Maca – The Peruvian Root for Energy and Athletic Performance

Maca is the root of an herb-like plant that is found in the Andes of Peru. It is cultivated by hand and has traditionally been found on the sides of mountains where sheep and Alpaca graze. It may take on different colors and shapes from plant to plant and it is approximately the size of a turnip. It has been consumed over the centuries as a food and it is therefore very safe to eat.

Peruvian maca root has been receiving more notice lately not for its food qualities but for its athletic performance enhancing traits and among supplements for energy, stemming from research[i] that it may help to improve sexual performance and erectile dysfunction.

According to the website WebMD, possible Maca benefits include its ability to increase sexual desire and it is shown throughout popular literature to boost libido in both men and women, assist with hormone balance and to be natural supplements for energy production. For example, writer and nutritionist Kim Evans for Natural News in an article on Maca (December 24, 2009) entitled: “Benefits of Maca Root: Find More Energy and Hormonal Balance” states:

“Maca root helps balance our hormones and due to an over abundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.”

Peruvian Maca Root

In more scientific data (December 2008) Maca was reviewed in the scientific journal Menopause after test groups of post-menopausal women used the Maca benefits of improving sexual dysfunction. The report, entitled: “Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content,” had encouraging results. The study concluded:

“Preliminary findings show that Lepidium meyenii (Maca) (3.5 g/d) reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.”

Peruvian maca root may, apparently, works in ways to at least lower anxiety and depression in older female subjects especially around the issue of sexual dysfunction independent of hormone levels. Incidentally, studies[ii] on men show that Maca benefits include increasing sexual desire in men. Peruvian Maca root, long known for causing an improvement in overall sexual mood and well-being may has a basis in science, not just folklore.

Exercise and Fatigue Fighter
Dr. Oz on his website, “The Oz Blog” wrote a post (November 11, 2013) on Maca entitled: Maca: Is This Right for You? He stated:

“Maca has not been extensively studied in Western science and scientists are not exactly sure how it works, but existing studies support maca’s energizing power. One study showed that maca taken after exercise helped reduce muscle fatigue by decreasing amounts of lactic acid and malonic acid. Another showed that animals were much more physically active after consuming the vegetable.”

In the March/April 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies, Michael J. Balick, PhD, and Roberta Lee, MD wrote a report entitled: “Maca: From Traditional Food Crop to Energy and Libido Stimulant.” They cited a study by a research group in China[iii] paper that maca increased the muscular endurance in mice.

Using human subjects, a scientific research project[iv] appearing in the journal, Ethnopharmacology, on December 10, 2009, in regard to supplementing Peruvian maca root in healthy male cyclists concluded that the maca benefits for athletes included:

“14 days ME supplementation improved 40 km cycling time trial performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists. These promising results encourage long-term clinical studies involving more volunteers, to further evaluate the efficacy of ME in athletes and normal individuals and also to explore its possible mechanisms of action.”

Peruvian maca root supplements not only appear to have a positive effect in an improvement in male and female libido, but in their ability to boost athletic performance, similar to B12 supplements, and as supplements for energy and reducing fatigue in healthy subjects.

Dosage
The consensus of opinions as to dosage of Peruvian maca root appears to be in capsules of 500 mg taken once per day.

 

[i] Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E (2010). “Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review”. BMC Complement Altern Med 10: 44
[ii] Gonzales GF, Cordova 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 . 2002;34:367.
[iii] Zheng BH, He K, Hwang ZY, et al. Effect of aqueous extract from Lepidium meyenii on mouse behavior in forced swimming test. In: Q u a l i ty Management of Nutra c e u t i c a l s . AC S Symposium Series 803. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 2002:259-2 6 8.
[iv] Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, Stevenson E, (2009) A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. Ethnopharmacology, 126(3):574-6.