Maca is a crop plant native to the mountainous regions of Peru and has been grown there as a food crop for centuries. The plant is not grown very widely as it grows poorly below around 4000 metres, preferring colder climates and poorer soils.
Maca was traditionally cultivated for general and ceremonial uses as well as for trading with peoples living at less extreme altitudes. It produces fleshy tubers of a range of shapes, sizes, colours and flavours depending on the strain. White maca roots are celebrated for the sweetness of their flavour whereas black maca roots are more often used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, being thought to have energy enhancing properties – especially for men, as we shall see.
Maca roots are usually either baked and eaten straight away or else are boiled and mashed to form a paste. This paste is then mixed with milk or grains of cereal and then dried and ground to produce a kind of flour.
According to many local legends Inca warriors would consume maca before battle in order to have more strength, power and thirst for victory Maca . These legends also attribute the enthusiasm with which the women folk of vanquished villages and tribes were ravished by these victorious Inca warriors to the aphrodisiac properties of maca root.
Because of these legends and stories maca extract has become an increasingly common ingredient of supplements designed to enhance male sexual vitality and performance, and in fact the amount of maca grown for the supplements industry is now greater than the amount grown for general consumption. The increasing popularity of maca and of supplements that contain extracts of this plant has led to interest from researchers who are even now testing the effects of various strains of maca.
While research in to the plants effects is still quite limited, a few small-scale clinical trials have shown that men who consumed maca had a higher sex drive and increased sperm volume compared to men who consumed a placebo, although studies are yet to be carried out upon subjects who suffer sexual dysfunction or fertility problems. Whilst maca itself has no direct hormonal effect it is believed that the plant’s unique nutritional composition has some effect upon regulating male hormone levels. Animal studies have repeatedly shown that individuals who were given maca displayed an increase in mating behaviour such as sniffing and mounting.
In conclusion it is fair to say that the use of maca in sperm pills and other male supplements is quite justified, although not enough research has yet been done to say for sure whether taking maca can help to improve fertility in men with a low sperm-count or other fertility problems.