Maca’s Fertility Benefits

 {guest post on maca byAmy Medling, of PCOSDiva.com}


What do you think of when you hear the term “Super Foods”?  I think of foods with lots of antioxidants like pomegranates and blueberries. I recently attended a lecture by raw foodie David Wolfe and learned about lots of interesting super foods like chlorella and spirulina. But I was most interested in the tuber vegetable called “maca” that he spoke about and how it can help balance hormones and give you energy and vitality. As a woman with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and a health coach, I always want to know more about anything natural that helps with hormonal balance.

maca and fertility

Maca lepidium peruvianum, is a turnip-like adaptogenic root belonging to the mustard family.  Adaptogens are an extremely rare class of herb that modulates the body’s response by supporting it in dealing with physiological, biochemical, and psychological stressors. (1)  It is found exclusively in the central Peruvian Andes at 12-14,000 feet under harsh natural growing and weather conditions. There are 13 different phenotypes within the species Lepidium peruvianum (maca that exhibit different colors, have different analytical profiles and even in some cases elicit different physiological effects on the body.(2) The maca root contains natural substances, which are believed to stimulate the pituitary and hypothalamus and adrenal glands to support and balance hormones. (3)

The active ingredients in maca are not phyto-estrogens, nor are they hormone like substances such as those found in wild yam. Maca does not introduce any hormones into your body. Instead, maca contains naturally occurring alkaloids.

Dr. Gloria Chacon, a biologist from Peru, states that the alkaloids in maca act on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which explains why the effects in humans are not limited to sex hormones, but also act on the adrenals (giving a feeling of greater energy and vitality) and on the pancreas and thyroid as well. Maca is also described as having powerful energizing affects. It sounds like a great supplement for balancing hormones doesn’t it?

However, I found that not all maca is created equal. Maca is a tuber and is difficult to digest raw. For that reason, the native Peruvians traditionally cooked maca the same way we would cook a potato. However, boiling point temperatures can often destroy key active ingredients. There are a lot of raw maca powder products out on the market but many people have a hard time digesting this form of maca and have stomach pains and digestion issues. Also, as I mentioned there are 13 different types of maca.

Scientists have shown that different types of maca are not just different colors, but some have different active ingredients and have different effects on the body. So how do you know which phenotype is the best for women during their reproductive years?

After reviewing all the published clinical studies on maca, I realized that while there is a lot of anecdotal evidence, there has actually been a relatively limited number of human studies done on maca and women. Also, nearly all of the studies have been focused on post menopausal women and the treatment of menopausal symptoms. What’s more, in all of those studies while they had reduced menopausal symptoms, none had actually been able to show any statistically significant effect on hormone levels except one group of clinical trials on a product called Maca-GO (commercially known as Femmenessence).(4)

Further investigation into Femmenessence lead me to some leading experts in woman’s health who had written about it, such as Oprah’s woman’s health expert and best selling author of Woman’s Bodies Woman’s WisdomDr Christiane Northrup MD OBGYN .

So I contacted Natural Health International ,the makers of  Femmenessence, to learn more about their product. I spoke with NHI’s CEO James Frame about PCOS and Femmenessence. (For the complete Q&A with James Frame of Natural Health International click here)

James Frame mentioned that patients who used Femmenessence MacaHarmony™ as part of a lifestyle protocol over 4-6 months have seen a reduction in symptoms such as hirsutism, acne and irregular menstrual cycles. In some more extreme cases he has observed patients who have not menstruated in 1-3 years, start to menstruate within 2-6 weeks. In instances where progesterone is not being produced, improved in 4-12 weeks. I also found it interesting when he mentioned that individuals who fit within the clinical spectrum of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X) or have Type 2 Diabetes, have shown improvement in blood glucose regulation after the use of Femmenessence for 8-16 weeks. He explained that it also helps with mood regulation by improving serotonin levels.

I have been taking Femmenessence maca since June 2011.  I can attest that it is a powerful cycle regulator. My cycles have been 28 days apart for the last 5 months which is a major feat for someone with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. If you have issues with your cycles like I did – maca may be just what you need to get in the flow.

