Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an Andean root that has been consumed for strength and fertility way before written records. Nowadays, maca is popularly used for treating a variety of health conditions involving hormone imbalances in both men and women. However, the exact mechanisms of action behind the alleged benefits of maca root for male fertility have not been fully explained.
The sperm's tail, flagella, beats rhythmically to move the sperm towards the egg, whereas the acrosomes, cap-like structures within sperm cells, undergo a series of changes in order to successfully penetrate the egg's shell and ensure fertilization. When flagella or acrosomes don't work properly, sperm motility and egg penetration get affected, causing fertility problems in men.1,2 The aim of this study was to determine whether maca's effects on men include the ability to improve reproductive function.
This in vitro study was carried out in Japan as a collaboration between the Department of Urology of Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Nagasaki International University. The results were published in the Reproductive Medicine and Biology journal in January 2019.
Sperm motility and the rate of acrosome reaction of both mouse and human sperm were analyzed, before and after adding maca extract to the samples, and compared with a control group of samples without any added substances.
After adding the maca extract, both sperm samples (mouse and human) showed improved sperm motility and acrosome reaction rates, both of which contributed to a higher rate of fertilization compared to the control groups.
What Does this Mean?
The results of the study show that maca's bioactive compounds are capable of improving in vitro fertilization rates by increasing sperm motility and stimulating the activity of acrosomes.
While maca's benefits for men, mainly the ability of boosting stamina and libido, have been extensively promoted around the world, the usefulness of maca root for male fertility lacks scientific evidence. Though further research is required, the results of this in vitro study have shed some light into maca's effects on sperm motility and paved the road for potential applications of this Andean root in the management of male infertility.
Other herbs deemed to be effective for treating fertility problems in men are ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and saw palmetto.
- Reproductive Medicine and Biology, Effect of Lepidium meyenii on in vitro fertilization via improvement in acrosome reaction and motility of mouse and human sperm, 2019
- Reproductive Sciences. (2022). Current Insights and Latest Updates in Sperm Motility and Associated Applications in Assisted Reproduction. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7721202/
- StatPearls. (2022). Male Infertility. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562258/