Does Maca Root Work For Libido? What You Need To Know

Published on November 08, 2022

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Experiencing low libido (a decreased interest in sexual activity) isn’t just hard on a relationship. It can negatively impact your self-esteem, mood, energy levels, and overall mental and emotional well-being. 

However, libido challenges are not uncommon.

Research has shown approximately 15% of men and 30% of women have experienced low libido at some point in life.REF#37

The causes vary between individuals and genders and may include stress, hormonal changes (such as pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, or andropause), certain medications, chronic illnesses, age, significant life changes, and lifestyle.REF#37

A decrease in sex drive is also one of the top reasons people seek herbal and nutritional supplements, like Maca Root.

In this article, you’ll learn what Maca Root is, some history of its traditional use as an aphrodisiac, the research behind its use and actions, and how to use it to support libido and a healthy sex drive.*

Meet Maca Root: One Of The World’s Oldest Aphrodisiacs

Maca Root, scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is a vegetable native to the high elevations of the Andes mountain range. It has been grown and cultivated for approximately 2000 years. 

The ancient Incans relied on this superfood as a primary source of nourishment. They used it to support hormonal health, stress response, male fertility, respiratory health, endurance, brain health, immunity, and to enhance sex drive—which can be compromised at high altitudes.*REF#38

As a member of the brassica vegetable family (like kale, collard greens, broccoli, radishes, and cabbages) it contains phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.

Maca is considered an adaptogen, meaning it belongs to a class of herbs that support the body’s resilience to physical, mental, and emotional stress by supporting adrenal health.*

However, Maca’s traditional use as an aphrodisiac and potential fertility support has made it popular among 21st-century wellness seekers.*

How Maca Root Supports Healthy Libido

Natural aphrodisiacs such as Spanish fly, caterpillar fungus, and even skink skin have existed throughout traditional cultures. 

However, few have had their traditional uses tested and validated by modern research.

Maca is the exception, as it has been the focus of several studies on how it may affect libido in men and women.

Here’s what we know about how Maca supports healthy sex drive, hormones, and more.*

The Science Behind Maca For Libido Support in Women

Men may be the targets of endless products claiming to enhance libido and sexual function.

However, as previously discussed, women are more likely to experience low libido throughout their lifetime. 

This is especially common during times of stress, fatigue, or hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.

When these times come up, it’s helpful to know you have evidence-based herbal support in Maca.

The Journal of The North American Menopause Society published research showing Maca can help enhance sexual desire in post-menopausal women by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. However, the mechanism of action is unknown.REF#39

Now that you’ve seen some research, let’s look closer at the possible mechanisms behind Maca’s libido benefits.

How Maca Root May Support Female Libido*

Despite the evidence that Maca may benefit women’s libido, the science is not settled on exactly how Maca works. However, researchers have several theories:

    • In addition to the previously mentioned evidence, Maca may promote normal testosterone in women. Some researchers believe its bioactive substances, such as prostaglandins, sterols, and aromatic isothiocyanates, are responsible for its aphrodisiac properties.REF#40
    • Maca has been shown to support the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal (HPA)/Hypothalamus Pituitary Gonadal (HPG) axes, which could positively impact overall hormonal health, including sex hormones.REF#41
  • These axes are connected to the endocrine system and nervous systems. Therefore, all endocrine glands, nerves, and hormones benefit when they function optimally.REF#41
  • Maca supports normal production of the Luteinizing hormone, which plays a role in male and female libido.*REF#41
  • Maca’s previously mentioned nutrients, such as zinc, iodine (related to thyroid health), and essential fatty acids, have also been connected to a healthy sex drive.REF#42

Additionally, Andean women have used it for centuries to support libido, menstruation, and overall hormonal health.*

The main takeaway is there is evidence supporting Maca’s traditional use as an aphrodisiac in women. There’s just no formal scientific consensus on exactly how it works.

How Maca Root May Support Libido In Men*

Several studies have confirmed Maca’s traditional use for promoting healthy libido and stamina in men

The First International Journal of Andrology: Andrologia published a 12-week double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial entitled: Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in healthy adult men. 

The men in the study, aged 21–56 years, received Maca in one of two doses: 1500 mg or 3000 mg or placebo over eight weeks.

Researchers concluded that Maca enhanced sexual desire in men after eight weeks of use. 

However, researchers stated there was no change in the sex hormones testosterone or oestradiol in the men’s trial group. How Maca supported libido remains unclear.REF#43

Research published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies also found that Maca supported sexual desire in men and menopausal women. However, like the previous study, the mechanism of action is unclear.REF#44

More On How Maca May Benefit Men’s Libido*

How does Maca support men’s libido?* There are several possibilities.

  1. Scientists hypothesize Maca’s adaptogenic properties could be partially responsible for its action.The theory is since adaptogens support adrenal health, they provide a downstream benefit to sex hormones, stress response, and mood.* 
  2. Maca contains nutrients essential to the production of male sex hormones, such as zincREF#45 and B vitamins.REF#46
  3. As mentioned in the section on how Maca works for female libido, Maca supports normal production of the Luteinizing hormone, which plays a role in male and female sex drive.*REF#41
  4. As mentioned above, Maca supports the HPA/HPG axes in men and women, which affects sex hormones and overall hormonal function.REF#41

The previously mentioned two-part study on how Maca supported libido in women with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants also holds clues for men: 

“Recently, an interesting case report in the British Medical Journal detailed the case of testosterone assay interference by Maca, suggesting that Maca contains an as of yet unspecified compound with a similar moiety to the human testosterone molecule and that it may be exerting its androgenic effects through actions at the testosterone receptor on target organs without affecting the level of testosterone or gonadotrophins REF#50, REF#51. 

This may explain why studies in men demonstrate a lack of effect of Maca on serum hormone levels.REF#47,REF#43,REF#48,REF#49

In other words, Maca may contain an undiscovered plant compound that mimics testosterone without altering detectable human testosterone levels in men.

We still have much to learn about Maca’s actions on male sex drive. However, there is legitimate scientific and anecdotal evidence to suggest its efficacy.

How To Start Using Maca Root To Support Libido*

If you’re interested in trying Maca for libido, the first step is to find a high-quality source.

When choosing a maca powder or supplement, look for: 

  • Certified organic, Andean-grown Maca
  • Third-party tested for identity and purity
  • Gelatinized Maca, which has had its starch removed to enhance absorbability

Unfortunately, Maca’s popularity has led some growers and manufacturers to cut corners by growing Maca outside its native environment using pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.

Since Maca derives many of its properties from its native, high-altitude habitat, experts believe forced growing practices yield a lower-quality, less potent, and potentially contaminated product.

Gaia Herbs offers several high-quality Maca products that meet these quality standards, including:

Maca can be taken as a capsule or powder, blended into smoothies, and used in your favorite recipes.

Some popular Maca recipes include Cacao PB Protein Cookies Recipe With Maca Powder and Maca Boost® Cacao Ginger, Maca Matcha Latte, and Apple Pie Smoothie With Maca Boost® Cacao Ginger.

Based on the research shared in this article and traditional use, consistency is important when taking Maca. Be sure to enjoy it regularly, if not daily, for best results.

The right dosage to support libido will vary person-to-person, so check with your practitioner for individual recommendations.*

For general dosing information, check out: How To Dose Maca Root For Optimal Health.

Want To Learn More About Maca’s Herbal Superpowers?

You now know the science and history behind Maca’s use as an aphrodisiac*. The big takeaway is: yes, it may work for you…we just don’t understand precisely how it works yet.

Curious to learn more?

For more empowering information about the fascinating folklore and research behind this ancient plant, check out:


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