Maca, Lepidium Meyenii – An Overview
The Lepidium Meyenii, also known as the “maca plant”, is a popular member of the cruciferous food group commonly grown in the high plateaus of the Andes Mountain in central Peru for almost 3000 years. The plant is said to be a relative of the radish plant, has a tangy taste but has a smell resembling that of butterscotch. Its roots are desirable as once harvested, it is ground and used as medicine.
Many people claimed that the roots have medicinal properties and uses for the plant in a variety of ways.
Oral consumption of the plant is said to help alleviate CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome, improve and enhance performance, increase stamina and boost energy, immune system and memory. The plant is also helpful for women who are experiencing hormonal imbalance and menstrual issues. It alleviates menopausal symptoms, increases fertility and helps treat sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant drugs. Aside from these, the plant can also help individuals who are experiencing weak bones or suffering from osteoporosis. It improves sexual appetite, alleviates depression and may help with stomach cancer, tuberculosis, leukemia, HIV/AIDS and erectile dysfunction.
The maca plant may also be used for food as it can be eaten as a regular vegetable crop and can be baked, roasted or added to soup. It is also used to make “maca chicha”, which is a popular type of fermented drink.
Farmers also use the plant to help increase the fertility level of their livestock.
One of the popular uses for the maca plant is in the treatment of sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressant drugs. Early studies suggest that taking the plant twice a day for at least 3 months can help improve sexual dysfunction among women who are taking antidepressant drugs.
Aside from sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant drugs, below are some medical conditions that are greatly improved with the use of the maca plant.
- Increased semen and improve sperm count. Early studies of the plant shows that daily consumption for at least 16 weeks can help increase semen and sperm level for healthy men. The study however does not indicate if fertility rate increases. (Maca Gelatinizada La Molina, Laboratories Hersil, Lima, Peru)
- Post-menopausal symptoms. Research conducted shows that daily intake of maca for 2 months can help improve post-menopausal symptoms such as depression, anxiety and blood pressure.
- Increased sexual desire for males. Usage of maca products daily for 3 months is said to help increase sexual desire for healthy male.
The maca plant is also said to have a positive effect for the following medical conditions although further studies are still being conducted to determine its effectiveness in treating these conditions.
- CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Boost energy, performance, immune system and memory
- Alleviates depression
- Improves female hormonal imbalance/menstrual and menopausal symptoms
- Stomach cancer
- Other medical conditions
Although the maca plant has been a staple for local people and are well tolerated by many, there are certain precautions that one needs to take into consideration. Intake of the maca is relatively safe when consumed together with other foods and usage through oral means or as medicine is safe as long as one takes the recommended dosage.
For pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, safety information is not widely known and as such, it is best to avoid consuming the product.
People who are diagnosed with hormone sensitive medical conditions such as uterine fibroids, breast, ovarian and uterine cancer and endometriosis and other conditions that might worsen with exposure to estrogen should avoid using these products.
Consumption of maca products depends on a variety of factors including but not limited to age group, health condition and other factors. As of to-date, there is not enough information to determine the correct dosage range. Although natural products are generally safe, following the recommended dosage as well as consulting your health care provider is ideal to protect your overall health.