Maca root – does it help to increase fertility?
As many of you know, I pride myself with having a blog where I report on everything related to egg health. By this I mean everything that is scientifically proven to work.
However, many foods, nutrients, and supplements have never been thoroughly tested in clinical trials with humans. This does not necessarily mean they would not be effective in improving egg quality, it means simply that there has not been enough commercial interest in testing them on a large scale so far.
When I talk with women, one of the questions I sometimes get is about maca root extract. In fact, the subject of maca root has been raised enough times to deserve a dedicated blog post.
Peruvian maca is a root vegetable that grows in the mountains of South America. It contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals in a combination that we still don’t understand—but it apparently does something good to us.
Maca is reported to have strong lifting effects and to provide extra power for exercising. Perhaps that explains its traditional use to enhance male and female sexual functions as well as for depression.
Maca is available as a dietary supplement (such as this one here) in the form of a powder, liquid, capsule, and tablets. The usual dosage is 500 milligrams of dried maca extract taken 3 times a day.
There are no adverse reactions ever reported with maca root. However, if you have a thyroid condition or another metabolic disorder you should, in my opinion, not experiment with any plant extract, maca included.
Although no high-quality clinical trials of maca with infertile women or women in IVF treatments have been conducted (this means: double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled testing), some studies have been done with healthy women and men. Here are some highlights:
1. One extensive literature search that reviewed 203 websites mentioning Peruvian maca was carried out in 2014 and published here (click to read the abstract):
The study mentions that the use of (oft unlicensed) supplements to enhance sexual function is drastically increasing over the years. The authors say that this phenomenon, combined with the availability of these products over the Internet, represents a challenge for public health and needs to be extensively monitored. OK.
2. A study published in Maturitas in 2011 (here is the summary) admits that maca extract could prove to be effective in treating menopausal symptoms. However, after a systematic review of 17 databases that compared all types of maca root-based interventions, authors concluded that all available results provide only limited evidence of effectiveness so far.
The total number of trials,their methodological quality, and total sample size are far too limited to draw any serious conclusions. Therefore, we can’t do much more but hope that maca will soon be tested in larger and better-designed clinical studies.
There is another intersing piece on information I found on maca:
On the pages of the Memorial Sloan Cancer Institute here, you can find evidence to support the use of maca in improving sexual function in animals. Further, they say that a few studies showed increased sexual desire, sperm count, and motility.
However, if you or your partner is taking maca, please keep in mind that maca may interfere with lab tests that measure testosterone levels (important for those in fertility treatmens or taking DHEA).
Here you can find one case-study that describes this effect of maca on testosterone blood levels:
So much for the science—now comes the exciting stuff!
If you would like to know what I hear during my counseling work from women and men taking maca, then here is what they mentioned: maca increases sexual drive, maca brings better mood, there were also descriptions of “stronger erections” and “sensitive nipples.” while taking maca.
Most people I’ve talked to use powdered maca and mix it in their morning shakes, but I would guess other forms should work too (I’m currently playing with the idea of taking this one with my next order of supplements).
Good luck and let me know if you see some positive effects of maca!
Supplements which are scientifically proven to increase egg quality:
To know when you ovulate: