The effect of Maca is practically legendary. The staple food from the Andes is said to have served the Incas in many ways. The tuber of the Maca plant is said to increase potency, stimulate libido, stimulate spermatogenesis and alleviate menopausal symptoms, to name just a few of its effects. But does Maca live up to what a variety of items promise?
If you came across this article then you are probably interested in whether, how and when maca works, or maybe you are already taking maca and wondering when it will start working. In this comprehensive, factual report, we take a critical look at the dietary supplement and want to use many clinical studies and articles to answer your questions about the onset of action of maca.
the essentials in brief
- Maca is a tuber grown in the Andes that is said to have a variety of effects. It is said to be effective against menopausal symptoms, sexual reluctance and potency-enhancing, to name just a few.
- Maca comes in many different forms. As a whole tuber, powder or capsules. If you are interested in this dietary supplement, there is something for all requirements and situations in life.
- While there are few meaningful studies on maca, many studies suggest the above modes of action. However, they are not enough to make definitive statements and there is definitely reason for larger studies.
Background: What you should know about Maca
Before we get into the specific question of when maca kicks in, you should first get familiar with maca as a remedy. In the following section I deal with the alleged effects based on studies and articles.
What is Maca?
Maca is a tuber that has been cultivated in South America for over 2000 years. Along with potatoes, it is one of the few crops that can survive the difficult Andean weather conditions, which is why it is particularly appreciated by the locals.
It belongs to the cress and cruciferous family and has been celebrated as a food and medicinal plant for thousands of years. It is said to have all sorts of positive effects on the body and is still generally considered a superfood today.
Small but mighty. Maca powder may seem unassuming, but it has a lot of potential. (Indivar Kaushik / Unsplash)
Its effects are very controversial, but several sources report that it is said to have positive effects on potency, libido, menopausal symptoms, memory, stress and depression, bone formation, spermatogenesis and much more.
In the "What effect does Maca have?" we explore whether and which of these claims are true. part of this article.
What types of Maca are there?
Maca comes in a variety of forms, each with slightly different ingredients. We researched and compared the three most prominent strains. You can use the attached tables to decide which type is right for you.
Yellow Maca is the most common variety and is found in most powders and capsules. Unless another variety is explicitly mentioned, it is always yellow Maca.
If you just want a good all-around supplement, then yellow maca is for you.
Red maca is less common than yellow maca, but it's still more common than black. It is characterized by its high zinc and iron content and is therefore more recommended for use in women
If you are a woman or if you would like to benefit from the specific benefits of red maca in general, then it is advisable to take this form of maca.
Black Maca is the rarest variety and is increasingly used by men. It is characterized by increased starch and macamide content(19) and many people swear by its effects.
If you're a male and need this strain specifically, or are particularly interested in this type of maca, then it's definitely worth the extra expense.
What is Maca made of?
Even today, the plant is valued both for its high nutrient content and for its other health benefits. You can read exactly what these ingredients are in the next section.
Before delving into the effects of maca, we first need to understand what it is made of. Components of a Maca tuber are:
- Vitamins (B2, B5, C and Niacin)
In addition, some important secondary plant substances are found in the tuber, such as:
- Mustard Oil Glycosides (Glucotropaeolin)
- Imidazole Alkaloids (Lepidiline)
- polyunsaturated fatty acids (macaene)
- benzylated amides (macamides)
- plant steroids (e.g. β-sitosterol)
- Amino acids (leucine, arginine, phenylalanine, lysine, glycine, alanine, valine, isoleucine, histidine, tyrosine, methionine)
- Alkaloids (macaridin, lepidilins)
Based on its ingredients, it can therefore be said that maca really could be a superfood. It has many substances that are valuable for the body, such as unsaturated fatty acids, plant-based steroids and more. Regardless of its other effects, maca is a valuable addition to any diet in its own right.
If you want to prepare the tuber as such, the nutritional values can also be very interesting. The Maca tuber consists of 80% water when fresh and 10% water when dried.
|Nutrients Maca (100g)||Nutrients in grams|
In summary, the Maca tuber consists of:
- 60 to 70 percent carbohydrates
- 10 to 14 percent protein
- 1 to 3.5 percent fat
- 7 to 8 percent fiber
What effect does Maca have?
Maca is said to generally increase performance and concentration(12). It is also a real pick-me-up, which often means that it is compared to matcha. Other effects include improving mood, relieving depression and stress(11,19).
There are all kinds of studies for the effects described above. Effects that are not well researched include help with rheumatism and respiratory diseases, help against high blood pressure(19) and prevention of osteoporosis(10,18">. Maca is also said to have a cholesterol-lowering effect and thereby help with weight loss(17).
