URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/555.html

Maca

What is it?

Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in this area for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine.

People take maca by mouth for "tired blood" (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, and memory. People also take maca by mouth for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, symptoms of menopause, improving fertility, and sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants, weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.

In foods, maca is eaten baked or roasted, prepared as a soup, and used for making a fermented drink called maca chicha.

In agriculture, it is used to increase fertility in livestock.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for MACA are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant drugs. Early research suggests that taking maca twice daily for 12 weeks slightly improves sexual dysfunction in women taking antidepressants.
  • Male infertility. Early research shows that taking a specific maca product (Maca Gelatinizada La Molina, Laboratories Hersil, Lima, Peru) daily for 4 months increases semen and sperm count in healthy men. But it's not clear if this results in improved fertility.
  • Postmenopausal conditions. Research suggests that taking maca (Maca Powder Healthychoices, Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia) daily for 6 weeks slightly improves blood pressure and some aspects of mood, including depression and anxiety, in postmenopausal women. But benefits are very small.
  • Sexual desire. Early research shows that taking a specific maca product (Maca Gelatinizada La Molina, Laboratories Hersil, Lima, Peru) daily for 12 weeks can increase sexual desire in healthy men.
  • "Tired blood" (anemia).
  • Leukemia.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Improving energy and athletic performance.
  • Improving memory.
  • Depression.
  • Female hormone imbalance.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Symptoms of menopause.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Stomach cancer.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of maca for these uses.

How does it work?

Maca root contains many chemicals, including fatty acids and amino acids. However, there isn't enough information to know how maca might work.

Are there safety concerns?

Maca is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken in amounts found in foods. Maca is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in larger amounts as medicine (up to 3 grams daily) for up to 4 months. Maca seems to be well tolerated by most people.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking maca if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use these extracts.

Are there interactions with medications?

It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.

Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of maca depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for maca (in children/in adults). Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Ayak Chichira, Ayuk Willku, Ginseng Andin, Ginseng Péruvien, Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum, Maca Maca, Maca Péruvien, Maino, Maka, Peruvian Ginseng, Peruvian Maca.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, Apostolopoulos V, Haines C. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric 2015;18:69-78. View abstract.
  2. Dording CM, Schettler PJ, Dalton ED, Parkin SR, Walker RS, Fehling KB, Fava M,Mischoulon D. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2015;2015:949036. View abstract.
  3. Lee, K. J., Dabrowski, K., Rinchard, J., and et al. Supplementation of maca (
  4. Zheng BL, He K, Hwang ZY, Lu Y, Yan SJ, Kim CH, and Zheng QY. Effect of aqueous extract from
  5. López-Fando, A., Gómez-Serranillos, M. P., Iglesias, I., Lock, O., Upamayta, U. P., and Carretero, M. E.
  6. Park, T. H., Kwon, O. S., Park, S. Y., and et al. N-methylated beta-carbolines protect PC12 cells from cytotoxic effect of MTP+ by attenuation of mitochondrial membrane permeability change. Neurosci Res 2003;46:349-358.
  7. Rubio, J., Caldas, M., Davila, S., Gasco, M., and Gonzales, G. F. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC.Complement Altern Med 6-23-2006;6:23. View abstract.
  8. Zhang, Y., Yu, L., Ao, M., and Jin, W. Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat. J Ethnopharmacol 4-21-2006;105(1-2):274-279. View abstract.
  9. Gonzales, C., Rubio, J., Gasco, M., Nieto, J., Yucra, S., and Gonzales, G. F. Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2-20-2006;103:448-454. View abstract.
  10. Ruiz-Luna, A. C., Salazar, S., Aspajo, N. J., Rubio, J., Gasco, M., and Gonzales, G. F. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) increases litter size in normal adult female mice. Reprod.Biol Endocrinol 5-3-2005;3:16. View abstract.
  11. Chung, F., Rubio, J., Gonzales, C., Gasco, M., and Gonzales, G. F. Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 4-8-2005;98(1-2):143-147. View abstract.
  12. Oshima, M., Gu, Y., and Tsukada, S. Effects of Lepidium meyenii Walp and Jatropha macrantha on blood levels of estradiol-17 beta, progesterone, testosterone and the rate of embryo implantation in mice. J Vet.Med Sci 2003;65:1145-1146. View abstract.
  13. Cui, B., Zheng, B. L., He, K., and Zheng, Q. Y. Imidazole alkaloids from Lepidium meyenii. J Nat Prod 2003;66:1101-1103. View abstract.
  14. Tellez, M. R., Khan, I. A., Kobaisy, M., Schrader, K. K., Dayan, F. E., and Osbrink, W. Composition of the essential oil of Lepidium meyenii (Walp). Phytochemistry 2002;61:149-155. View abstract.
  15. Muhammad, I., Zhao, J., Dunbar, D. C., and Khan, I. A. Constituents of Lepidium meyenii 'maca'. Phytochemistry 2002;59:105-110. View abstract.
  16. Gonzales, G. F., Ruiz, A., Gonzales, C., Villegas, L., and Cordova, A. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats. Asian J Androl 2001;3:231-233. View abstract.
  17. Valerio, L. G., Jr. and Gonzales, G. F. Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and Maca (Lepidium meyenii) : a critical synopsis. Toxicol.Rev 2005;24:11-35. View abstract.
  18. Valentova K, Buckiova D, Kren V, et al. The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts. Cell Biol Toxicol 2006;22:91-9. View abstract.
  19. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, et al. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl 2001;3:301-3. View abstract.
  20. Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology 2000;55:598-602.
  21. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. J Endocrinol 2003;176:163-168.. View abstract.
  22. Li G, Ammermann U, Quiros CF. Gluconsinolate contents in Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon) seeds, sprouts, mature plants, and several derived commercial products. Economic Botany 2001;55:255-62.
  23. 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;34:367-72.. View abstract.
  24. Piacente S, Carbone V, Plaza A, et al. Investigation of the tuber constituents of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.). J Agric Food Chem 2002;50:5621-25.. View abstract.
  25. Ganzera M, Zhao J, Muhammad I, Khan IA. Chemical profiling and standardization of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2002;50:988-99.. View abstract.
  26. National Academy of Science. Lost Crops of the Incas Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation . Available at: http://books.nap.edu/books/030904264X/html/57.html
Last reviewed - 03/14/2016