Maca (Lepidium meyenii) has a radish-like root and is often called 'Peruvian ginseng'. Although unrelated to the ginseng family, its use is similar to ginseng in that it can increase energy, libido and sexual performance. Maca has been used as a food in Peru for many centuries but has only recently gained popularity as an herbal supplement.
In one study involving 9 adult men, 4 months of treatment with maca tablets resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count and sperm motility .
Human studies of maca are limited. Another 12-week double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel study investigated the effect of different doses of maca compared to placebo . The participants received maca in one of two doses: 1500 mg or 3000 mg or placebo. Self-perception on sexual desire was measured at 4, 8 and 12 weeks of treatment. After 8 weeks of treatment, there was a reported improvement in sexual performance, although there were no differences in serum testosterone and oestradiol levels between the treatment and placebo groups. The authors concluded that maca improves sexual desire at 8 and 12 weeks of treatment .
The evidence for a beneficial effect of maca in humans has not been supported by animal studies. A recent study looked at the effect of maca on sexual behaviour in rats . The authors administered two doses of maca orally (25 and 100mg/kg) for 30 d and monitored male sexual behaviour after acute, 7 and 21 d of treatment.
Maca did not produce large changes in male sexual behaviour, although there was a small effect on rat male sexual behaviour after acute and short-term administration of maca. After 21 d of treatment maca showed no effect on the rats. The researchers did, however, report an increase in ejaculation latency and postejaculatory interval . None of the studies reported any side effects.
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