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11 Benefits and Side Effects of Maca (6 Contraindications To Use With Caution)[Updated Feb/2023]

Maca is the hottest aphrodisiac health food in recent years, also known as inchi radish, maca, Peruvian veergang or Peruvian ginseng

In addition, maca also has anti-fatigue, antioxidant, neuroprotective, balance hormones, improve sexual function, prevent prostatic hyperplasia, improve pregnancy rate, relieve menopausal discomfort, immune regulation and other effects, but up to now, there is still little relevant literature, and only some effects have been confirmed

From a drug and medical point of view, the enthusiasm for maca is understandable, as drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction or benign prostatic hyperplasia have various side effects and contraindications that may not be suitable or acceptable to everyone.

What are the benefits of using maca in empirical medicine? Are there any side effects of maca? See the latest analysis in the text for details

What is Maca?

Maca is a traditional Peruvian cruciferous plant that has both edible and medicinal properties for centuries. It only grows in the Andes at an altitude of 4,000 to 4,500 meters, where it inhabits extremely cold, extremely strong sunlight, low oxygen and strong winds. Land, because few plants can survive in this environment, it creates its toughness.

The main body and edible part of this plant is a tuber similar to a radish (i.e. hypocotyl, 10-14 cm long and 3-5 cm wide), which constitutes the cotyledon and the root of the plant. After natural drying, the hypocotyl The size of the shaft is drastically reduced to 2-8 cm.

There is a great genetic diversity in the morphology of maca roots, with different weights (1-5 kg), different shapes (spherical, oval, spherical oval, spindle), and various colors (white, cream, yellow, orange, red and purple), each with different biological characteristics.

What are the nutritional components of maca?

Primary Metabolites

Dry Maca contains 10.2% protein, 59% carbohydrates, 2.2% lipids and 8.5% fiber, and contains free fatty acids, of which the most abundant are linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid.

Minerals per 100 grams: iron 16.6 mg, calcium 150 mg, copper 5.9 mg, zinc 3.8 mg, potassium 2050 mg

Secondary Metabolites

Macamides maca alkaloids

Sitosterol (beta-sitosterol), campesterol, stigmasterol, glucosinolates

What are the recommended benefits of maca?

  1. Maca is beneficial to bone health

Osteoporosis is a major public health problem for adults worldwide, with about 50 million Americans over the age of 1000 suffering from osteoporosis and another 3400 million with low bone density

Calcium and vitamin D are the main nutrients to prevent osteoporosis in the elderly. Other suggested prevention methods include regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (4-month trial of 34 menopausal women) noted that oral gelatinized organic maca powder helped improve bone density markers, as measured by quantitative computed computer scans (pQCT) of limb bones. Note 1

*Conclusion: Maca may help improve bone status in menopausal women, but more research is needed to support this due to small sample sizes

  1. Maca is beneficial for chronic mountain sickness

Chronic Mountain Sickness is a pathological phenomenon observed by local or long-term residents who live above 2500 meters, and symptoms include difficulty breathing, palpitations, sleep disturbances, cyanosis, venous dilation, paresthesia, headache, tinnitus and erythrocytosis.

If left untreated, it may develop into pulmonary heart disease, leading to right ventricular failure, the prevalence of which increases with altitude and age, and the incidence is higher in men.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (12-week study of 175 adult human subjects) reported that consumption of maca spray-dried extract improved mood, energy, and well-being, and reduced Chronic Mountain Sickness scores. Note 2

*Conclusion: For chronic mountain sickness, oral Maca extract may bring positive help, but limited by the small sample size, more studies are needed to further validate

  1. Maca improves sperm quality and promote reproductive ability

Infertility is a reproductive system disorder that refers to the inability to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of routine unprotected sexual intercourse, which has a great impact on the psychology and physiology of the couple.

There are no reliable data on the global prevalence of infertility, but it is estimated that nearly 7240.8 million couples worldwide have fertility problems, with a prevalence of about 12% to 40%, of which 60% to <>% of infertile couples are related to male factors.

The clinical evaluation method of male infertility mainly relies on semen parameter analysis, and the reference lower limit of semen analysis published by the World Health Organization is:

Semen volume: 1.5 milliliters (mL) Sperm
density: 1 million sperm cells per milliliter Total sperm count: 5 million sperm per ejaculation
Morphology: 3% normal
motility value: at least 9% Forward motility
sperm count: at least 4%

A systematic review (5 clinical studies) suggests that oral maca can help improve semen quality parameters in both infertile and healthy men, including: sperm morphology, sperm concentration, sperm count, sperm count, and sperm mobility. Note 1

The mechanism behind it may be related to the fact that Maca active ingredient can affect the seminiferous tubules sperm production process and reduce oxidative stress.

