Indigenous Peruvians have used maca to promote fertility for more than two millennia, which will give you an idea of how important this root supplement could be to you, if you are trying to conceive for a baby.
The cruciferous vegetable, maca grows in the Andes of Peru.
The plant thrives in some of the world’s harshest landscapes and farmlands, in soil loaded with volcanic minerals which are subjected to freezing temperatures, severe sunlight and ferocious winds.
It is the only plant on the planet capable of flourishing in such extreme conditions and high altitudes.
The maca plant, scientific name lepidiummeyenii, is made up of scalloped leaves with white flowers.
What one sees above ground makes for pretty foliage, but it is what is below the ground that is important. The maca root resembles a radish in shape and is a little bigger than the salad vegetable.
At the head of the root we find a characteristic facet called hypocotyls.
Different kinds of maca have hypocotyls of different colors, and according to research it is the black hypocotyls which have the maximum impact on male fertility.
Analysis of the the root reveals it contains 31 vitamins and minerals, and 60 different types of phytonutrients.
First Discoveries of Maca Improving Fertility Was in Animals
According to legend, the Incan farmers noticed that when herds grazed on a specific plant, it made them more fertile.
It was the maca plant, or the root to be exact, which is a member of the same family as cabbage, mustard and broccoli.
After the Spanish Conquest in the early sixteen hundreds, the Spanish were faced with poor health and infertility due to the high altitudes, so the natives recommended the use maca.
The results were incredibly positive, in fact, the very first written records ever recorded and maintained in the region, have to do with occurrences of maca improving health, and helping Spanish women to conceive.
Maca became so popular, that there are even historical records noting the conquerors being paid in maca, instead of gold.
The claims of maca enhancing fertility have been scientifically studied since 1961.
Maca affects the main hormones in the body’s of both sexes, without itself possessing or delivering any hormones.
It was discovered that the glucosinolates in maca, which directly affect fertility, while alkaloids support the hormonal balance.
Maca Increases Sperm Count and Mobility in Men
In one study, black maca (black hypocotyls), was given to rats and found to increase sperm count after just one day of consumption.
This study further confirmed a previous study in which Peruvian men used black maca and found that sperm production increased (1).
A more recent study also found that use of maca increased the seminal volume, sperm motility and sperm count in each ejaculum (2).
Another study looked at the affect of maca on spermatogenic disruption in relation to lead exposure and found that use of maca prevented this interruption (3).
Maca also offers benefits for female fertility in addition to aiding improvement in general female health. Maca is frequently used by women to alleviate symptoms of menopause and PMS. More studies are concentrating on the benefits maca provides for male fertility, and research dealing with benefits for women is not that plentiful.
However, there is one study about the fertility benefits maca offers women – in 2005, tests indicated that consumption of yellow maca increased the size of litter in mice.
This was the first study confirming that maca offered fertility benefits to women (4), albeit in mice.
All findings discussed so far indicate that maca root is beneficial for the reproductive system when consumed preceding conception, and the information might seem obvious in hindsight.
However, there are a number of other ways that maca root can help to achieve conception by preparing the woman’s body, that are not so apparent.
It is common knowledge that overall good health is a vital factor in becoming pregnant.
It is believed that maca root also enhances vigor in a number of ways.
Consumption boosts the immune system, cuts down on fatigue, delivers vital nutrients especially, iron and iodine and intensifies stamina (5).
The additional iron is of particular importance to women, as most women experience iron deficiencies when pregnant, so it is important to have healthy iron levels before conceiving.
Maca Aids Estrogen Production in Women
Maca plays a vital role in maintaining healthy levels of estrogen in the body.
Having high levels of estrogen or even low levels can prevent a pregnancy, or even prevent the carrying mother going full term.
Excessive amounts of estrogen levels in the body interfere with progesterone, keeping its levels very low.
Consumption of maca during this time aids in reducing the amount of progesterone in the body to a level that is important to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
‘Forces’ That Affect Fertility in Women
Mood swings, low self esteem, depression and irregular menstrual cycles all contribute to fertility problems, and the ability of a woman actually carrying the pregnancy.
At this time, hormone ‘maintenance’ is fundamental to the success of conception.
Typically these disorders are treated by introducing synthetic hormones into the body.
But, hormones administered this way disrupt the body’s natural cycle.
Maca, on the other hand, supports the body’s endocrine system naturally, without introducing external hormones.
It tells the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal and pituitary glands to function at an optimal level, according to the needs of each individual.
It gently brings the body to the point where fertilization can occur with ease.
Using Maca to Help the Chances of Becoming Pregnant
Using maca is fairly easy.
It is available in capsules, powder or a liquid. It is also possible to obtain the gelatinized version of maca. Gelatinizing is a process by which starch is removed from maca to increase concentration and improve assimilation.
Even in studies, maca has been found to produce no side effects when taken in quantities typically found in food for up to three months non-stop.
However, it is best to start with small doses and build up to the optimum recommended of 2,000 to 3,000 mg a day, dividing it into three doses.
Cycling maca is recommended to, and if you are concerned about any dangers of taking it, please refer to our article, Maca Side Effects.
As with all potent natural alternatives to medications, it is best to consult with your doctor before starting on a program of maca.
1 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16961569
2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11753476?dopt=Citation
3 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16510228
4 – http://www.rbej.com/content/3/1/16
5 – Chillemi, Stacey Chillemi and Dr. Michael. The Complete Herbal Guide: A Natural Approach to Healing the Body. Lulu Inc., August 24, 2011.