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Adrenal Health & Energy

As a therapeutic agent, maca has been used traditionally throughout Peru in many preparations including those for energy and as a vitality tonic to support healthy aging (1,2).


Botanical medicine classifies maca as an adaptogen (1,3,4). In the 1950s, the term “adaptogen” was coined by a Russian physician and pharmacist researching botanicals. Adaptogens can improve energy and increase attention and endurance in states of fatigue. Additionally, they can work through the endocrine system to modulate the physical, mental, and emotional effects of stress, while also increasing resistance to physiological imbalances and disease by strengthening the immune system (3,4).


Image 1: Adaptogenic effect on homeostasis.

Image provided by Symphony Natural Health and was adapted from: Panossian AG, Efferth T, Shikov AN, et al. Evolution of the adaptogenic concept from traditional use to medical systems: Pharmacology of stress- and aging-related diseases. Med Res Rev. 2021;41(1):630-703. doi:10.1002/med.21743.

While maca’s classification fits the definition of an adaptogen, research also suggests that specific, standardized maca formulations can impact the entire endocrine axis, consisting of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and gonads (HPTAG axis) based on the impact seen on hormone levels. Further, the phytochemicals found in maca, including macamides, have antifatigue effects (5).


With this in mind, the literature is scant as it relates specifically to maca for energy or adrenal health.


Animal Studies 

In one animal study, dried yellow maca root from the Xinjiang Province of China resulted in less fatigue, as measured by the forced swim test, a common model used to evaluate anti-fatigue activity when administered at a dose of 400mg/kg of body weight (6). Another animal study (middle-aged mice) used an unspecified color of maca and found a significant increase in swim time to exhaustion, suggesting maca’s anti-fatigue property (7). Two animal studies using a proprietary formulation known as Maca-GO have demonstrated a significant reduction in cortisol (p<0.05 and p<0.001) and ACTH (p<0.05) when used at various doses (8,9)


Human Studies

A human study of 175 men and women was conducted using red and black maca. Both colors of maca resulted in improved energy, though red maca performed slightly better, with 90% of red maca users reporting increased energy (10). A study of 60 Japanese women (20-65 years old) reporting fatigue utilized 200 mg twice daily of an unspecified color of maca to assess maca’s impact on fatigue. There was a significant decrease in fatigue (p<0.001), as measured by the visual analog scale (VAS), in women of the 20 to 45-year-old age group. The authors proposed that the polysaccharides and glucosinolates of maca may contribute to its anti-fatigue effects (11).


The animal research on the proprietary formulation known as Maca-GO also translated to clinical trials, in which perimenopausal and early post-menopausal women had significant reductions in cortisol and/or ACTH using 1,000 mg twice daily of Maca-GO, suggesting its impact on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (12,13).

Author: Kim Ross, DCN

Reviewer: Mona Fahoum, ND

Last updated: February 21, 2024



1. Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a plant from the peruvian highlands. Vol. 2012, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012.

2. Carvalho F V., Ribeiro PR. Structural diversity, biosynthetic aspects, and LC-HRMS data compilation for the identification of bioactive compounds of Lepidium meyenii. Vol. 125, Food Research International. 2019.

3. Todorova V, Ivanov K, Delattre C, Nalbantova V, Karcheva-Bahchevanska D, Ivanova S. Plant Adaptogens—History and Future Perspectives. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 20;13(8):2861.

4. Panossian AG, Efferth T, Shikov AN, Pozharitskaya ON, Kuchta K, Mukherjee PK, et al. Evolution of the adaptogenic concept from traditional use to medical systems: Pharmacology of stress‐ and aging‐related diseases. Med Res Rev. 2021 Jan 25;41(1):630–703.

5. Liu T, Peng Z, Lai W, Shao Y, Gao Q, He M, et al. The Efficient Synthesis and Anti-Fatigue Activity Evaluation of Macamides: The Unique Bioactive Compounds in Maca. Molecules. 2023;28(9).

6. Li J, Chen L, Li J, Duan Z, Zhu S, Fan L. The Composition Analysis of Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) from Xinjiang and Its Antifatigue Activity. J Food Qual. 2017;2017.

7. Guo SS, Gao XF, Gu YR, Wan ZX, Lu AM, Qin ZH, et al. Preservation of Cognitive Function by Lepidium meyenii (Maca) Is Associated with Improvement of Mitochondrial Activity and Upregulation of Autophagy-Related Proteins in Middle-Aged Mouse Cortex. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;2016.

8. Meissner HO, Kedzia B, Mrozikiewicz PM, Mscisz A. Short and long-term physiological responses of male and female rats to two dietary levels of pre-gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum chacon). Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

9. Meissner HO, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Mscisz A, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

10. Gonzales-Arimborgo C, Yupanqui I, Montero E, Alarcón-Yaquetto DE, Zevallos-Concha A, Caballero L, et al. Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2016 Aug 18;9(3).

11. Honma A, Fujiwara Y, Takei S, Kino T. The improvement of daily fatigue in women following the intake of maca (Lepidium meyenii) extract containing benzyl glucosinolate. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2022;12(4).

12. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

13. Meissner HO, Reich-Bilinska H, Mscisz A, Kedzia B. Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

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