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girl lifting plateMaca (Lepidium meyenii) is eaten as a root vegetable and used as a medicinal herb. Typical medicinal uses of Maca are to increase energy and endurance, support mood, and boost libido and healthy sexual function. Maca has also been claimed to have testosterone boosting effects, likely due to its apparent ability to increase libido among users. The benefits of maca are similar to the benefits of ginseng. Because if this, maca is commonly called “Peruvian ginseng”, though the two are unrelated.

Maca has been shown to have adaptogenic effects, meaning that it helps the body adapt to mental and physical stress. Maca has been shown to increase mood, increase endurance and energy, decrease anxiety, and enhance libido. (1, 2, 3) Herbs with adaptogenic effects have also been known to improve recovery from athletic training. The claimed testosterone boosting benefits of maca, however, have been disproven, as maca has been shown to have no effect on the levels of andogens or estrogens. (1, 3)

What constituents are responsible for the benefits of maca is not fully understood. (1) To reap the full benefits of maca, it is probably best to buy maca as a whole herb rather than as an extract. Maca is available as a bulk powder as well as capsules and tablets, as this it is often used in larger quantities than other herbs. 

References

1. Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, & Gonzales-Castañeda C. (2009). Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science. Forschende Komplementärmedizin (2006). 16(6), 373-80.

 2. Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, & Stevenson E. (2009). A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 126(3), 574-6.

 3. Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, & Stojanovska L. (2008). Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause (New York, N.Y.). 15(6), 1157-62.

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