Secrets of a Sexy Plant

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Is your love life so-so lately? Feeling like your sex drive needs a tune-up? Maybe you don't need candlelight, incense, oysters, or zinc. Maybe what you—or your mate—needs is Imperial Gold Maca. A tuber used much like our potato, and the only crucifer (like broccoli and cabbage) native to the Americas, maca is the food staple of natives to the Peruvian highlands. To lucky Andeans: Maca is packed with nutrition, and has been known to improve sexual endurance, energy, and performance.

No kidding!—research shows that maca increases the reproductive rates and raises the sperm count and semen volume. In human studies, it has been known to improve both erectile and ovarian function.

Secrets of a Sexy Plant

When Spanish explorers arrived in Peru during the 16th century, they noticed that their livestock—particularly their horses—were becoming weak and unable to reproduce. This was probably due to the altitudes of the Peruvian highlands, an area where mountain reach 15,000 feet. Such high altitudes can cause female animals to produce inadequate amounts of estrogen, hampering fertility.

The Incan diet of the time consisted largely of maca. They used both tubers and tops, but especially tubers. The Incas advised the Spaniards to feed maca tubers to the ailing and infertile horses. So impressed were the Spaniards with the recovery of their animals, and the strength and virility of the Incan people, that reports back to the royal court included raves over this humble tuber, and maca soon became a valuable commodity.

Today, Maca's reputation as a natural way to boost virility and fertility is growing fast in North America. In a November, 1998 issue of the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, which includes numerous kudos for the plant's effects on sexual function, Gary Gordon, M.D., past president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, calls maca nature's answer to Viagra. "I personally experienced an improvement in erectile tissue response," he says, attributing the effect to changes in steroid hormones. "Maca acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status," says Gordon.  Maca Improves Sperm Count (Adobe Acrobat is required)

What the Research Shows
Peruvians claim that maca improves memory, combats anemia, and fights depression. Some researchers note that when the body is well-nourished, libido rises and depression abates; maca's nutrient value could explain some of these purported actions. The root, which tastes like butterscotch when it's roasted like a potato, can also be prepared into jam, broth, puddings, and juices, and contains five times more protein than a potato, four times more fiber, and less fat. It contains linoleic and oleic oils (two types of essential fatty acids) and essential amino acids (see "Maca's Make-Up").

Maca's actions on sexual function are better researched than its effects on mood and memory. A 1961 study showed that maca increased fertility in rats. Then came studies of guinea pigs, rams, and cows, each of which corroborated maca's fertility-enhancing effects. For example, maca significantly increased ram semen volume and sperm count. ORDER NOW



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Researchers have considered plant sterols, isothiocyanates, and glucosinolates to be maca's active constituents. The sterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol; this can positively affect erectile response if erection is compromised by artery clogging fats. And the isothiocyanate p-methyl benzyl has been shown to increase fertility in humans. Advance word has it that animal research will soon be published in a major medical journal that identifies maca's secret agents of sexual desire and energy.

The actions of four alkaloids from the maca root also serve to increase fertility enhancement dramatically. One of the researchers heading current studies on maca, Peruvian biologist Gloria Chacon de Popovici, Ph.D., suggests that maca alkaloids act on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and the adrenals. These areas of the body produce hormones as well as energizing substances like adrenaline. The end result could be an increase in energy, vitality, and virility. Still, no studies of maca itself have been conducted on human sexual response, despite physicians' claims that maca positively affects ovarian function in women (see "Maca and Menopause"), and, as mentioned previously, erectile function in men. Also see Maca's Nutrional benefits.

Maca may someday be pivotal in the fight against cancer. Although maca remains untested against cancer, the glucosinolates and isothiocyanates it contains are among those known to have anti-cancer actions.

But Is It an Aphrodisiac?
Whether or not maca is an aphrodisiac or enhances libido is equivocal. These actions are difficult to analyze scientifically because they relate to desire—not function. But if it's true that "form follows function," then maca is a good start. ORDER NOW Related Articles
For a full report on maca, please visit Maca Sexual Booster  in the Medicine section of our library. (Adobe Acrobat is required). 

• Johns, T. The anu and the maca. J Ethnobot 1(1981): 208-212.
• Leon, J. The "maca" (Lepidium meyenii), a little known food plant of Peru. Economic Botany 18 (1964): 122-127.
• Chacon, R.C. Estudio fitoquimico de Lepidium meyenii. Dissertation, Univ., Nac. Mayo de San marcos, Peru.
• Dini, A., et al. Chemical composition of Lepidium meyenii, Food Chemistry 49 (1994): 347-349.
• Walker, Morton, DPM. Medical Journalists Report of Innovative Biologics: Effects of Peruvian Maca on Hormonal Functions, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, November 1998



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