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What’s Up With Maca Root?

By November 4, 2011Herbs
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I’ve had a surge of people come to see me recently that have either been taking Maca or they want to know if they should be. So what is this Maca stuff? Maca is a root that is native to Peru and has been popularized as a male sexual tonic. It is available in the U.S. in several forms: pills, powders & liquid, although traditionally it was used as a food by the people of the Andes.

In several small studies, Maca has been shown to increase sexual desire in men as well as improving semen count, motility & quality. It has a testosterone-like effect, but it has not been shown to have a direct impact on a person’s estrogen or testosterone levels. However, it has been shown to make changes in the sex hormones of rats. It has not been shown to cause toxicity in humans when taken at the recommended dose of 450 mg/day.

So why is everyone interested in this root and what do I think? Well first off, it seems that everyone want’s a natural alternative to Viagra. And since maca benefits sperm and has been shown to have some antioxidant properties, it is becoming a big seller in health food stores. This is all just dandy, but I have a lot of patients that should NOT be taking this supplement. While it has not been shown to affect hormone levels, it does cause a reaction similar to an increase in testosterone levels. While this is just fine and dandy for many men, I don’t want a patient that is trying to get pregnant having a reaction similar to a man. In Chinese Medicine women should run cooler than men – when the body is out of balance, in a time like menopause, a woman tends to run hotter than most men. So in a woman that is trying to get pregnant, it would be futile for her to have symptoms that mimic menopause. Again, maca hasn’t been shown to affect hormone levels, but the level of imbalance that I’ve seen it cause when taken by the wrong person, can actually work against the problem that they are trying to solve.

Don’t get me wrong. I think maca is great. And there are even women in my practice that I have taking it. I’m just saying that it’s not for everyone. If you are trying to get pregnant or are dealing with the symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause, you should consult a practitioner before taking this supplement.

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