Maca alleviates symptoms of menopause
Maca alleviates symptoms of menopause. A series of clinical studies have investigated the use of maca as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to prevent side effects such as weight gain and an increased risk of breast cancer.
Over the last few decades, scientific efforts to find natural alternatives, such as Peruvian maca, to alleviate symptoms of menopause have intensified. The properties of Maca were investigated in several randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
The trials highlighted several effects that Peruvian Maca can have on menopausal women:
- Stimulation female sexual steroid hormone oestradiol (E2 or 17β-oestradiol) production.
- Higher bone density and a slight decrease in body weight.
- Decrease in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Relief and reduction of typical symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, stress, nervousness, sexual dysfunction and depression.
Properties of Maca and menopause
One of the first clinical studies on the properties of Maca and menopause, specifically about the effects of Maca in postmenopausal women, was undertaken in the nineties by the Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica de la Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga and published in 1996. In this study, 38 women between the ages of 51 and 69 were given maca and the plasma levels in their luteinising hormone (LH) were measured. They were divided into two groups. Group A for those between 50-55 and group B for those between 56-69. All women received a 300mg capsule of maca extract every eight hours. After a month of treatment, group A, whose average LH level was 100.75mUI/ml at the beginning of the experiment, saw a decrease to an average of 37.51mUI/ml. Group B, whose starting average was 100.96mUI/ml, dropped to 31.46mUUml. All patients noted relief from their symptoms. * (1.2)
Three years later, in 1999, the same university carried out a second study with 28 postmenopausal women. This experiment focused on the effects of capsules of maca extract with calcium citrate on the most common symptoms: depression, hot flushes, dizziness, insomnia, nervousness or irritability, sweats, memory loss and headaches. The levels of LH and calcium were evaluated before and after the treatment. Researchers observed that the treatment significantly reduced symptoms. The average levels of hormone LH and calcium before and after treatment showed a notable difference. * (3)
Effective treatment for the menopause symptoms
Another investigation on post-menopause was carried out in 2002 by the Centro de Medicina Complementaria de Trujillo de EsSalud with 60 postmenopausal women. A clinical trial was conducted with the objective of finding out the effects of maca treatment on oestrogen, lipid levels and postmenopausal symptoms and comparing them with hormone replacement therapy. The patients were selected because they had moderate or intense symptoms and they were divided into three groups. The first group received 1.5g of maca per day, the second, 3.0g per day and the third group received 0.625g conjugated oestrogens and medroxyprogesterone 5.0 (HRT). Medical history, vasomotor, psychosocial and sexual symptoms were evaluated, and the levels of lipoproteins, triglycerides, oestradiol, LH and FSH hormones were measured. The authors report that the use of maca in postmenopausal women is an effective treatment for the management of symptoms, slightly decreasing lipid levels and marginally altering hormone levels. * (4.5)
In 2005 and 2006, the team of therapeutic investigator Henry O. Meissner PhD published a variety of studies on the effects of Peruvian maca in postmenopausal women, with very positive results. Unfortunately, some trials were sponsored with free samples from a company that sells maca products.* (6, 8, 9, 10)
Maca has a balancing effect on hormone levels
Research published in 2005 studied the hormonal effects in 100 voluntary postmenopausal women in the early stage without hormone replacement therapy and with average oestrogen blood levels of less than 40 pg/ml and FSH above 30IU/ml. After a month of placebo, they were give two 500g capsules of maca twice a day for two months. The control group received a placebo. Menopausal symptoms were evaluated once a month according to Kupperman. The levels of sexual hormones oestrogen, FSH, LH and progesterone were measured. As a result, it was determined that maca has a balancing effect on sexual hormone levels, with a significant increase in oestrogen, and a decrease in FSH, relief of symptoms and menopausal discomfort (Kupperman index -KMI- fell from 43 to 17). This constituted maca supplement as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy in women, not only for the early postmenopausal stage but also for the premenopausal stage. * (6)
