Lepidium meyenii or maca is an herbaceous biennial plant or annual plant (some sources say a perennial plant) native to the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia’s higlands. It is grown for its fleshy hypocotyl (actually a fused hypocotyl and taproot), which is used as a root vegetable and a medicinal herb. Its Spanish and Quechua names include maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, and ayak willku. Maca is consumed both as a sports supplement by strength and endurance athletes, and as a natural stimulant to enhance sexual drive. However, whether or not the postulated benefits of maca consumption are of scientific merit is not yet known.
In 2009, a study entitled ‘A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen.’ was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology with the aim of investigating the effect of 14 days maca supplementation on endurance performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists.
Eight participants each completed a 40 km cycling time trial before and after 14 days supplementation with both maca extract (ME) and placebo, in a randomised cross-over design. Subjects also completed a sexual desire inventory during each visit.
ME administration significantly improved 40 km cycling time performance compared to the baseline test (P=0.01), but not compared to the placebo trial after supplementation (P>0.05). ME administration significantly improved the self-rated sexual desire score compared to the baseline test (P=0.01), and compared to the placebo trial after supplementation (P=0.03).
CONCLUSIONS: 14 days ME supplementation improved 40 km cycling time trial performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists. These promising results encourage long-term clinical studies involving more volunteers, to further evaluate the efficacy of ME in athletes and normal individuals and also to explore its possible mechanisms of action.