1 Winston D, et al. Adaptogens. Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press 2007

2 Gonzales GF, et al. Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2005, 3(5) 14

3 Meissner H.O., Mrozikiewicz P.M., Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T. et al. Hormone-balancing effect of pre-gelatinised organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon):

4 Meissner H.O., Kapczy_ski W., M_cisz A. et al. Use of Gelatinised Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) in Early–Postmenopausal Women – a Pilot Study. I. J. B. S., 2005; 1: 33

Amy Medling, CHC, is the founder of PCOSDiva.com, an online resource dedicated to help women understand and manage the symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She studied holistic nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is a Certified Health Coach. Diagnosed with PCOS 10 years ago and has since moved from a “why me?” self-pity state to a place of empowerment, that ultimately led her to becoming what she calls, a PCOS Diva. She turned her energy to researching alternative holistic treatments and therapies for PCOS. She came up with a plan that uses whole food, natural remedies, supplements, exercise, self-care and stress reduction to relieve and control PCOS symptoms. All of which she shares with her current clients to help them discover their own PCOS Diva.



Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
Donielle is an author, amateur herbalist, lover of real food, and an advocate for natural health. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health, so much so that she is currently taking courses to become a master herbalist. Her personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and she began this blog in order to share all of the information she found helpful in her journey to healing.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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Comments

  1. Is Maca safe to take for women that have regular cycles? I bought some for my husband and have taken it a few times. I am rather nervous that I might get my cycle out of whack. I do have hormonal acne that was fixed, truly and unbelievable transformation, by eliminating ALL wheat and dairy (except grass fed butter). It has come back with a vengence this cycle since I gave Clomid another shot. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. We have taken just plain old organic maca, and been pleasantly surprised at how it has supported my adrenals, given both of us extra energy and also boosted libido.

    It is a food, so unless you find you are allergic to it, can be taken by anyone at any age.
    In Peru, children begin taking it at about age 3.

  3. This is GREAT! I’m happy to hear that you’ve learned and added this special super food to your diet! I LOVE Maca! I does give me and my husband a lot of energy! We’ve been eating Maca Raw for the past two years now on and off, and because its mixed with other essential healing foods by an herbalist & doctor (health force nutritionals), it has proven to be very safe (without the other herbs, it would be hard to digest raw). In the spirit of Maca & Fertility I just created a really delicious recipe! Blackberry Maca Delight :) We just ate it, and were feeling super energized! :D
    Thank you for educating, and sharing about the beautiful Maca root!

  4. So I just bought some pretty expensive Maca powder from Radiant Life for my husband – is that not as good as the Maca powder suggested in this article? Also, is the type recommended in this article good for men to take, or is there a difference between the type men and women should take? I’ve just been having my husband take maca because I’ve read that it’s supposed to help raise testosterone levels and sperm count, but maybe I should start taking it too, as I have hormonal issues as well.

    • @Kelsey, I think there are plenty of places that sell good, quality maca. Amy had just researched and used this one so she mentioned it in the article. I myself would trust the Radiant Life products as well. :-)

  5. Claire Price says:

    Is this maca cooked or raw? I took raw maca before and broke out in hives.

  6. I am on bio identical progesterone. I had poly cystic ovaries when they were checked about a year ago. My dr. has upped my dose a couple of times. (I do not know why. Maybe he wanted to start out slow and move up.) I am now up to 75 mg on days 7 through 11. And 175 mg on days 12 through 26 of my cycle. I also had some adrenal issues, yeast overgrowth, suspicious lyme’s testing, low ferritin, low b vitamins. Anyway, my doctor has never said if heavy metals started all that or lyme’s or what. I am supposed to have a chelation challenge to test for metals.) I wonder if maca would be good to take instead of the progesterone, or with the progesterone. At one times my cycles were very far apart. My chiropractor thought for sure it was going to end up being thyroid, because of my symptoms (including high cholesterol, cycle problems, etc.) But apparently, no dr. agrees. :) I am on alot of supplements, but not iodine. I sometimes wonder about that one too.

    I love your website, and have told some friends about it!

    • @Kristie, Maca isn’t a substitute for progesterone as it isn’t an actual hormone itself. So I would definitely talk to your doctor first! But maca also shouldn’t cause any adverse affects if taken along with the progesterone either, so maybe check with your doc about adding in maca to boost nutrients within the body that will eventually help your own hormone production. Does your chiro do kinesiology/muscle testing at all? I’ve found that to be effective in deciding which supplements to take.

  7. Hi there! Do you have any research or thoughts re: taking Maca while on Clomid? I know that’s putting nature and science together…..but hey, I’m researching all options.

    Thanks very much!

    Rachel

    • donielle says:

      @Rachel, I actually don’t know how the two of those would work (or not work) together. Sorry! My first thought is that since maca is a food (just dried and ground) that it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I don’t have any studies to show that back that theory up. :-)

  8. What dosage would you recommend for pill capsules?

    • @Prisy, I can’t really recommend anything in particular, especially for liability reasons. :-) But each bottle should have a basic guideline as to how much to take. After a month or so of that dosage you can go up or down depending on how your body feels.

