count; sperm motility; Peruvian plants; Maca; Lepidium meyenii
The present study was designed to determine the effect of a 4 month oral
treatment with tablets of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on seminal analysis in nine
adult normal men aged 24-44 years old. Methods: Nine
men received tablets of Maca (1500 or 3000 mg/day) for 4 months. Seminal
analysis was performed according to guidelines of the World Health Organization
(WHO). Serum luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH),
prolactin (PRL), testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) were measured
before and after treatment. Results: Treatment
with Maca resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculum, motile
sperm count, and sperm motility. Serum hormone levels were not modified with
Maca treatment. Increase of sperm count was not related to dose of Maca. Conclusion:
Maca improved sperm production and sperm motility by mechanisms not related to
LH, FSH, PRL, T and E2.
is the root of a Peruvian plant Lepidium meyenii (Brassicaceae), growing in the
Central Andean Region of Peru between 4000 and 4500 m altitude, mainly in Junin
and Cerro de Pasco. This species is described in the catalogue of the flowering
plants and gymnosperms of Peru . Maca is traditionally employed,
among others, to improve sexuality and fertility.
Oral administration of Maca significantly improved the sexual behavior in male
rats and mice[2,3]. More
recently, it has been demonstrated that Maca improves spermatogenesis in male
rats, however, its effect on sperm production
in men has not been assessed. The present investigation was designed to study
the effect of oral administration of Maca on the semen parameters and serum
luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin (PRL),
testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) levels in normal male volunteers.
Materials and methods
(Maca Gelatinizada La Molina) tablets were provided by the Laboratorios Hersil
(Lima, Peru). Each tablet contains 500 mg of the root. This product could be purchased
in the pharmacy as a nutrient.
Subjects and treatment
healthy men, 24-44 years of age, were recruited in the study, but 3 dropped out
due to personal reasons during the 4 month treatment period. They had not received
any kind of medical treatment for at least 3 months before the study. All the
subjects gave written consent to participate in the study after being informed
of the purpose, benefit and possible risks of the study. Among the 9 men with
complete data, 6 were married and 3, single. Semen samples were collected by
masturbation after a 3 day abstinence and fasting blood samples obtained between
08.00-09.00 h before and at the end of the treatment. Semen were kept frozen
until hormone assay. Six subjects received 1500 mg/day, whereas 3, 3000 mg/day
of Maca for 4 months. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board
of the Scientific Research Office, at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia.
ejaculate volume, semen consistency, sperm motility, sperm morphology and sperm
concentration were assessed according to the WHO manual.
Spermatozoa were graded
“a” (rapid progressive motility), “b” (slow or sluggish progressive
motility), “c” (nonprogressive motility), or “d” (immotility) as
recommended by the manual.
FSH, and PRL were measured by immunoradiometric assay (IRMA), whereas T and E2
were measured by radioimmunoassay using commercial kits (Diagnostic Product Co,
were expressed in mean±SEM, if applicable. Statistical analysis was performed
by the Student’s t-test.The difference was considered significant when
on semen analysis are presented in Table 1. The semen volume, total sperm count,
motile sperm count, and sperm motility (Grades a+b) were significantly increased
after treatment with Maca (P<0.05). Motility Grade a sperm was also
increased, but statistically insignificant. There were no significant
differences between the two dosage levels of Maca used. In 4 of the 9 subjects,
who had low basal serum FSH levels, the sperm count was not increased after Maca
Maca treatment did not significantly change the levels of the hormones assayed (Table
1. Semen variables before and 4
month after Maca treatment.
Hormonal levels before and 4 month after Maca treatment.
volume resulted from the contributions of seminal vesicles (60%), prostate (30%)
and epididymis(10%). All these glands are androgen dependent.
Sperm motility was also androgen dependent. Maca treatment was
able to increase both the semen volume and sperm motility. However, we failed to
find any increase in
serum testosterone levels during Maca treatment, which may suggest that either
bioavailable testosterone or testosterone receptor binding might be augmented.
possibility is that Maca may act without the participation of androgen mechanism.
This seems to be supported by the fact that the weight of seminal vesicle, a
target for androgen action, was not influenced by Maca in adult male rats.
adult male rats, Maca has been shown to be beneficial to spermatogenesis.
In the present study, sperm count was increased by Maca without affecting the
FSH level. It is possible that Maca may improve the response of Sertoli cells to
FSH. We have demonstrated in women
that oral administration of Maca for 2 weeks resulted in an
increase in the size of the dominant follicles (unpublished data), which also
suggested that Maca may improve the response to FSH. Further studies
will be required to clarify this issue. In conclusion, Maca administration
as tablets may improve sperm production and sperm motility.
Brako L, Zarucchi JL. Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru.
St Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden; 1993. p 229.
 Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, Rogers L, Shao Y, Huang ZY, et al. Effect of lipidic extract
from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology 2000; 55:
 Cicero AF, Bandieri E, Arletti R. Lepidium meyenii Walp improves sexual
behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor
activity. J Ethnopharmacol 2001; 75: 225-9.
 Gonzales GF, Ruiz A, Gonzales C, Villegas L, Córdova A. Effect of Lepidium meyenii
(Maca) rotos, a Peruvian plant on spermatogenesis of male rats. Asian J
Androl 2001; 3:231-3.
 World Health Organization. WHO
laboratory manual for the examination of human semen
and sperm cervical mucus interaction. 4th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press; 1999. p 1-10.
 Gonzales GF. Functional structure and ultra structure of seminal
vesicles. Arch Androl 1988; 22: 1-13.
 Gonzales GF. A test for bioandrogenicity in men attending an infertility
service. Arch Androl 1988; 21: 135-42.