*Conclusion: Oral maca may have a positive effect on sperm quality. However, limited by the number of trials, total sample size and risk of bias, more precisely designed randomised controlled trials are needed

  1. Maca improves female sexual dysfunction (induced by antidepressant drugs)

Sexual dysfunction is a common side effect of antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

It is estimated that 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women taking these drugs have experienced side effects in at least one area of sexual function, but as many as 50 percent do not discuss these issues with their healthcare providers.

Both studies suggest that oral maca root preparations reduce sexual dysfunction induced by antidepressants (SSRIs/SNRIs) in women, and there may be dose-related effects. Note 1Note 2

*Conclusion: Oral maca may have a positive effect on improving female sexual dysfunction induced by antidepressants, but limited by small sample sizes, more large trials are needed to support this

  1. Maca is good for sports performance

Exercise exerts physiological stress on the body, which requires a coordinated response from the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and nervous systems to increase blood flow and supply oxygen to working skeletal muscles.

At rest, the muscles receive about 20% of the total blood flow, but during exercise, this proportion can increase to more than 80%.

Therefore, athletes often use dietary supplements to increase metabolic capacity, delay the onset of fatigue, improve muscle hypertrophy, shorten the recovery period, or help prevent injuries during high-intensity training.

A randomized, cross-blind trial (14 days, eight male cyclists) showed a significant improvement in maca performance over 40 km of cycling time compared to the baseline test (but no significant difference compared to placebo). Note 1

*Conclusion: Maca supplementation can improve athletic performance, especially in endurance sports, however, its effects on muscle mass and strength have yet to be studied.

  1. Maca improves erectile dysfunction (aphrodisiac)

Erectile dysfunction refers to a state of persistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection to satisfy sexual activity, and about 40% of men between the ages of 70 and 50 have some degree of erectile dysfunction.

The ability to erectile has always been a symbol of male masculinity and sexual strength, and the presence of disorders often has a negative impact on partnerships, relationships and mental health.

The main risk factors for erectile dysfunction are: age, coronary and peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle, hyperlipidemia, pelvic or spinal trauma, diabetes, benign prostatic hypertrophy, lower urinary tract symptoms, hypogonadism, fibrospongiosis, endocrine disorders, smoking, depression, alcohol, and drugs.

Although there are many treatment options for erectile dysfunction, there are still some patients who do not respond to treatment or cannot tolerate it.

A double-blind, randomized trial (12-week trial of 50 patients with mild erectile dysfunction unrelated to psychiatric disorders, endocrine system disorders, and cardiovascular disease drug use) noted. Compared with placebo, oral maca extract capsules (daily dose of 2400 mg) had a significant improvement in erectile function index and satisfaction profile. Note 2

*Conclusion: For patients with mild erectile dysfunction, oral maca has a small but statistically significant improvement effect on sexual function and overall well-being, but limited by the small sample size, more large studies are still needed to support it

  1. Maca promotes sexual desire

There is a complex multi-level interaction, including structural, physiological, psychological, developmental, cultural, and relational factors.

All of these promote an individual’s libido to varying degrees at different points in time and continue to change throughout the life cycle.

As we age naturally, desire decreases, but sometimes loss of libido is associated with underlying disease conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, temporal lobe disease, menopause, coronary artery disease, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and human immunodeficiency virus, among others.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel-action trial (12-week trial of 57 healthy men aged 21 to 56 years) noted that oral maca (daily dose of 1.5 to 3 g) increased sexual desire by 24.4%, 40%, and 42.2% at 4, 8, and 12 weeks, with increased libido not associated with mood changes or elevated serum testosterone and estradiol levels. Note 3

Another double-blind randomized crossover trial (14 days, eight male cyclists) showed that oral maca significantly improved 40km cycling time performance and improved hope scores. Note 4

*Conclusion: Oral Maca may help improve male desire, but limited by small sample sizes, more large trials are needed for further validation

  1. Maca boosts reproductive hormones, such as testosterone

Testosterone, the main male sex hormone, is also present in women, albeit in much lower concentrations, and in addition to being related to reproductive function, it also has a significant impact on the metabolic function of various parts of the body.

Starting at the age of 30-40, testosterone levels in men slowly decline by about 1% per year.

Low testosterone levels are often associated with symptoms including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, cognitive decline, depression, lethargy, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass and strength.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel-action trial (12 weeks, 56 healthy men) noted that oral maca (daily dose of 1.5 or 3 g) had no effect on any of the hormonal targets covered in the study compared to placebo and did not show any changes over time (including: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone and its precursor or metabolite 17-alpha). hydroxyprogesterone、17-beta estradiol). Note 5

*Conclusion: Oral maca is not significantly helpful in raising reproduction-related hormones (eg, testosterone).