The herbal steroids of the plant are said to have a positive effect on muscle building, but there is no study that proves this. However, there is one study that suggests that cyclists improved their performance under the effects of maca(12).
Maca is often sold as a supplement for athletes. However, performance-enhancing effects have not yet been proven. (Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash)
But it also has other effects. Sometimes it also affects the genders differently, which is why I would like to go into the advantages for men and women below.
For men, the herbal steroids promote spermatogenesis (4,8,15), as well as libido (3,6,12,14,19) and increase potency (6,13).
A study by the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia aimed to test the effectiveness of maca on the libido of adult healthy males. The study concluded that maca promotes desire independent of testosterone levels, but it is doubtful whether the self-reports of men who did not have any problems with their potency at all are particularly reliable(3).
Maca is also said to help with mild erectile dysfunction. The review of all clinical studies on the subject up to 2010 showed that there are only 4 studies that can be considered. 2 studies showed significant effects on libido in healthy people, one study showed no results and the last study showed effects on mild erectile dysfunction(6).
In another 2009 study, the placebo worked almost as well as maca(14), which doesn't necessarily speak to its performance. You have to admit that Maca still performed better than the placebo.
There are also many studies examining the effects of maca on spermatogenesis, but so far only in animals(4,8,15). Whether maca works just as well on humans remains to be seen.
The prostate-reducing effect of maca was also tested on animals. According to this study, as long as they were treated with red maca from day 1, it is the high levels of zinc in red maca that provide an effect within 14 days(9).
The results of many studies are very vague and should be treated with caution.
In conclusion, there are some studies that deal with these effects, but most are not very conclusive. Many studies have too few subjects or run for too short a time to make a clear statement about the effects of the plant.
The main benefit of maca for women and the best-researched aspect of maca is its positive effects on menopausal symptoms(1,17,18) without messing with hormone levels(11,16).
Since maca has a positive effect on menopausal symptoms without affecting hormone levels, it may be a promising alternative to HRT. (Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash)
In a comparatively thorough study from 2006, the effects of maca on 168 women at the beginning of their menopause were recorded. A dose of 2g per day had the effect of reducing both the frequency and severity of individual ailments (e.g. hot flashes and night sweats).(1)
Maca is also said to help with sexual dysfunction(2,20) and an unfulfilled desire to have children. A study on the effects of Maca on patients suffering from SSRI-related sexual dysfunction is said to have proven this.
However, the group of subjects was too small from the start at 16 and then only 10 completed the study. In addition, almost all study leaders are associated with pharmaceutical companies, which makes the study even more questionable.(2)
Another study reports an increase in libido in postmenopausal women(11,19). It would be interesting to find out if maca also has a positive effect on libido in premenopausal women.
The tuber is also said to have a potency-enhancing effect on animals. However, this has not been proven by studies. For example, the Incas used maca to encourage sheep farming after they were expelled to the Andes. Maca is also safe for animals to consume and can be helpful in breeding.
This study in breeding bulls demonstrated that maca had a positive effect on sperm quality, but had no effect on the bulls' libido(4). This study ran over two cycles of spermatogenesis, making it more thorough than many others.
Similar studies were carried out on rats. In this study, an improvement in the rats' sperm quality was observed after just one day(8,15).
Why is maca a superfood?
The thing about the term superfood is that it comes from advertising and is not really an indicator of the quality of the food. In most cases, the term is only used to sell food and/or dietary supplements.
So maca deserves the superfood title, doesn't it?
Yes, supplements can help you with various diseases and deficiencies and Maca has many nutrients that make it very promising for our health. However, I wouldn't call it a superfood until its properties are more researched and we have more clarity about its effects.
How can Maca be taken?
Maca can be taken in a variety of ways. You can cook and eat the tuber itself, or you can use the maca powder for cooking or baking. Then, of course, there is also the option of taking it in capsules, for those who need it fast.
|tuber||Maca in its raw form. The tuber is one of the staple foods of the Incas and can be used in a variety of recipes. It should be boiled or baked to improve its tolerability|
|powder||The powder is obtained from dried roots and is very popular for processing maca. It is advisable to invest in gelled powder for quality reasons. This is processed more gently, is easier to digest and lasts longer.|
|capsule||Maca in capsule form is the most common form outside of South America. It is easily available, practical and well suited for traveling. Many capsules are also combination preparations.|
The Maca tuber can be eaten directly. Their taste is usually described as slightly sweet and nutty. There are a variety of recipes using the tuber. The most popular is a sweet mash made from maca called mazamorra.
Living healthy doesn't have to be difficult. Dietary supplements can easily make your day.(THE 5TH / Unsplash)
The powder that comes from maca can also be used for baking or cooking. It's a popular ingredient in smoothies or can be eaten mixed with fruit and honey. The leaves are also edible and their taste is reminiscent of watercress.
