The mental and physical demands of everyday life can take their toll, impacting energy levels, mood, and sexual health. Maca is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for thousands of years throughout the Andean mountains to improve the body’s resist- ance to mental and physical stress. (1) Historically, maca has been used to address conditions related to low energy, vitality, fertility, and libido; however, evidence from clinical studies has focused on using maca to support healthy mood balance during menopause and improve the emotional aspects of sexual health. (2)
While the underlying mechanisms behind maca’s effectiveness are still somewhat unclear, its dense nutritional profile, including substantial levels of protein, essential amino acids, free fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins, plays an important role. (1) Maca is also a potent source of antioxidants. Laboratory studies have shown that maca’s ability to scavenge free radicals and protect cells from oxidative stress is due to its alkaloid and phenol content. (3)
Maca can be used as a non-hormonal plant-based remedy to address healthy mood balance during menopause. Although it does not contain estrogenic or androgenic compounds, it helps tone hormonal processes by acting on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. (4) Clinical studies show that maca helps balance levels of estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormones, progesterone, and adrenocorticotropic hormone. (4,5)
It also helps ease symptoms of menopause, including mood changes. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that early postmenopausal women who were supplemented with 1 g of maca twice per day for two months experienced significant relief from menopausal discomforts, including nervousness, irritability, and depression. (4) Similar results were also achieved with women during perimenopause, the transitional stage to full menopause. (5)
Emotional imbalances that occur during menopause can also impact sexual health. The incidence of sexual dysfunction becomes more prevalent as women progress through menopausal to postmenopausal stages. (6) A small placebo-controlled trial found that a 3.5 g per day dose of maca powder for six weeks helped postmenopausal women reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression while also reducing measures of sexual dysfunction by 23% below baseline. (6)
Sexual dysfunction is not only a concern for menopausal women but has also been shown to occur in up to 30% of adult men and 45% of adult women. (2) This can have a negative impact on mood and well-being.
Both men and women can use maca to support the emotional aspects of sexual health. In a 12-week placebo-controlled trial, men ages 21–56 were supplemented with either 1.5 g or 3 g of maca per day. After eight weeks of supplementation, the men’s self-perception of sexual desire was found to improve significantly and independently of their hormone levels. (7) Additionally, a placebo-controlled study discovered that male cyclists who took 2 g of maca per day for two weeks experienced increased feelings of sexual desire compared to baseline and placebo. (8)