An ancient root shows modern promise
In the health industry, drugs for sexual performance are popular
In the health industry, drugs for sexual performance are popular. The likes of Viagra and Cialis are well known, but have some serious side effects. Thankfully, there is a natural alternative in the form of maca, a root vegetable and medicinal herb that can provide a sexual boost for men and women, without the nasty side effects.
Behold the maca root
The maca root is primarily farmed in the Andes mountains in Peru, in harsh soil conditions that support very limited agriculture. As a staple of the Peruvian diet, maca root has many nutritional benefits, being high in fibre and trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, and calcium.
Maca root is also a purported fertility booster. Legends tell of ancient Andean shepherds feeding the root to their herd and observing a boost in the animals’ overall health and ability to reproduce
A natural libido booster
While some suggested benefits are anecdotal, others have been confirmed through research. A 2001 study demonstrated improved sperm count and motility among men taking maca extract, although the study was done without the use of a control group. However, a more recent double-blind placebo-controlled study showed a marked increase in sexual desire among males taking maca extract when compared to the placebo.
Further, a study published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics showed improvements in male and female patients experiencing SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Interestingly, human trials of maca have demonstrated that it does not directly affect hormone levels, which largely play into sexual health.
More maca science
In addition to the bedroom benefits, animal studies show a potential to help with benign prostate hyperplasia, as test subjects showed a reduction in prostate sizes when given extract of the red variety of maca root. Much of this is possibly due in part to the high concentration of glucosinolates, which are also found in cruciferous vegetables and have anticancer properties.
While maca may be difficult to find in the produce section, supplements containing maca root extract are readily available at your nearest health and supplement store, either in a capsule or powdered form, or even as maca-enriched chocolate. Since maca has been eaten for over 2000 years, it is generally safe. But, as with all supplements, it should be taken under the supervision of a qualified natural health professional.
Men’s health across the life course
Theodore D. Cosco, PhD (Cantab) CPsychol