What are the quality differences in Maca?
Because maca is so popular and valued, there are many trying to make money from the root. In Maca preparations, the eponymous ingredient is therefore often neglected. Instead, maca supplements are often high in sugar, maltodextrin (a carbohydrate man-made from starch), or other bulking agents.
Maca is grown and used in China due to the high demand. Attention should also be given to Maca from Yunnan in China, as the region is contaminated with heavy metals.
The macamides contained are also suitable as a quality feature:
- 100% Peruvian Maca
- Raw food quality for raw powders (no heating above 42 °C)
- no additives (sugar, maltodextrin, etc.)
When does Maca work? What you should know about the onset of action of Maca
Now that we've covered the basic facts about maca and its ingredients, it's time to get to the heart of this article. In the following sections we want to deal with all questions about the onset of action of Maca.
What dosage of Maca makes sense to achieve an effect?
Maca is safe in its cooked raw form or as a gelatinized powder up to 700g. After all, it is considered a staple food in the Andes. So there is no need to worry about overdosing.
For powdered maca, 3g is the most common dosage and is generally recommended. Some vendors advise against more than 6g per day. This study demonstrates that a 1.5g dose was not effective in patients with sexual dysfunction. However, 3 g daily is said to have worked(2), so precise dosing can be important.
Capsules are usually dosed at 500 mg and it is recommended to take 3 capsules a day. In addition, for both capsules and powder, if it is a concentrate, the recommended dose is always lower.
It's best to stick to the manufacturer's recommended dose and check with your doctor before you start taking maca. If you want to consume Maca in powder form, it can also be advisable to start small and approach the right dosage.
What should I consider when taking Maca?
The very first step should always be to consider whether maca can have a specific benefit for you and to talk to your doctor. Maca doesn't have major side effects, but only an expert can tell you if it's worth the investment for you.
Then you should also check if you belong to one of the groups that are more prone to side effects, or for which the intake is not recommended. For example, people with a sensitive gastrointestinal tract and expectant or breastfeeding mothers.
Once these steps have been completed and you are sure that Maca is right for you, then nothing stands in the way of taking it. Now all you have to do is find the right provider for you.
If you want to stop taking Maca again, or if you have reached the manufacturer's maximum intake time, then you simply stop taking the drug. There shouldn't be any negative effects from stopping, except that the positive effects will slowly wear off.
When should Maca be taken?
Maca is suitable for anyone looking for a good dietary supplement. Due to its diverse ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, unsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids, proteins and proteins, it helps the body with many things and can improve the quality of life.
In addition, Maca is suitable if you suffer from mild erectile dysfunction, menopausal symptoms, sexual reluctance or similar. Even if the effect has not been specifically proven, there are many indications of these effects.
Maca can therefore be interesting for:
- People who want a balanced life
- Older people who have problems with potency, menopause, etc
In previous sections we have already discussed the positive effects Maca can have. If this interests you, Maca is available over the counter, both from retailers and online.
When does Maca take effect?
As with all supplements, maca takes a while to show its effects. However, there is no reliable evidence of when the intake bears fruit. We have done our best to find studies that more accurately date the onset of action. You can find an overview below:
Unlike many other articles, Maca, like many other dietary supplements, does not have instant results. The studies that we have speak of about 2 to 4 months until concrete results can be read.
The potentially fastest effect is the increase in libido. A study on rats reported an increase in potency after just one day(8.15">. However, it is questionable whether this can also be transferred to humans. In other studies, libido-increasing effects were also only noted after 8 weeks(3).
One thing that's pretty sure. In order to improve sperm quality, Maca needs to be taken for 3 months, as sperm takes just over 2 months to mature. Accordingly, there can be no instant results.
The question of the onset of action is not well documented.
How quickly Maca provides relief for menopausal symptoms is also not clear. Studies lasted 2 to 4 months, but it is not proven when the effect of Maca begins. (1,17,18) Also, when maca works against sexual dysfunction is not exactly animated. (2)
In this male potency study, the first results were recorded after 12 weeks(14). This is one of the few more concrete statements.
In a study of the libido-enhancing effects of Maca, results were not recorded until after 8 weeks, according to one study.(3)
How long does the effect of Maca last?
Unfortunately, this is the least researched question. There are some clues as to its longevity after discontinuation, but giving a concrete answer would be more speculation than anything else.
In breeding bulls, the sperm-improving effects only started after 10 weeks of Maca intake. Maca was still effective two spermatogenic cycles after stopping it(4).
This study of endurance behavior in cyclists demonstrated that the endurance-enhancing effects of maca persisted after the supplement was discontinued. For how long is not described(12).
What side effects does Maca have?
Although maca is a very safe dietary supplement and you can consume up to 700 g daily, there are a few things you should be aware of. What many articles don't specifically mention is that cooked maca is safe to consume. However, if you eat the maca tuber uncooked, there can be some side effects.
Since maca has a lot of resistant starch and it is difficult for the intestines to digest, consuming raw maca can cause abdominal pain and nausea. The mustard oil glycosides contained in raw maca can also lead to bloating, restlessness, irritation and cramps in the stomach and intestines.
Therefore, Maca should always be cooked or consumed in gelatinized form. It is also digestible in larger quantities(19).
It was found to have low toxicity in humans in vitro and acute toxicity in animals in vivo, but no effects were seen in human studies(7,16).
Can Maca be taken with other medications and supplements?
So far, no negative drug interactions are known. However, this topic has not been studied too much either. There is a lack of studies confirming that there is no interaction or vice versa.
That's why it's particularly important that if you're on the pill as a woman and want to take Maca, you talk to a doctor. It has not been researched whether maca has an influence on the contraceptive effect of the pill.
As for other dietary supplements, care must be taken to be careful with multiple combination supplements. It can quickly happen that one loses track of the substances contained and thus takes an overdose.
The combination with arginine, as well as with tribulus and Korean and Indian ginseng (Ashwagandha) is very popular, as these substances also promote potency. It would also be interesting to research the effect of chaste tree or shatavari for women.
Now that we have clarified the situation and I have given as much documented information as I can, it is time to draw conclusions. I hope we were able to help you form your own opinion.
All in all, everyone has to decide for themselves whether the available studies are sufficient to give Maca a chance. If you are in the situation of needing a remedy for any of the many ailments mentioned above, Maca is a good choice. Finally, unlike many medications, it has no side effects.
Even if the results of all studies are based on the placebo effect, this only suggests that the body has a huge ability to heal itself if we only believe in the remedy. Because of this, and because maca is packed with nutrients in addition to its purported healing properties, I would personally recommend giving maca a try and making your own judgement.
- Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized Doses of Maca in Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4):360-374.
- Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, et al. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008;14(3):182-191. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00052.x
- Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. andrologia. 2002;34(6):367-372. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0272.2002.00519.x
- Clément C, Kneubühler J, Urwyler A, Witschi U, Kreuzer M. Effect of maca supplementation on bovine sperm quantity and quality followed over two spermatogenic cycles. Theriogenology. 2010;74(2):173-183. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2010.01.028
- Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru--from tradition to science. Research Complement Med. 2009;16(6):373-380. doi:10.1159/000264618
- 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;10:44. Published 2010 Aug 6. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-44
- Valerio LG Jr, Gonzales GF. Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and Maca (Lepidium meyenii): a critical synopsis. Toxicol Rev. 2005;24(1):11-35. doi:10.2165/00139709-200524010-00002
- Gonzales GF, Nieto J, Rubio J, Gasco M. Effect of Black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats. andrologia. 2006;38(5):166-172. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2006.00733.x
- Gonzales C, Leiva-Revilla J, Rubio J, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Effect of red maca (Lepidium meyenii) on prostate zinc levels in rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia. andrologia. 2012;44 Suppl 1:362-369. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2011.01190.x
- Gonzales C, Cardenas-Valencia I, Leiva-Revilla J, Anza-Ramirez C, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Research Complement Med. 2010;17(3):137-143. doi:10.1159/000315214
- Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. 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. 2008;15(6):1157-1162. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953
- Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, Stevenson E. A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;126(3):574-576. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.012
- Borrelli F, Colalto C, Delfino DV, Iriti M, Izzo AA. Herbal Dietary Supplements for Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. drug 2018;78(6):643-673. doi:10.1007/s40265-018-0897-3
- Zenico T, Cicero AF, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. andrologia. 2009;41(2):95-99. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x
- Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Cordova A, Chung A, Rubio J, & Villegas L (2004). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on spermatogenesis in male rats acutely exposed to high altitude (4340 m), Journal of Endocrinology, 180(1), 87-95. Retrieved Aug 14, 2020, from https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/180/1/87.xml
- Meissner, HO et al. “Short and long-term physiological responses of male and female rats to two dietary levels of pre-gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum chacon).” International journal of biomedical science : IJBS vol. 2.1 (2006): 13-28.
- Meissner, HO et al. "Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study." International journal of biomedical science : IJBS vol. 2.2 (2006): 143-59.
- Meissner, HO et al. "Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study." International journal of biomedical science : IJBS vol. 2.4 (2006): 375-94.
- Gonzales-Arimborgo, Carla et al. "Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study." Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 9.3 49. 18 Aug 2016, doi:10.3390/ph9030049
- Dording, Christina M et al. "A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women." Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 949036. doi:10.1155/2015/949036