Maca root

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					                                                 ALTERNATIVE MEDS UPDATE
                                                 What you should know about the herbs and supplements patients use
                                                 By Sherril Sego, FNP-C, DNP. Ms. Sego is a staff clinician at the VA Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.,
                                                 where she practices adult medicine and women’s health. She also teaches at the nursing schools of
                                                 the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas.




                                                                                           Maca root
                                                                                           While explorer Ponce de Leon was looking
                                                                                           for a fountain of youth in what is now Florida,
                                                                                           South American natives already knew of the
                                                                                           maca plant and its purported energy-boosting
                                                                                           and aphrodisiac qualities.1 Maca, or Lepidium
                                                                                           meyenii, grows mostly in the high Peruvian
                                                                                           Andes and has been referred as one of the “lost
                                                                                           crops of the Incas.”
© BERT DE RUITER / ALAMY




                           Background                                                      enhancing actions is still unknown, researchers feel the key
                                                                                           lies in the action that some of the alkaloid components have
                           Maca is a member of the radish family and classified as a        on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.1
                           cruciferous plant whose primary usable part is its potatolike     Research centers on maca’s potential for enhancing libido and
                           tuberous root. Although maca was nearly extinct at one time,    sexual performance. In one trial, 56 healthy men aged 21 to
                           its rapidly expanding popularity as an herbal medicine has      56 years were given either maca or placebo. Subjective ratings
                           revived its status to that of a large commercial crop.2         of sexual desire as well as scores on the Hamilton depression
                             Maca appears as a short, leafy-topped plant whose thin,       and anxiety scales were recorded at four, eight, and 12 weeks.
                           frilly leaves eventually produce a central, off-white flower.    Serum testosterone levels were also measured. The results were
                           After maturing, the flower leaves a seedpod, which breaks        statically significant for increased libido in the treatment group,
                           open and scatters seeds that quickly germinate in the thin,     and there were no changes in serum testosterone levels.4 This
                           mountainous soil. The fleshy underground part of maca            finding was corroborated by a study specifically designed to
                           appears as a pear-shaped extension of the central taproot.3     test the
				
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