Maca may be a useful herb to treat depression in women. The ancient Andean root, known by its scientific name Lepidium meyenii, has been used to treat fertility, and has long been used for its aphrodesiac effects.  It also may benefit women with depression, according to new research.

Depression is a condition that often affects women after shifts in hormones such as during menopausal periods, postpartum, and premenstrually. It is clear that depression can be triggered by a flux in the hormonal system. Many women are looking for alternatives to anti-depressant medication and hormone replacement therapies to regulate hormones as the side effect profiles of these drugs may be unacceptable to many. Anti-depressants can lower libido, for one thing.  Hormone replacement therapy carries its own more serious side effect profile, including conditions that many take great pains to avoid such as cancer and heart disease.  Maca may be an effective alternative option to address hormonally triggered depression in women.

A newly-released study looked into the effects of Maca on mood in a group of 19 post-menopausal Chinese women. 3.3 grams of Maca were given per day to women in the test group and the other group was given a placebo. Over 12 weeks,  thyroid levels, glucose, cholesterol and inflammatory markers were measured through blood testing. When the results were tallied, there was no difference between the two groups for these aforementioned tests.

Women on the Maca root, however had significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure and most importantly, significantly improved depression scores.

Although this is a small trial, it confirms the results from a previous Australian study where Maca was also found to improve anxiety and depression scores. Previous research has also shown that Maca can reduce depression in men, and exerts antidepressant actions in mice.

It’s not clear how maca acts to reduce psychological symptoms, however it’s thought that the flavonoid portion of the ancient root may responsible for these benefits.

References

  1. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Gonez C. Effect of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. J Endocrinol 2003
  2. Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in post-menopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause 2008;15:1157–62
  3. Rubio J, Caldas M, Dávila S, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complement Altern Med 2006;6:23–31
  4. L. Stojanovska , C. Law , B. Lai , T. Chung , K. Nelson , S. Day , V. Apostolopoulos , C. HainesMaca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric 0 0:0, 1-10
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