Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is the root of a vegetable native to the Andes region of Peru. Known as "Peruvian ginseng" (even though it doesn't belong to the same botanical family as ginseng), maca is consumed as a food and is said to boost energy and libido.
Typically added to smoothies, juice, and shakes, the ground root powder can also be used as an ingredient in such foods as coffee, chocolate, or oils. In Peru, whole maca root is often added to soup and oatmeal, roasted and consumed as a vegetable, or made into a fermented beverage known as "maca chica."
Uses for Maca
Proponents claim that maca may benefit conditions such as erectile dysfunction, low libido, depression, hair loss, and hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause.
As a cruciferous vegetable (like cabbage, broccoli, arugula, Brussels sprouts, and kale), maca contains glucosinolates, plant compounds that are being studied for their role in cancer prevention.
In Peruvian folk medicine, maca is sometimes used to raise energy levels.
The Benefits of Maca
Few scientific studies have examined the effectiveness of maca. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:
Sexual Function and Libido
For a report published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers analyzed four previously published clinical trials on the use of maca for improving sexual function. While two studies found that maca may have positive effects on sexual dysfunction, the researchers concluded that the total number of trials, the total sample size, and the average quality of the studies were too limited to draw firm conclusions. They also noted that there is insufficient knowledge of the risks of maca intake.
Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction
Maca may alleviate antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women, according to a 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For the study, women who were taking classes of antidepressant medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) took either maca root or a placebo. Remission rates of sexual dysfunction at the end of the 12-week study were higher for those taking maca.
In a small study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2015, semen quality and hormone levels were assessed after the intake of maca or a placebo. After the 12-week study period, there were no significant changes in sperm concentration, motility, and hormone levels, however, sperm concentration and motility showed rising trends.
Traditional Use and Health Benefits
The name Tongkat Ali means “Ali’s walking stick" - it is native to Malaysia, lower Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia. The root is employed as a traditional remedy for the treatment of malaria, high blood pressure, fevers, fatigue, loss of sexual desire, and impotence. Tongkat Ali enjoys both a long history of traditional use, and a growing body of serious science corroborating its efficacy.
Tongkat Ali Benefits
Male Sexual Health
Tongkat Ali is a powerful herb that has been traditionally used for centuries as a remedy for age-related male disorders. Testosterone and other male hormones are known to decrease with age which can result in a condition known as "andropause" (also known as the male menopause). Symptoms can include lack of energy, a decrease in libido, increased body fat and mental lethargy.
Many studies show that this root contains compounds that stimulate libido, promote sperm motility and semen quality and support muscle growth - all effects that are attributed to an increase in testosterone. The hormonal support provided by Tongkat Ali can also increase male fertility by promoting normal sperm quality. This effect is backed up by a 2012 study of 76 men, only 35 percent of whom had normal testosterone levels. After one month of supplementation with Tongkat Ali, the number of men with normal testosterone levels had risen significantly to 90 percent.
A pleasant side effect of this increase in testosterone is a boost in sex drive, with it long being used in South East Asia as an aphrodisiac.
Female Sexual Health
Tongkat Ali's main benefits for women come from its ability to balance hormones, with common symptoms of hormone imbalance including; low sex drive, brain fog, fatigue and slow metabolism. With hormones playing a significant role in metabolism, Tonkat Ali's stabilising effect can help to maintain healthy metabolism, also preventing age-related weight gain.
When hormones are out of kilter this can play havoc with many bodily systems, especially in women - low energy levels being a common complaint along with fatigue. Tongkat Ali is a natural energy booster, with Asian communities using this herb for centuries for just this effect, alongside it being used to ramp up sex drive and boost testosterone levels (necessary for both male and female sexual health). It is also said to be helpful in increasing the sensitivity of women's erogenous zones, further adding to its libido boosting qualities.
Another side-effect of low hormone levels (especially testosterone), is an increased risk of osteoporosis - common in women over a certain age. As long as levels of magnesium, calcium and vitamin D are normal, Tongkat Ali's ablility to encourage serum levels of testosterone make this herb extremely useful for improving and maintaining superior bone health.
A natural side effect of the increase in testosterone provided by Tongkat Ali is that it can aid in the loss of body fat whilst boosting the ability to gain lean body mass. This will have an even greater effect if exercise is taken regularly.
A promising Malaysian study published in 2002 demonstrated that Tongkat Ali had the potential to improve lean body mass. In this double blind study, 7 men were given 100 mgs of Tongkat Ali extract each day with the other 7 participants being given a placebo for a 5 week period. The men in the Tongkat Ali group experienced a 5% increase in their lean body mass and a significant reduction in body fat.
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