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Peruvian vegetable used to boost vigor

Capsules | SUPPLEMENTS

November 29, 2004|Elena Conis

The root vegetable maca (Lepidium meyenii) has been cultivated in the high plateaus of the Peruvian Andes for centuries. The crop is a main part of the traditional diet of the region, where it's processed into maca wine, juice, tea, spread, milk, yogurt and a variety of baked products. Maca -- a member of the mustard family that grows exclusively at 13,123 feet and higher -- is rich in iron, iodine and magnesium.

Uses: In the Peruvian Andes, maca is a traditional remedy for infertility, menopause and lethargy. In the U.S., Japan and Europe, commercial maca supplements are taken to increase sex drive and improve sexual performance.

Dose: Doses range widely, from about 500 milligrams to 3 grams a day. Maca supplements are generally sold in tablet form.

Precautions: Maca supplement use hasn't been extensively studied in humans, so there's little information about the safety of long-term use or high doses.

Research: Lab studies have shown that maca can increase sperm production, sex hormone levels and sexual activity in male and female rodents. The few clinical trials that have investigated maca's effectiveness have been performed largely on men in Latin America and Asia. Such studies suggest maca use may increase sperm count and motility as well as sexual desire. Human studies also show maca may be able to relieve anxiety, but much more research is necessary to confirm the supplement's effects.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your healthcare provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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