Known as the Peruvian ginseng, the maca is a popular plant in South America that is rumored to be an aphrodisiac, helping men and women with their sexual needs. Grown on top of the Andean mountains in Peru, the maca is used as a regular root crop by the locals, similar to that of radishes. In the US, the maca plant is ground and powdered.
The powdered version can be added to shakes and various foods and sold in capsules or tablet form. The plant is said to have properties that support its aphrodisiac status, as some people claim that the plant not only enhances the sexual functions of both sexes but it also help alleviate post-menopausal symptoms for women without any apparent side effects.
In a study published in 2001 in the Asian Journal of Andrology, male subjects were given maca capsules ranging from 1500mg to 3000mg for 4 months. The results reveal that the group saw an increase in sexual desire. Sexual hormone levels were tested as well as sperm motility and count, with results indicating that the male hormone stays stable though increase in motility and sperm count were also noted.
Another study was conducted a year later to determine if elevated mood contributes to the positive effect. Males ranging from age 21 to 56 were given 1500mg, 3000mg and placebos respectively. Test results were conducted at four, eight and twelve weeks during the study to determine if intake of the supplement affects the moods and sexual desires of the test subjects. On the 8th week, the test subjects reported an improvement in their libido. There was no significant change in the hormone level for both the maca and placebo groups.
The effects of the maca to the female population is also a subject of study especially for women who are taking SSRI. In a 2008 study, women undergoing the post-menopausal stage were invited to the study, to determine if the maca has any effects in terms of affecting mental and sexual issues that these women face. The study is a placebo controlled randomized, double blind study where women were divided into two groups. One of the groups received 3.5mg maca powder while the other group was given placebos. Each woman had their blood drawn at the start, on the sixth week and at the twelfth week to determine if there was any change in the hormone levels of the women as well as their symptoms. The test revealed that there was a significant decrease in the menopausal symptoms without any side effects on the hormonal level.
At the same time, the CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics has also published a study targeting women who are experiencing sexual problems due to their use of the SSRI antidepressant drug. The double blind, placebo controlled study included twenty subjects with seventeen of the subjects taking the antidepressant drug. The women were given 1500mg and 3000mg respectively. The patients were given forms to describe their sexual problems. Test subjects that took the 3000mg daily reported significant improvement including an increase in their libido, whereas the ones taking 1500mg reported no change.