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  Maca (Lepidium meyenii)  
 
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In Peru, where it is grown, maca is consumed as a food. Once placed on the endangered plant list, it is now grown on thousands of acres as a commercial product. The maca root is dried and ground, then used to make everything from soups to alcoholic beverages. The leaves are brewed for tea. Maca has been used by Peruvian consumers for many centuries, since before the time of the Incas. The Incas found maca so potent that they restricted its use to their royalty's court. Upon overrunning the Inca people, conquering Spaniards became aware of this plant's value and collected tribute in maca roots for export to Spain. Maca was used as an energy enhancer, increasing male potency or improving other hormonal function.

Aguila Calderon, M.D., the former dean of the Faculty of Human Medicine at the National University of Federico Villarreal in Lima uses maca for male impotence, erectile dysfunction, menopausal symptoms and general fatigue, and claims good results. Arizona physician Gary F. Gordon, M.D., former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, is also a maca supporter. He calls it "nature's Viagra".

The supposed mechanism of action is by normalizing steroid hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. It acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido. Maca may boost desire but does not share Viagra's erection-enhancing properties.

Scientist Gustavo Gonzales of Peru's Cayetano Heredia University, who led what the scientists say is the world's first study into maca's effect on humans, told a news conference the three-month trial involving 12 volunteer men pointed to an 180-200% lift in libido and up to a doubling of sperm production. Maca produced an increase in sex drive within two weeks. The study, funded by Peruvian pharmaceuticals company Hersil, also found maca reduced blood pressure and had no adverse effect on the heart. Although it also appeared to boost the production and movement of sperm, Gonzales said more research was needed as the test had been restricted to a very small sample.

To be consistent with Peruvian usage levels one should take 3,000-5,000mg per day of maca, but one can certainly take more. The more maca or maca extract that is consumed, the more the likely benefit. Toxicity studies conducted on maca in the U.S. showed absolutely no toxicity or adverse pharmacologic effects. In animal studies, the more maca animals consume, the stronger and more sexually active they become.

There are always a few individuals who will show an allergic reaction or who fall into a group of women or men for whom a pituitary stimulator such as maca is contraindicated in the absence of studies that prove its safety. Men using maca on a regular basis should undergo periodic PSA tests.
 

 
 

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) can help with the following:
 
 
Hormones  Low Sex Drive
 Maca extracts enhanced the sexual function of the mice and rats, as evidenced by an increase in the number of complete intromissions and the number of sperm-positive females in normal mice, and a decrease in the latent period of erection (LPE) in male rats with erectile dysfunction. [Urology 2000 Apr;55(4): pp.598-602] A similar benefit has been reported in human males, but further trials are necessary to confirm this.

A human study confirms the rodent findings. Researchers at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, in Lima, Peru, performed a 12-week double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial in which active treatment with different doses of maca was compared with placebo. Men aged 21-56 years received 3gm of maca. An improvement in sexual desire was observed with maca at 8 weeks of treatment. Serum testosterone and estradiol levels were not different in men treated with maca than in those treated with placebo.

Another study was designed to determine the effect of a 4-month oral treatment with tablets of maca on seminal analysis in adult normal men aged 24-44 years old. Nine men received tablets of maca (1500 or 3000mg) for 4 months. Serum luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone and estradiol levels were measured before and after treatment. Treatment with maca resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility. Serum hormone levels were not altered.

Risks

Not recommended for:
  Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer
 Men with a high PSA level or a history of prostate cancer should not be using maca.

  Increased Risk of Endometrial Cancer
 Women with a history or risk of hormone-related cancers, such as endometrial cancer, should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.

  Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
 Women with a history or increased risk of breast cancer should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.

Tumors, Malignant

Not recommended for:
  Endometrial Cancer
 Women with endometrial cancer should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.

  Breast Cancer
 Women with breast cancer should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.

Uro-Genital

  Menopausal Status / Issues
 Dr. Malaspina, a respected cardiologist in Lima, has been using the maca root in his practice for a decade and reports finding maca to be effective for women with menopausal symptoms, including one who had had her ovaries removed. Maca is usually taken several months before symptoms subside.

  Male Infertility (Low Sperm Count)
 Another study was designed to determine the effect of a 4-month oral treatment with tablets of maca on seminal analysis in adult normal men aged 24-44 years old. Nine men received tablets of maca (1500 or 3000mg) for 4 months. Serum luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone and estradiol levels were measured before and after treatment. Treatment with maca resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility. Serum hormone levels were not altered.
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help
Reasonably likely to cause problems







GLOSSARY

Estrogen:  One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.

Hormones:  Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.

Menopause:  The cessation of menstruation (usually not official until 12 months have passed without periods), occurring at the average age of 52. As commonly used, the word denotes the time of a woman's life, usually between the ages of 45 and 54, when periods cease and any symptoms of low estrogen levels persist, including hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, loss of libido and vaginal dryness. When these early menopausal symptoms subside, a woman becomes postmenopausal.

Milligram:  (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Pituitary:  The pituitary gland is small and bean-shaped, located below the brain in the skull base very near the hypothalamus. Weighing less than one gram, the pituitary gland is often called the "master gland" since it controls the secretion of hormones by other endocrine glands.

Steroid:  Any of a large number of hormonal substances with a similar basic chemical structure containing a 17-carbon 14-ring system and including the sterols and various hormones and glycosides.

Testosterone:  The principal male sex hormone that induces and maintains the changes that take place in males at puberty. In men, the testicles continue to produce testosterone throughout life, though there is some decline with age. A naturally occurring androgenic hormone.