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I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you eliminate your PCOS symptoms with sustainable and realistic nutrition changes.

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Maca Root For PCOS: Is It Worth The Hype?

If you’re wondering whether you should start taking maca root for PCOS, you’re in the right place. This plant has exploded in popularity in the past several years so I’m going to break down what the research actually says and if it could be a good option for you to consider!

If you’re new here, hi! I’m Alyssa, a registered dietitian, and fellow PCOS’er. My goal is to help you manage your PCOS symptoms easily with realistic diet and lifestyle habits. 

This blog post will dive into what maca root is, what it’s typically used for, if there are any potential benefits of maca root for PCOS, how much to take, and safety considerations. 

clear bowl of maca powder and maca root in the background with text overlay stating maca root for pcos.

What Is Maca Root?

Maca, commonly referred to as Peruvian ginseng and scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is a plant that’s grown in the Andes mountains. It holds a prominent place in Peruvian cooking and has traditionally been used for centuries to improve fertility, libido (aka sex drive), and energy levels.

It’s cultivated like a root vegetable, but it’s actually a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Maca root can be dried and ground into a versatile powder, which can be easily incorporated into food or drinks. It has a unique earthy and nutty flavor that is sometimes bitter or malt-like, depending on how it’s processed. Additionally, maca extract is a form of concentrated maca that is often available in capsule or liquid supplement form. 

Similar to ashwagandha, maca is considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural substances, like plants or herbs, that help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. They’re commonly touted for the ability to balance hormones

But is this Peruvian plant all it’s hyped up to be? Let’s dive into what the research actually says on maca. 

Maca Root Benefits For PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects approximately 8-13% of women of reproductive age in the world. Common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, hair loss, hirsutism (aka unwanted and excess hair growth), and acne. 

While PCOS symptoms can vary among individuals, symptoms are usually caused by one or more root causes such as insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, adrenal dysfunction, high androgen levels, and other hormonal imbalances.

In lieu of the traditionally prescribed medications, such as Metformin and birth control pills, many people are looking for more natural treatments. Along with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes, dietary supplements can sometimes really move the needle when it comes to managing your hormone levels. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies to date that explore the effects of maca root for PCOS specifically. Similar to other supplements, we need to look at individual pieces of research to be able to draw conclusions for how maca root may influence PCOS. 

Let’s dive into each of these topics to determine if maca may be helpful.

closeup photo of maca root.

Fertility 

Similar to other areas that we’ll explore, the research on maca and female fertility is not super robust. There does seem to be adequate research on maca for male fertility, which may be where some of the confusion in marketing comes from. 

According to one animal study, maca increased luteinizing hormone (LH) levels during the LH surge. Luteinizing hormone is released from the pituitary gland and there’s a LH surge right before ovulation in premenopausal women. Additionally, maca may increase progesterone levels (1, 2). Progesterone is a hormone produced after ovulation and is necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. 

While these results sound promising, the research is mostly done in animals and isn’t particularly strong. More research is definitely needed in this area. 

If fertility is your goal, check out these posts: PCOS Diet Plan To Get Pregnant (Free PDF & Recipes) and The Best Prenatal Vitamins For PCOS.

Low Libido & Sexual Dysfunction

One small study found that maca root improved libido (aka sex drive) in postmenopausal women without increasing androgen levels (3).

Menopausal Symptoms

Maca is promoted as being able to improve symptoms of menopause, however, there really isn’t any solid research to support this. One study found that maca helped to decrease sexual dysfunction and psychological symptoms, like anxiety and depression, among postmenopausal women. However, this study was plagued by a very low sample size of only fourteen women (3). 

Two systematic reviews found that there weren’t enough well-designed studies to be able to draw conclusions about whether maca is actually effective for treating menopausal symptoms (4, 5).

Insulin Resistance & Inflammation

Many people with PCOS have chronic low-grade inflammation and insulin resistance. In fact, up to 80% of those with PCOS struggle with insulin resistance, which can be a precursor for the development of type 2 diabetes. It can often be the root cause of weight gain or PCOS belly, and can cause insatiable cravings.

Several scientific studies have found that maca can lower glucose levels (aka blood sugar levels), insulin levels and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) (6, 7, 8, 9). It’s important to note that many of these were animal studies but it does show the potential benefits of maca for improving insulin sensitivity and lowering inflammation.

Cortisol Levels

Women with PCOS often struggle with higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and it’s commonly referred to as our  stress hormone. 

One animal study found that maca significantly reduced cortisol levels. However, another pilot study conducted in perimenopausal women couldn’t verify that maca decreases cortisol levels in humans (10, 11). 

If you struggle with this, yoga and meditation are two practices that have been proven to reduce high cortisol levels and anxiety. 

Energy Levels & Fatigue

Fatigue is a common complaint among those with PCOS. Recent studies have found that maca can help to improve energy levels and reduce fatigue in women (12). 

black bowl of maca powder on a wooden surface.

Dosage & Safety

More research is needed before long-term use can be recommended. Most research studies have used a dose between 1.5 to 3.5 grams of maca for a duration of 6 to 16 weeks. The use of maca in doses up to 3 grams daily appear to be safe for up to 4 months.

It’s not recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s also not recommended if you have hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids since maca may act like estrogen (13)  

Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements, including maca, to ensure that it will not interact with any medications or medical conditions you have.

How To Use It

As a dietary supplement, maca is available in different forms, including powder, capsule, and liquid extract form. 

Maca powder can easily be added to: 

Be sure to choose high quality maca from reputable companies if you’re interested in trying this supplement. 

FAQs: 

Is maca root good for hormonal imbalance?

Like most things, it depends! It does have the ability to act similar to estrogen so it’s not recommended for those with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. Some research does show that maca may be helpful to help reduce insulin levels, which may be elevated in conditions like PCOS. More research is definitely needed before clear conclusions can be made. 

Does maca root make you ovulate?

Maca may help to promote or enhance ovulation by increasing luteinizing hormone, which naturally surges just prior to ovulation. Most research studies on maca and fertility though have been animal studies, so more clinical trials are needed before clear conclusions can be made. 

The Bottom Line

Maca is a Peruvian plant that has been used in cooking for centuries. It has gained popularity in recent years as a natural supplement for its medicinal properties. It’s commonly used to improve low libido, energy levels, boost fertility, and achieve hormonal balance. 

There isn’t much research on maca and PCOS specifically. Research has found that maca may have a positive effect on insulin, glucose, inflammation, and energy levels. This could be advantageous for those suffering the effects of PCOS. Animal studies have found that maca can increase LH levels, which may help enhance ovulation. For menopausal women, it can increase libido and reduce mood disorders. 

While some of the research results do show potential health benefits, the research overall is very underwhelming and not enough to make accurate conclusions about using maca as part of a PCOS treatment plan. Researchers need to conduct more long-term human studies are needed to understand any safety concerns and side effects. 

For more information on the best supplements for PCOS, and their supporting research, make sure you grab my PCOS Supplement Guide! This guide walks you through how to determine which supplements you should take, how much you should take, and which ones to definitely not waste your time or money on.

More PCOS Posts You’ll Love

Best Supplements For PCOS Weight Loss

Happy Hormones PCOS Multivitamin: A Dietitian’s Review

Ashwagandha for PCOS: What You Need To Know

Best Age To Get Pregnant With PCOS: According To Science

Disclaimer: this is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended to substitute for or replace professional medical advice for polycystic ovary syndrome or any other health conditions. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your dietary supplements, medications, or health plan.

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