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Male Reproductive Health

Maca’s impact on fertility and other male reproductive health parameters has been touted as one of the traditional uses of this botanical medicine. At present, animal studies using black, yellow, and unspecified colors maca have been shown effective for many parameters of men’s fertility and reproductive health, with human data confirming the effectiveness of various parameters.

 

 

Animal Studies

 

A male mouse study explored the effects of yellow and black maca extracts on sperm count. Methanolic extract of black maca resulted in a higher concentration of sperm count in the epididymis and vas deferens compared to yellow maca. It was also reported that the total phenolic content was better in the methanolic fraction than in the aqueous fraction of both yellow and black maca, though it was higher in black maca compared to yellow (1). Similarly, different extracts of black maca, used in adult male rats, resulted in increased daily sperm production with the ethyl acetate fraction of black maca and increased sperm count in vas deferens with hydroalcoholic extract of black maca (2).

 

Comparing the effects of black, red, and yellow maca on reproductive parameters in adult male rats revealed that black and yellow maca improved epididymal sperm count, whereas each of the three phenotypes (colors) of maca improved sperm count in vas deferens (3).

 

Another animal study (4) examined the effect of black maca on one spermatogenic cycle in rats.

  • Improvements were noted in as little as one day using black maca, including:

  • Increased epididymal sperm count on days 1, 3, and 7

  • Increased vas deferens sperm count on days 3, 5, and 7

  • Increased daily sperm production after 7 days of treatment

 

Those findings corresponded to another study (5) exploring the effects on spermatogenesis using three phenotypes of maca, black, red, and yellow, for short-term use (7 days) and long-term use (42 days). The results included:

  • Increased daily sperm production (p<0.05) occurred in those treated with black and yellow maca after 7 days, though after 42 days, daily sperm production was only significantly increased in the black maca group.

  • Epididymal sperm motility was not affected by treatment with any phenotype of maca after 7 days; however, at 42 days, the group treated with black maca showed significantly improved sperm motility (p<0.05).

  • Increased epididymal sperm number plus spermatids in the testis (p<0.05) was observed after 7 and 42 days of black and yellow maca use.

  • Epididymal sperm count significantly increased using black and yellow maca for 7 and 42 days.

  • Red maca reduced prostate weight (p<0.05); black and yellow maca did not impact prostate weight.

  • No changes in hormones were observed in any of the treated groups.

 

Overall, black maca was found to provide more benefit for sperm count and epididymal sperm motility compared to red and yellow maca.

 

A stallion study using yellow maca revealed an improvement in total sperm count, sperm concentration, and ejaculate volume (6). The effects on sperm count from an aqueous extract of yellow maca from different hypocotyl sizes, grown under different pH conditions and using two different routes of administration, were studied in male mice. The sperm count was higher in mice receiving yellow maca from the larger hypocotyl sizes, whereas the higher pH content of yellow maca reduced sperm count. It was also determined that oral administration of an aqueous extract of yellow maca was the only effective route (7). 

 

One study assessed the protective benefits of maca on lead acetate-induced damage to reproductive function in male rats. An unspecified color of maca protected spermatogenesis and increased epididymal sperm count while reducing the deleterious effect on daily sperm production caused by lead acetate (LA) treatment, suggesting maca may become a potential treatment of male infertility associated with lead exposure (8).

 

Two standardized formulas of unspecified colors of maca, called MacaPure M-01 and MacaPure M-02, were administered to male and female mice and rats for 22 days. The oral administration of M-01 and M-02 enhanced the sexual function of the mice and rats, as evidenced by an increase in the number of complete intromissions and the number of sperm-positive females in normal mice and a decrease in the latent period of erection in male rats with erectile dysfunction. This study was noted to confirm the aphrodisiac activity of maca (9).

 

 

Human Trails

 

Black maca

 

A 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial included 80 men over the age of 40 with late-onset hypogonadism. A dose of 5 grams of black maca per day was administered. Using several validated questionnaires, black maca resulted in significant improvements in the Aging Males' Symptoms scale (AMS), International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), and International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) (p<0.0001). Further, Androgen Deficiency in the Aging Males (ADAM) score was significantly reduced (p<0.0001), showing an improvement in androgen deficiency symptoms (10). 

 

As reported in Lee et al. (11), 45 men (30-60 years old) with mild erectile dysfunction took 5 grams per day of either 1) gelatinized and dried black maca OR 2) fermented black maca. Sperm concentration and motility were significantly improved (p<0.05) in the groups taking black maca compared to placebo.

 

Red maca

Participants (175 men and women) living in low altitudes (LA), 150 meters above sea level in Lima, Peru, and high altitudes (HA), 4,340 meters above sea level in Cerro de Pasco, Peru were included in a study comparing the efficacy of black and red maca. If their many reported benefits in this study, 50% of all participants taking red maca extract reported an increased perception of sexual desire at the end of the 12-week study (12).

 

Yellow maca

A study of 50 infertile men evaluated the effects of yellow maca in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Yellow maca was administered in a dose of 2.8 grams per day for 16 weeks. Yellow maca increased sperm count by 15%, sperm concentration by 40%, and a significant decrease in free testosterone by 27% was observed. Of note, sperm count and concentration increased by 102% and 76%, respectively, in the placebo group. The authors proposed that the stimulation of sperm quality may happen by a non-steroidogenic mechanism since free testosterone decreased in the maca-treated group, possibly due to secondary metabolites, including macamides, macaenes, and other lipid fractions. They concluded that the evidence from this study was inconclusive, citing many lifestyle factors that impact sperm health were not assessed, as well as the evidence that black maca seems to be more effective on semen parameters (13).

