
- Although there are no human studies that look at prostate shrinking effects of Maca, several animal studies attest to these properties.
- One study found that red Maca (another variant of Maca root) reduced the size of the prostate gland in rats, without affecting the sex hormone levels (Gonzales et al., 2005).
- Another study found that red Maca inhibits the conversion of key hormones, leading to a disruption of the pathway leading to an enlarged prostate gland (Gasco et al., 2007).
8) Maca contains potent antioxidants for overall wellbeing
- Free radicals that are produced as waste products by human cells can accumulate over time and cause long-term damage to the body.
- Antioxidants are capable of sweeping these free radicals up, leading to a rejuvenation of cells.
- Studies have found that Maca root contains significant amounts of potent antioxidants such as phenols, glucosinolates, and polysaccharides (Rodriguez-Huaman et al., 2017).
- They have also demonstrated the potent antioxidant activities of Maca root extract in scavenging harmful free radicals (Zha et al., 2014).
9) Maca may protect skin against ultraviolet radiation
- The benefits of Maca root extract are not limited to sexual and neurological health alone.
- One rat study found that Maca root protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation.
- The researchers endorsed Maca root extract as a viable alternative to sunscreen and other forms of solar protection (Gonzales-Castaneda and Gonzales, 2008).
Chemical and dietary analyses on Maca root have shed light on its nutritional composition. One ounce of Maca root extract contains:
- Carbohydrates (20g)
- Proteins (4g)
- Fat (1g)
- Essential Amino Acids (2.5g)
- Free Fatty Acids (4g)
- Dietary Fiber (2g)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
- Calcium (70 mg)
- Iron (4.1 mg)
- Potassium (560 mg)
- Sodium (5.0 mg)
- Copper (1.7 mg)
- Manganese (0.2 mg)
- Importantly, Maca root extract contains zero cholesterol.
Potential Side Effects & Precautions
In all of the previous studies cited in this article, Maca root extract has been well tolerated by both human and animal subjects with no reported adverse effects. Nevertheless, some patients may report the following mild side effects:
- Acid reflux
A review of the scientific literature reveals that human consumption of up to 1g/kg per day is considered safe. This means that the average adult male who weighs 60kg can consume up to 60g of Maca root extract a day safely. This threshold is well above the commonly administered dosage of Maca root extract.
Where to Find and How to Use Maca Root Extract
At Ben’s Natural Health, we use only genuine Maca root extract that is sourced directly from the Peruvian Andes.
Our Testo-Booster contains 20:1 Maca root extract at a dose of 625 mg per capsule. Our Testo-Booster contains not just Maca root extract but complements this unique root with other synergistic compounds such as Tongkat Ali, Ashwagandha, Black Pepper fruit, and Oatstraw.
We strongly recommend checking for the source of the Maca root and ensuring that the dose is compatible with the safety threshold.
At the same time, because Maca root extract is valuable, ensure that the supplement is not diluted or adulterated with ‘filler’ compounds – check the nutritional label at the back. Maca root extract is commonly available as a capsule, powder, or liquid formulation.
Maca Root versus Ginseng
One common misconception is that Maca root and Ginseng originate from the same family. This is because Maca root is also termed as Peruvian Ginseng.
However, in truth, Maca root and Ginseng are not related at all. Maca root is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, whereas Ginseng belongs to the Araliaceae family.
While Maca root originates from Peru, Ginseng originates from North America and Asia.
Ginseng is also not known to boost sexual health and libido, and instead is traditionally used for stress relief, sharpening memory and cognition, and reducing systemic inflammation (Yang et al., 2017).
Ginseng has also been shown to slow down the cellular and metabolic processes of aging directly. As regards taste, Maca root is nutty, earthy, and sweet, whereas Ginseng is distinctly bitter and tart.
Side effects and precautions of Maca
Maca is safe for most people and can be consumed with minimal risk of side effects. However, some potential risks should be noted.
If you have issues with thyroid function, maca should be consumed moderately and not in raw form. It contains substances called goitrogens, which can negatively affect the thyroid. Check with your doctor before taking maca if you have a history of thyroid problems.
Furthermore, because of maca’s effects on hormone levels, physicians believe that maca should not be consumed by people who rely on hormone-altering medications.
People who have high blood pressure are also advised not to consume maca to avoid adverse maca root side effects.
Adding Maca Root Extract to the Diet
As a superfood, Maca root extract can be incorporated into one’s diet in many ways. One of the benefits of Maca root extract is that it is both sweet and nutty, allowing it to be integrated into both sweet and savory foods:
- Garnishing ice-cream
- Adding into hot chocolate or coffee for a nutty flavor
- Using Maca flour to make breads or pancakes
- Enriching overnight oats
- Blending into a fruit/protein smoothie for a post-workout boost
- Imparting earthy flavors into savory soups or curries
Maca root is an ancient and understated natural supplement which has benefits that extend far beyond sexual health.
Maca root enhances not just one’s libido, sperm count, and quality, but also improves mood, cognition, memory, systemic inflammation, and blood pressure.
While Maca root is commonly associated with men’s health, it has also been shown to influence post-menopausal women positively. Maca root extract is the ideal supplement for both sexes and can be integrated into the diet easily because of its nutty and sweet flavor profile.
Please visit our supplement store to take a look at some of our Maca root extract supplements and see how we integrate this powerful superfood with other herbs and fruits into a holistic blend for sexual and overall health.