Wednesday Bubble: Maca what?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2009 in herbal medicine, Uncategorized | 0 comments


I love it when I run across an item that’s perfect for a Wednesday bubble; whether or not this one is “burstable” remains to be seen. There are accumulating data supporting the use of a Peruvian herb known as “Maca,” which reportedly balances hormones and consequently, alleviates certain perimenopausal symptoms.

In scientific communities, Maca is better known as Lepedium Meyenii (or more recently, Lepedium peruvianum Chacon ) and is a plant in the mustard family. In Norway, Maca is considered a medicinal substance and requires a prescription.

There have been a lot of claims about the aphrodisiac and energizing properties of Maca. For this reason alone, I am quite skeptical about whether or not the science behind the plant’s use in menopause is sound. Nevertheless, I did find several evidence-based, published studies examining Maca in peri- and post-menopausal women:

In two of the largest studies, a standardized, concentrated Lepedium peruvianum formulation (Maca-GO®) was compared to placebo tablet in 168 women who were in early post-menopause; treatment was provided for up to four months. Significant, beneficial changes were seen in balancing and normalizing hormones (estradiol, progesterone, follicular stimulating hormone and lutinizing hormone) and reducing menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats.

In a much smaller, four-month study among perimenopausal women, all participants received Maca-GO® for two months and then a placebo tablet for two months. Two months of the active tablet resulted in anywhere from a 74% to 87% reduction in frequency of hot flashes and night sweats, as well as improvements in sleep interruption, nervousness, depression and heart palpitations. The authors, while acknowledging what is known as a placebo effect (i.e., “I want to believe it works so it does”) suggest that Maca-GO acts a hormonal toner. In this study, as in the one mentioned above, a balancing of hormonal levels was observed.

    There is a new supplement called Femmenessence™ with two product lines – MacaPause for postmenopausal women and MacaLife for perimenopausal women. Like many other supplements, both claim to support the body’s ability to balance hormone and by default, address the many troublesome symptoms associated with menopause. Recommended dosage is twice-daily 500 mg capsules for the first four months with a one week break every two to three months. The manufacturer also recommends that women first speak to a healthcare practitioner before using Femmenessence.

    As I’ve written time and again, the one-size fits all’ framework doesn’t work too well when it comes to hormones, let alone any other disease. Nevertheless, I am curious about Maca. What about you? Have you heard of or tried Maca? What were the results?

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