    • Hi! I highly recommend Gaia brand maca and taking 3-4 capsules per day. I have also heard good things about the product mentioned in this (amazing) article but I have not used it myself.

      My life has changed since taking maca. First of all, I tried to get pregnant for two years and finally got pregnant at the age of 42 four months after cleaning up my diet, dealing with my stress and incorporating maca into my daily diet. Then, after giving birth to a healthy baby boy, I had severe postpartum depression…I had stopped taking the maca somewhere along the way. I did research and maca has been shown to help depression (she mentions the balancing of seratonin levels in this article) and now I take 4,000 mg a day without fail…if I don’t take it, I notice my depression creeping back in. My cycle is dead on regular (28 days!) with almost no PMS. I also eat healthy and exercise three times a week, but I know the maca has helped me tremendously. Another great thing about maca is that it is a food and there are no contraindications with other medicines. Good luck xoxoxox
      @Prisy,

  9. Hi Donielle, I am married for last 5 years and have no kids still. We are struggling hard to concieve, The Doctor says my TSH is high. Will havind Maca Powder normalize my hormones??? Any suggestion thanks.

    • @SoniK, Some women do find that maca helps normalize hormones – others don’t. So I can’t really say if it in fact would be helpful for you – so much of natural medicine is just like conventional medicine – trial and error.
      As for thyroid issues, I’d recommend you have your doctor take a full thyroid panel, as just the TSH numbers are only part of the issue. Having tests done on T3, T4, and thyroid antibodies will give you a better look at what might be going on. I’d also look into the book “Why do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” http://amzn.to/PbLwd6 (affiliate link) It’s a great look at what may be wrong and has lots of options for natural treatments.

  10. Does Maca speed up your heart rate? If you have a heart cola diction (WPW) can you take Maca?

    • @Norma, I’m not sure on that question. Maca is in itself, a food so the side effects aren’t what you’d find in say a specific nutrient supplement. But it is something you’d want your doctor to look in to if you have a health condition.

  11. Any idea whether Maca truly does help you to conceive?

    • @Norma, As with all aspects of natural fertility, it’s usually not just “one thing” that allows a person to conceive. Most women who take maca are also changing other areas of their diet and lifestyle to allow for better health. So,, I think that this is one thing that really varies from person to person – some women say that it really seemed to help balance their cycles, others find they didn’t see much difference.

  12. Can I take Maca while taking Clomid?

  13. Can I take Maca while taking Clomid

    • @Sammie351, You should be able to as maca is a food and not a supplement based on one nutrient. And it also just helps to support the body and doesn’t actually contribute hormones itself. Just check with your ob/gyn or RE but it shouldn’t be an issue!

  14. I don’t just see Maca-Go, was it Maca-Pause or Maca-Life you were taking?

  15. Hi Amy,
    please tell me if maca can only be taken on its own, or it can with hormonal medication such as spironoctaline, and birth control pills, or natural progesterone? Please tell me how you had taken them, Thanks, Jackie

    • From personal experience and from what other women have told me, maca doesn’t upset any hormonal medication as maca itself does not contain any hormones, only supports the systems that produce them.

      But of course, always check with your health care provider based on your body and any medications you might be taking.

  16. You have great information here.

  17. hello, i am 26 years old and i have been in recovery for two years from a sixteen year battle with anorexia and bulimia. over the two years i maintained a healthy weight and did moderate exercise. in march i started to exercise a bit too much and i have not had a period since. i have been experiencing night sweats, mood swings, over all fatigue, and bloating. all signs point to a hormonal deficiency due to low body weight. could someone like me benefit from taking this product?

    • It’s possible that it could help, but making sure you’re getting enough to eat and getting enough rest is also going to be really helpful! You might want to work with a doctor (preferably holistic minded if possible) to run some hormone tests. That way you’ll know whether you need to help boost estrogen or progesterone, or both. Sometimes without knowing exactly what’s going on inside, it’s hard to figure out where to start with supplements. Because of your history with eating disorders it can be tricky, and take a while, for hormone imbalances to even out again due to the stress your body dealt with for so many years. It seems that it’s also easier for women that dealt with long term eating disorders to have their hormones become unbalanced quite easily.

  18. I took maca for libido enhancement (mine is very low) to a few weeks and saw no results. Should I take it for longer? My adrenals and thyroid test perfectly. Any tips? Try a different brand maybe?

    • One thing to remember about using foods (and whole food supplements like maca) is that it can take time to renourish your body. (unlike conventional meds that try to give instant results by forcing the body to do something)

      Maybe try checking out the book Orgasmic Diet? It’s all about boosting libido through diet.

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