People have sought ways to increase their libido and enhance sexual performance and enjoyment since ancient times. Many foods and herbs are—or were—purported to be aphrodisiacs (a word that comes from Greek mythology and the goddess of love, Aphrodite).

One of these foods is maca (Lepidium meyenii), a root-like vegetable native to the harsh climate of the Andes Mountains. Maca is related to mustard, radishes, and turnips. You may also hear people refer to it as Peruvian ginseng, Maino, Ayuk willku, or Ayak chichira.

Health Benefits of Maca

Peruvians have relied on maca for food and medicine since pre-Incan times. In addition to providing a nutritious, reliable food source, Peruvians use maca to:

  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Treat anemia
  • Relieve menstrual and menopausal symptoms
  • Promote endurance
  • Improve energy
  • Increase vitality
  • Support sexual virility
  • Boost fertility

Maca is a significant source of protein. Dried maca root is about 10 percent protein, mostly amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are important for many cellular functions, including sexuality and fertility. Furthermore, one of the chemicals in maca, p-methoxybenzyl isothiocynate, is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties.

Sexual Health Benefits of Maca

There are few scientific studies of the effects maca on sexual performance and most of the related research in the U.S. was performed or funded by two main marketers of maca products.

"It may well be that maca's beneficial effects for sexual function and fertility can be explained simply by its high concentration of proteins and vital nutrients," says Leslie Taylor in The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs. "If given sufficient levels of starting materials (natural amino acids), the body may use them as needed to construct hormones which keep the body in balance."

The natives of the Andes eat, on average, five or more pounds of maca per week, so it's questionable whether taking 500 mg capsules several times daily (the recommended dose), will make a significant difference. That said, there are no known side effects or adverse reactions with maca, although high doses could lead to insomnia.

If you're looking for a boost in the bedroom, Joseph Mercola, MD, says a few lifestyle choices can make or break your sex life. He recommends you:

  • Eat a healthy diet and significantly limit sugar intake
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels
  • Get adequate physical activity
  • Sleep eight hours per night
  • Avoid medications, smoking, and excessive drinking
  • Reduce your stress

Liesa Harte, MD reviewed this article.



"Maca.", accessed July 17, 2013

"Maca Root Supplement Benefit and Side Effects, Herbal Product Used for Sexual Dysfunction, Infertility, Menopause, Semen Health." Ray Sahelian, M.D., accessed July 17, 2013.

"Maca," reprinted from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005, last updated 12-17-2012.

Lepidium Meyenii, accessed July 17, 2013

Mercola, Joseph, MD., "7 Foods for Better Sex." March 04, 2011.