An investigation published in 2005 evaluated the effect of gelatinised maca powder administered for two months (after a previous month of placebo). The dose of two 500mg capsules of gelatinised maca was administered twice a day to 49 women, of which 24 were premenopausal (41-50) and 25 postmenopausal (48-62 years). The levels of sex hormones cortisol and acetylcholine, the lipid profile and indicators of menopausal symptoms were observed. The postmenopausal state was determined by oestrogen levels (<40 pg/ml) and FSH hormone (>30 IU/ml). The results showed significant relief of menopause symptoms and less discomfort in both groups. This was associated with a significant increase in oestrogen and a reduction of FSH, triglycerides and blood cholesterol. In addition, a significant increase in acetylcholine and progesterone levels was found in the premenopausal group, and a significant decrease in acetylcholine in the postmenopausal group. The authors concluded that gelatinised maca can be used to balance hormone levels and for relief of symptoms of depression and stress in postmenopausal women and in women who are going through the early and advanced stages of perimenopause. * (7.8)
Maca improves Kupperman Index (KMI) and Greene's Menopausal Score (GMS)
Another trial involved 168 female volunteers who were in the early postmenopausal phase. Before starting the trial, all participants showed high FSH and low levels of oestradiol (E2), typical values of menopause. For 4 months they took 2g of gelatinised maca (4 capsules of 500mg per day). The control group received capsules with an placebo (sorbitol and cellulose) of identical appearance. Each month the blood hormone levels of 17β-oestradiol (E2), FSH, LH and PRG and the lipid profiles: cholesterol (CHOL), triglycerides (TRGL), high- and low-density lipoprotein (HDL/LDL) were analysed. A doctor interviewed women about their symptoms through questionnaires to determine menopausal discomfort according to the Kupperman index (KMI) and Greene's Menopausal Score (GMS). The results in the maca group showed an increase in oestradiol (E2) and HDL levels and a reduction in the levels of FSH, LH and LDL. The KMI dropped from 22 to 10 points and the GMS from 18 to 11. In the placebo group no significant changes were observed. Researchers associated the reduction of menopausal symptoms with maca treatment.* (9)
Extract taken from “MACA : Planta de los Incas, maravilla de la ciencia”, Dr. Lidia E. Obregón Vilches, Ivy Mariel Rentería, Evelyn Patricia Rentería, 1ª ed., Lima, Peru: Instituto de Fitoterapia Americano, 2006.
1. Alvarez J., Gonzáles R., Osorio I. 1996
El consumo de extracto de Lepidium meyenii Walp. (Maca) y la variación del nivel de LH en mujeres post-menopáusicas del Cercado de lea. Tesis para optar el título de Químico Farmacéutico. Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica. Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga de lea..
2. Apumayta Vega, U.; Cuba García, P.
Separación de principios activos del extracto hexánico de Lepidium meyenii Walp. Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica. Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzága de lea.
3. De la Cruz O., Herencia J., Saldaña F. 1999
Elaboración de cápsulas de extracto de Maca con citrato de calcio y su efecto en mujeres post menopáusicas. Tesis para optar el título de Químico Farmacéutico. Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica. Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga de lea. 73 páginas
4. Fernández J.L., Osorio J. 2005
Efecto de Lepidium peruvianum (Maca) en el cuadro clínico y en los niveles hormonales de las mujeres post-menopáusicas. 22 - 24 abril, 2005. V Congreso Mundial de Medicina Tradicional.
5. Castillo Huerta C. 2005
La Maca y la menopausia Estudio correlacionar comparativo. 22 - 24 abril, 2005. V Congreso Mundial de Medicina Tradicional.
6. H.O. Meissner, Reich-Bilinska H., Mrozikiewicz P., Mscisz A., Lowicka A., Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, Kedzia B. 2005
Hormone-balancing and pharmacological effects of therapeutic doses of Lepidium peruvianum (Maca-GO) in postmenopausal women. Presentation at the 16th. Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society.
7. H.O. Meissner, Reich-Bilinska H., Kedzia B., Mscisz A. 2005
Pre-gelatinised «Maca» (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon) as non-hormonal herbal remedy
to treat menopausal symptoms in pre- and post- menopausal women. Presentation at the 16th Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society.
8. H.O. Meissner, W. Kapczynski, A. Mscisz, J. Lutomski. June 15, 2005
Use of gelatinized Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women - a pilot study. International Journal of Biomedical Science Vol. 1, No. 1, 33-45.
9. H.O. Meissner, A. Mscisz, H. Reich-Bilinska, W. Kapczynski, P. Mrozikiewicz, T. Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, et al., Dec. 2006
Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Study. International journal of biomedical science : IJBS. 2006 Dec;2(4):360-74.
10. H.O. Meissner, A. Mscisz, H. Reich-Bilinska, P. Mrozikiewicz, T. Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, B. Kedzia, et al., Dec. 2006
Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. International journal of biomedical science : IJBS. 2006 Dec;2(4):375-94
11. N.A. Brooks, G. Wilcox, K.Z. Walker, J.F. Ashton, M.B. Cox, L. Stojanovska.
Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62.