  1. Maca relieves symptoms of menopause in women

Menopause (menopausal) is defined as ovarian failure leading to cessation of menstruation and ovulation, when menopause lasts for 12 months or more without any pathological factors, it can be called natural menopause, usually between the ages of 42 and 58.

During menopause, about 85% of women report symptoms of varying type and severity, including hot flashes, depression, anxiety, urinary incontinence, vaginal atrophy, loss of libido, etc

A systematic review (4 randomized controlled trials of 202 adjacent or postmenopausal women) noted that oral maca (daily dose of 2 to 3.5 g) improved menopause-related symptoms (as measured by the Greene Climacteric Scale and Kupperman Menopausal Index). Note 6

The authors point out that although the mechanism behind it is not clear, it is speculated that it may be related to the estrogenic hormonal balancing effect of maca components.

*Greene Climacteric Scale.: Covering 21 questions in 5 areas: anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms, vasomotor symptoms, and sexual function, the higher the score, the worse the quality of life.

*Kupperman Menopausal Index.: There are numerical indicators of 11 menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, depression, dizziness, weakness, arthralgia or myalgia, headache, palpitations and forms. Each symptom is scored from 0 to 3 depending on severity, with higher scores indicating a poorer quality of life.

*Conclusion: For menopausal women, oral maca may have the effect of improving the symptoms of menopausal discomfort, but due to the number of studies, total number of participants and the quality of methods, more large experiments are needed to confirm the efficacy and safety

  1. Maca improves cognitive function (animal test)

The brain is considered the most complex system in the animal kingdom, with complex modes of operation, and the degree of connection between structure and function depends on spatial resolution and time scale.

It has long been thought that dietary factors can have a plastic effect on nerve function and synapses, and regulate cognitive processes and mood.

An animal experiment suggested that black maca improved ethanol-induced experimental memory impairment to some extent, which may be related to the content of polyphenols. Note 2

*Conclusion: Oral maca may have a positive effect on cognitive improvement, but further validation is needed in human studies

  1. Maca is good for enlarged prostate (animal studies)

Prostatic hypertrophy, also known as prostatic hyperplasia (Prostatic hyperplasia) is a highly prevalent disease, about 60% of men over 50 years old are affected, and 80% of men over 90 years old, and the related clinical manifestations are lower urinary tract symptoms, nocturia, sepsis, irreversible bladder failure, etc

The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, but it is generally accepted that sex hormones are the most basic, such as androgens that promote epidermal growth factor, keratinocytes growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor.

At present, the treatment of prostatic hyperplasia includes finasteride, tamsulosin and other drugs, and in severe cases, transurethral resection of the prostate, although it can improve the symptoms of lower urinary tract, but may be accompanied by side effects such as hematuria, loss of libido, and abnormal ejaculation, for these reasons, the medical community is looking for better treatments, including natural products.

An animal study suggests that oral administration of red maca extract can reduce the size of the prostate gland in response to prostate hypertrophy induced by testosterone enanthate. Note 3

*Conclusion: Maca may have a positive help for prostatic hypertrophy, but further verification is needed in human studies

Are there any side effects of maca?

Maca has been used as food for thousands of years, and under normal use, no significant toxic reactions have been found, and the safety is extremely high

However, possible adverse effects or side effects that have been reported include: attention disturbance, menstrual cycle changes, weight loss, depression, anxiety, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, insomnia, headache, nausea, vomiting, and abnormal liver function

One study found that taking maca powder (600 mg for 3 months) showed ALT (Alanine transaminase) and a slight increase in blood pressure. Note 7

 Safety precautions

1. Patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, goiter or other thyroid nodule diseases, please consult a medical professional before use (because maca is rich in iodine and sulfur glycosomes (Glucosinolates), excessive use may induce adverse reactions)

2. Do not use by pregnant women, nursing women, children and people with liver and kidney dysfunction (due to unknown safety)

3. Do not use if you have related hormone-sensitive diseases (such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids) (because maca may have phytoestrogen effects, which may worsen symptoms)

4. Do not use if taking related antihormonal drugs (may interfere with the effect of the drug)

5. Consuming fresh macarons may have adverse health effects, and it is recommended to boil them before use. Note 8

6. Since Maca is rich in vitamin K, vitamin K is mainly effective in the human body to help blood clotting, so do not take it with anticoagulants to avoid interfering with the drug effect

How to take maca take?

Raw maca retains most of its nutrients, but can be difficult to digest due to its fiber content.

Macado is therefore processed and sold in powder or capsule form, and the optimal dosage to use has not been determined. In most studies, the standard daily dose of MACA was about 1.5 to 3 grams and could be supplemented directly or added to foods such as smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, and more.

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