 

A pilot study (14) including 20 men, ages 20-40, evaluated multiple semen parameters using yellow maca in a dose of 1/75 grams per day for 12 weeks. Yellow maca was taken daily for 12 weeks at a dose of 1.75 grams by healthy men. Key findings in the group taking yellow maca include:

  • Increase of sperm count by 20%

  • Increase of sperm concentration by 14%

  • Improved sperm motility by 14%

  • Improved semen volume by 9%

  • Enhanced morphology of sperm by 21%

  • No changes in hormone levels were observed

 

Unspecified colors

A few studies indicate improvements in various aspects of male reproductive health; however, without knowledge of the colors used, it can be challenging to translate the findings into clinical care or application.

 

A study of 69 men, ages 20-40, with asthenozoospermia and/or mild oligozoospermia, took 1,000 mg twice daily of an unspecified color of maca and had a significant increase in sperm concentration (p<0.011) by 31.69%. While not of statistical significance, sperm motility increased by 10.48%, and morphology of spermatozoa increased by 6.33%. The authors noted that of the 20 men who were enrolled, two were lost to follow-up, and nine were smokers, acknowledging that this lifestyle factor impacts sperm health (15). Another study, including 60 infertile men, found improved sperm motility (p<0.05) after 90 days of 1,000 mg twice daily of an unspecified color of maca (16). A third study of 10 infertile men, ages 25-50, had improvements in sperm motility (p<0.0001), vitality (p<0.01), morphology (p<0.01), and immature germ cell (p<0.01) after 12 weeks of 3,000 mg daily of an unspecified color.

 

Gonzales et al. conducted a small trial (N=9) and found that 1,500 and 3,000 mg daily of an unknown color of maca increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, motile sperm count, and sperm motility. The doses used are known to be used as an aphrodisiac.  (17). The same researchers found that men taking 1,500 or 3,000 mg per day of a gelatinized maca root resulted in a significant increase (40%) in sexual desire (p<0.008) at week 8 of treatment and a significant increase (42.2%) in sexual desire (p<0.006) at week 12 of the treatment. No differences in the effect were noted between the dosing groups, and changes in hormone levels (testosterone, estradiol, prolactin, LH, and FSH) were not observed, suggesting that changes in libido are not a result of hormonal changes (18).

 

Positive effects of a dried maca extract on sexual performance in men (N=50) with mild erectile dysfunction were observed in randomized, double-blind clinical trials using 1,200 mg daily of an unknown color of maca for 12 weeks. This included a significant improvement in the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-5) score (p < 0.001) and psychological performance-related Satisfaction Profile (SAT-P) score (p< 0.05) (19). 

Author: Corey Schuler, PhD, FNP

Reviewer: Kim Ross, DCN

Last Updated: February 26, 2024

References

1. Inoue N, Farfan C, Gonzales GF. Effect of butanolic fraction of yellow and black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on the sperm count of adult mice. Andrologia. 2016;48(8).

2. Yucra S, Gasco M, Rubio J, Nieto J, Gonzales GF. Effect of different fractions from hydroalcoholic extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on testicular function in adult male rats. Fertil Steril. 2008;89(5 SUPPL.).

3. Gasco M, Aguilar J, Gonzales GF. Effect of chronic treatment with three varieties of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on reproductive parameters and DNA quantification in adult male rats. Andrologia. 2007;39(4).

4. Gonzales GF, Nieto J, Rubio J, Gasco M. Effect of Black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats. Andrologia. 2006;

5. Gonzales C, Rubio J, Gasco M, Nieto J, Yucra S, Gonzales GF. Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(3).

6. Tafuri S, Cocchia N, Carotenuto D, Vassetti A, Staropoli A, Mastellone V, et al. Chemical analysis of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) and its effects on redox status and on reproductive biology in stallions. Molecules. 2019;

7. Sanchez-Salazar L, Gonzales GF. Aqueous extract of yellow maca (Lepidium meyenii) improves sperm count in experimental animals but response depends on hypocotyl size, pH and routes of administration. Andrologia. 2018;50(3).

8. Rubio J, Riqueros MI, Gasco M, Yucra S, Miranda S, Gonzales GF. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) reversed the lead acetate induced-Damage on reproductive function in male rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2006;44(7).

9. Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, Rogers L, Shao Y, Huang ZY, et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology. 2000;55(4).

10. Shin D, Jeon SH, Piao J, Park HJ, Tian WJ, Moon DG, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Patients with Symptoms of Late-Onset Hypogonadism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. World Journal of Men’s Health. 2023;41(3).

11. Lee HW, Lee MS, Qu F, Lee JW, Kim E. Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) on semen quality parameters: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Pharmacol. 2022;13.

12. 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).

13. Melnikovova I, Russo D, Fait T, Kolarova M, Tauchen J, Kushniruk N, et al. Evaluation of the effect of Lepidium meyenii Walpers in infertile patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2021;35(11).

14. Melnikovova I, Fait T, Kolarova M, Fernandez EC, Milella L. Effect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on semen parameters and serum hormone levels in healthy adult men: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015.

15. Alcalde AM, Rabasa J. Does Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improve seminal quality? Andrologia. 2020;52(10).

16. Poveda C, Rodriguez R, Chu EE, Aparicio LE, Gonzales IG, Moreno CJ. A placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial of the effect of oral supplementation with spermotrend, maca extract (lepidium meyenii) or L-carnitine in semen parameters of infertile men. Fertil Steril. 2013 Sep;100(3):S440.

17. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001;3(4).

18. Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002;

19. Zenico T, Cicero AFG, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: A randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia. 2009;41(2).

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