Herbs for Sexual Dysfunction and Depression: The Benefits of Maca Root

Friday, November 07, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

Did you hear the one about the guy who made an appointment to treat his impotence? He had to cancel because something came up! 

Maybe he was taking maca root. (Genius transition, I know.)

Lepidium meyenii, also known as maca, is a starchy potato-like root with a high nutritional profile. It contains nineteen essential amino acids, fatty acids such as linoliec, oleic and palamitic, along with calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, iodine, iron and zinc. Maca is often touted as an adaptogen, or a compound that helps the body to adapt to stress by normalizing internal systems. 

But it is great for more than good overall health. Maca root may also reduce depression and menopausal symptoms while alleviating sexual dysfunction, including low libido. 

“Say what? More happiness and better sex drive? Please, continue.”

Maca Root as an Antidepressant and an Aphrodisiac 

Maca has antidepressant qualities in mice and black maca may have some additional benefit in learning and memory1. While many  antidepressant treatments come with side effects, maca root seems to carry no such adverse effects and actually serves to reverse sexual dysfunction issues triggered by SSRIs, a class of drugs commonly used to treat depression2. Even in men not on pharmaceuticals for depression, maca improves sexual desire3, increases sperm count4 and sperm motility4

“All the semen in the house say, ‘Hooray!’”

In women, maca also seems to have a positive effect on fertility and reduces sexual dysfunction issues, including lack of desire4

“All the ladies in the house say, ‘Thank god I can stop arguing with my husband about whether or not I actually have a headache!’”

Those sexual benefits carry well beyond childbearing age. Maca may alleviate menopausal discomforts including flushing and night sweats, nervousness, mood swings, headaches, fatigue, sleep issues, depression and the previously discussed low libido5. However, it may need to be taken for a few consecutive months in order to see significant changes in symptoms5.  

How Does Maca Work?

Due to the way maca acts on sexual functioning, it has often been thought to alter hormonal levels, and there does seem to be some truth to that. Maca may work because the alkaloids present in the plant act on the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland6. This system in turn affects the thyroid and the pancreas, which may lead to improvements in hormonal regulation. 

Maca may also indirectly play a role in the regulation of the adrenal glands, which control cortisol release, a response strongly tied to anxiety and depression. So, between  regulating cortisol and hormones, those systems may work together to increase energy6 and alleviate other symptoms of depression.

But maca benefits are not isolated to hormonal issues. Even in the absence of hormonal changes such as fluctuations in estrogen levels, maca reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms and lowers sexual dysfunction issues in post menopausal women7

How To Use Maca Root 

You can buy the root whole or get it in powder form here.

If you manage to get your hands on whole maca from a local health food grocer, you can roast the root as you would sweet potatoes with a little pastured butter and Himalayan salt. 

If you get the powder, you can mix it with milk or water for a starchy potato-like dish. You can also add the powder to smoothies or mix a little into a fresh juice. 

It almost tastes like almond powder in smoothies, so I like to pair maca with cacao nibs, banana, spinach and honey. Because peanut butter cups are frowned upon in most circles as a morning pick-me-up, this serves as my version of a Reese's-esque breakfast. With all the extra sugar and without all those aphrodisiac properties, Reese's are probably more likely to bring you down in the long run anyway. 

I’ll take fake Reese's and better sex instead of all the processed nonsense. Hershey ain’t got nothing on orgasm. I’d much rather the former be fake than the latter.      

Related Posts:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16796734 
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801111
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614644/
  6. Chacon RG. PhD Thesis. Peru: Univ. Natl. Mayo de San Marcos; 1961. Phytochemical study on Lepidium meyenii; pp. 1–46
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18784609 

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