What’s the Buzz about Maca and Menopause?

There’s a relatively new player getting some attention in the arena of natural treatments for menopause symptoms. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a plant in the brassica (mustard) family that grows in the plateaus of the Andes Mountains in central Peru. Maca has been cultivated as a vegetable crop for at least 3000 years and has been used for centuries by Peruvians to treat conditions such as anemia, infertility, fatigue, memory loss, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause.

A number of studies over the last decade have indicated that maca root is somewhat effective in reducing symptoms of menopause. One study found that a supplement of maca root reduced psychological symptoms (anxiety and depression) and sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women, and another found a reduction in symptoms of depression as well as improved diastolic blood pressure.

A systematic review of the scientific literature relating to maca and menopause in the journal Maturitas noted that there was evidence for the effectiveness of maca as a treatment for menopause symptoms, but cautioned that more trials with much larger samples sizes would be needed to draw stronger conclusions. As well, the authors noted that there had been no studies yet of the overall safety of maca treatment.

Maca root can be eaten baked or roasted, prepared as a soup, and used for making a fermented drink called maca chichi, or taken as a supplement. According to WebMD, maca is likely safe when taken in amounts found in foods and possibly safe in larger amounts (such as a supplement of up to 3 gm daily) for up to 4 months. Just as with any type of herbal supplement or medication, check with your medical practitioner before starting to ensure that it is the right choice for you.

 

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