Maca

Maca

Maca

Common Names

  • Maca-maca
  • Maino
  • Ayak chichira
  • Ayak willku

For Patients & Caregivers

Maca may increase sexual function but it has not been shown effective against cancer.

Maca root is in the same family as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Maca has traditionally been used to improve sexual performance and as a treatment for infertility. Studies have shown that maca is able to improve sexual performance, however it does so without affecting serum hormone levels in the blood. Further study is warranted.

  • To treat infertility
    No clinical trials support this use.
  • To improve sexual performance
    The evidence to support use of maca in improving sexual function is limited. A few clinical trials showed increase in sexual desire, sperm count, and motility. More studies are warranted.
  • To improve strength and stamina
    This use is not backed by research.
  • To treat cancer
    Scientific evidence is lacking to support this claim.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Maca Force™
Lepidium Meyennii Walp, Lepidium peruvianum Chacon

A nutritionally valuable plant native to Peru that grows in a harsh climate above 4,000 feet, maca has been used traditionally to enhance fertility and sexual performance in both men and women and to relieve menopausal symptoms (1). It has been purported to treat cancer and to improve stamina in cancer patients.
Animal studies indicate that maca increases endurance (6), enhances sexual function (2)(5), and improves scopolamine-induced memory deficits (14).

Human trials of maca reported increased libido (3) and improvement in sperm production and sperm motility (4). Maca supplementation was also shown to enhance the subjective feeling of sexual well-being (11) and may benefit those with sexual dysfunction induced by selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (12). However, the evidence to support use of maca for sexual dysfunction is limited and needs further research (13). The data on maca’s role in alleviating menopausal symptoms are limited (15). Another review indicates that maca is not an effective anti-aging agent (16).

Dried maca was shown to have lower content of the suspected active metabolite than fresh maca. It is also available as a liquor, tonic, and mayonnaise, although health benefits of these derivatives seem minimal (7).

  • Infertility
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Sexual performance
  • Strength and stamina
  • Cancer treatment

Maca root contains far greater amounts of glucosinolates than other members of the Brassicacae family, such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Fertility-enhancing properties of maca are thought to be due to aromatic isothiocyanates hydrolyzed from these glucosinolates. Furthermore, benzyl isothiocyanate has been reported to inhibit breast, stomach, and liver cancer in rats. Aphrodisiacal properties are attributed to the prostaglandins, sterols and amides of polyunsaturated fatty acids (7). Althought both methanolic and aqueous extracts of maca exhibit estrogenic activity in vitro (10), maca does not affect serum levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone, and estradiol in humans (4) (9). Alkaloids purified from maca root are thought to affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, explaining why maca can induce effects in both sexes (6).

The therapeutic dose and toxicity of maca are unknown.


  1. Muhammad I, Zhao J, Dunbar DC, Khan IA. Constituents of Lepidium meyenii ’maca’. Phytochemistry 2002;59:105-10.

  2. Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, Rogers L, Shao Y, Huang ZY et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology 2000;55:598-602.

  3. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Gonez Cet 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.

  4. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl 2001;3:301-3.

  5. Cicero AF, Piacente S, Plaza A, Sala E, Arletti R, Pizza C. Hexanic Maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic Maca extracts. Andrologia 2002;34:177-9.

  6. Balick MJ,.Lee R. Maca: from traditional food crop to energy and libido stimulant. Altern Ther Health Med 2002;8:96-8.

  7. Li G, Ammermann U, Quiros CF. Glucosinolate Contents in Maca (Lepidium peruvianum chacon) Seeds, Sprouts, Mature Plants and Several Derived Commercial Products. Economic Botany 2001;55:255-62.

  8. Piacente S, Carbone V, Plaza A, Zampelli A, Pizza C. Investigation of the tuber constituents of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.). J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50:5621-5.

  9. Valentova K, Buckiova D, Kren V, et al. The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts.Cell Biol Toxicol 2006;22(2):91-9.

  10. Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.

  11. Lee MS, Shin BC, Yang EJ, Lim HJ, Ernst E. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review.Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):227-33.

  12. Hunt KJ, Hung SK, Ernst E. Botanical extracts as anti-aging preparations for the skin: a systematic review.Drugs Aging. 2010 Dec 1;27(12):973-85.

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