Originally published on JeffreyDachMD.com
Peruvian Maca boasts countless health benefits, including boosting testosterone, increasing energy and libido, improving mental health, relieving symptoms of PMS and much more
Richard is a 53 year old tattoo artist who works out every day. His testosterone buddies at the gym advised Richard to "go see a testosterone doctor" and get taken care of. So, Richard found himself sitting in my office telling me his story.
Richard was worried about his testosterone levels. Richard lamented that his work outs at the gym seem less and less productive, without the usual gain in muscle mass and tone. In addition, Richard noticed declining libido over the past few years. His nutrition program is excellent with a protein shake and a handful of vitamin supplements every day.
Labs Show Clomiphene Effect
Although I was expecting Richard's labs to show low testosterone levels, his total testosterone was surprisingly good at 870, and his FSH and LH were also higher than usual, 9.4 and 11.3 Indeed this pattern is typical for Clomiphene (Clomid) which increases FSH, LH and Testosterone. Although originally FDA approved as a fertility drug for women, we sometimes use Clomid off-label to increase testosterone levels in younger males.
I conveyed this information to Richard who denied using Clomid from his gym buddies. I then asked RIchard if he was taking anything else. No, nothing that he knows of. He thought for a few seconds and then volunteered this information: one day he went shopping at the farmers market and bought some Peruvian MACA powder for his protein shakes. That's the only new item added to his routine.
MACA Enhances LH Level in Rats
I hadn't heard of Peruvian MACA before, so I quickly looked it up and found this 2014 article by Dr Uchiyama: Maca enhances levels of (LH) luteinising hormone . (1) This intrigued me because a grocery store item, Peruvian MACA, produced an effect very similar to Clomiphene, an FDA approved fertility drug.
Maca Increases Testosterone Levels in Rats
Another 2015 study by Dr. Ohta showed that feeding maca extract powder to rats increased the testosterone levels, by enhancing the activity of the Leydig cells. The testosterone increased effect took 14 weeks to appear, and the LH was not affected.
Maca SuperFood Health Benefits
Various MACA users have reported that MACA is a "superfood" with a long list of health benefits, and no toxicity or adverse effects: (4-6)
- Faster muscle gain and boosts muscle growth.
- Faster recovery from sports injury
- More energy, stamina and endurance
- Massive libido and sexual boost
- Healthier skin
- Better overall mental clarity and less stress.
- Improved glucose tolerance and improved thyroid function
- Bioavailable source of DIM (Di-Indole_Methane) which reverses estrogen dominance.
- Maca relieves PMS symptoms,headaches and depression, anxiety
MACA use in Perimenopausal and Post Menopausal Women (6)
Hugo Malaspina, MD reports Maca enhances libido and sexual performance in elderly males, and in women MACA can be used to relieve peri-menopausal symptoms, and is considered "an effective-and superior-substitute for a pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy". (6) His protocol uses between 1,200 and 3,600 milligrams of precooked, organic maca (3-8 capsules) daily for menopausal and postmenopausal women, and he reports very good results. One of Dr Malaspina's patients had a total hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries. She didn't feel well on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), an stopped it. At the time she ws seen in the office, her blood estradiol was 15, very low, Two months after starting MACA, her estradiol level was 75, and her hot flashes and menopausal symptoms were gone.(5) This story intrigued me, as I had not heard of such a botanical herb serving as a substitute for HRT in menopausal women.(6)
Dr Meissner and MACA-GO
Dr Meissner reports in two studies in 2005 and 2006 on a product named MACA-GO. Ten early post menopausal women were given 2 grams daily of MACA-Go and followed over eight months. In comparison to placebo, the MACA treated women showed decreased FSH, and increased LH levels resulting in increased Estradiol and Progesterone. They reported less menopausal discomfort.(7)
A second 2006 study of early post menopausal women showed (8): After two months of Maca-GO, Estradiol was increased significantly. However, FSH, Thyroid (T3) , ACTH AdrenoCorticotropic Hormone, Cortisol, and BMI were all decreased. Maca-Go "relieved symptoms of menopausal discomfort, (hot flushes and night sweating in particular)"… "providing an alternative non-hormonal plant option to reduce dependence on hormone therapy programs (HRT)."(8)
Relieving SSRI induced Sexual Dysfunction(9)
Dr. Christina Dording reported in 2015, "Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women. She found a 9.5% remission rate for maca treatment versus 4.8% for placebo.(9) Not all that great, but certainly an improvement.
MACA Has Antidepressant Effects in Mice and Humans
Mouse model studies from 2014 showed MACA treated mice had an anti-depressant effects with increased thickness of the granule cell layer in the dentate gyrus in the mouse brains . Maca extract reduced cortisol serum levels in the mice, and increased brain noradrenalin and dopamine levels (10)
Similarly a 2015 study in Climacteric by Dr. Stojanovska using 29 post-menopausal Hong Kong women found MACA has antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.(12) Compared to placebo at 6 and 12 weeks, there was no change in hormone levels. However, there was improved depression and anxiety scores and unexpected reduction in blood pressure and.(12)
MACA Mimics the Endocannabinoid System
In view of its hormonal effects, It was assumed that MACA exerted an effect on hormone receptors, however studies by Dr Bogani in 2006 showed this was not the case.(20) The exact mechanism of action of MACA remained a mystery until biochemists recognized a structural similarity of MACA compounds with Anadamide, the endogenous cannabinoid discovered in 1992 by Devane, Hanuš and Mechoulam.(21)
MACA Inhibits FAAH
Further studies revealed that MACA compounds serve as Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors.(22) Anandamide is degraded by FAAH, so inhibiting FAAH prolongs the presence of Anandamide, the principal endogenous endocannabinoid. FAAH inhibitors are known to "act on the central nervous system to provide analgesic, anti-inflammatory, or neuroprotective effects, by modulating the release of neurotransmitters." (22-24)
The ability of MACA compounds to mimic the endogenous endocannabinoid system is a huge discovery, and explains the varied and extensive health effects of MACA. For more on the endocannabinoid system and health benefits of cannabis see my book on the topic: Cannabis Extracts in Medicine: The Promise of Benefits in Seizure Disorders, Cancer and Other Conditions (Mcfarland Health Topics)
by Jeffrey Dach M.D. (Author), Elaine A. Moore (Author), Justin Kander (Author)
Differing Effects of Various Types of MACA, Black Red, Yellow
Dr Gonzales reports in 2014 that "Black maca shows the best results on spermatogenesis, memory and fatigue, while red maca is the variety that reverses (BPH) benign prostatic hyperplasia and osteoporosis". (25)
Dr Peter Bablis writes in his article, "Are you using the right type of Maca",
The red maca phenotype reduces size of prostate (BPH), and black maca is best for energy-promoting properties. Black maca alone improves sperm motility and count while yellow or red maca does not. Black and red maca improves bone health, but yellow does not. Black maca is best for enhancing memory and learning.
Conclusion: MACA's health benefits have been known for centuries with no demonstrable toxicity nor adverse effects, yet the full story of MACA is still evolving. Do you have a MACA story to tell? Send it in to us and post it in the comment section.
Please see original publicaiton for references: https://jeffreydachmd.com/2016/06/health-benefits-peruvian-maca/