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Maca for Fertility: Does it Work?

Maca Root

One of the most widely touted health benefits of maca root powder is its ability to increase fertility. But before you start whipping up smoothies enhanced with maca powder to increase your chances of getting a child, it is important to know that there are different types of maca, each of which may affect your hormones and fertility in different ways. Read on to learn about the effects of different types of maca on fertility in men and women.

History of Maca Root as a Fertility Booster

Maca, also known by its scientific name Lepidium meyenii, is a root vegetable that has been used for centuries in the Andes for its high nutritional value and purported health benefits. One of the earliest purported health benefits of maca root is its ability to boost fertility, a discovery that was made when Incan farmers noticed that their livestock produced more and healthier babies when the animals were fed maca roots. Soon after this discovery, people in the Andes region started to use maca to increase their own chances of conceiving. However, it wasn't until the late 20th century that maca root started to attract widespread interest from Western scientists eager to find natural ways to successfully treat infertility in men and women.

Black Maca for Men, Red Maca for Women

Sperm counts in men in North America, Europe and Australia have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years, according to an alarming report published in the journal Human Reproduction Update in 2017. The report also suggests that the rate of decline is not slowing. [1] The good news is that certain foods, such as maca root, may help increase sperm count naturally, and thus improve fertility in men.

A study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology found that supplementation with maca for four months increased sperm count and improved sperm motility in healthy men [2]. However, when it comes to boosting fertility in men, not all types of maca are equally effective. A laboratory study conducted on rats found that black maca root had a more beneficial effect on sperm count and motility than did yellow maca, and that red maca had no significant effect [3, 4].

So, what about maca and fertility in women? Could this powerful root vegetable also help fight infertility in women?

In one study, female mice that were given maca powder diluted in water produced more offspring than the mice in the control group. This effect did not seem to be due to any estrogenic activity of maca, but rather, it appeared to be linked to the ability of maca to promote the survival of embryos. [5] A similar phenomenon has also been observed in rainbow trouts [6].

And, as for the debate on what type of maca is best for women who want to boost their fertility, red maca seems to be the winner: a laboratory experiment conducted on mice suggests that red maca has the greatest beneficial effect on the quality of embryos [7].

Tip: Can't find maca root powder in the health food stores in your area? Not to worry, you can always buy it online! You can buy black maca on Amazon here. Or, buy red maca on Amazon here if you prefer the red variety.

Recipe: Fertility-Boosting Smoothie with Maca Powder

Makes 2 servings

Here's a recipe for a tasty smoothie featuring black or red maca as well as a number of other ingredients with fertility-boosting potential. Cashews contain plenty of zinc, a mineral that contributes to semen and testosterone production in men, and to ovulation and fertility in women, according to the American Pregnancy Association [8]. Thanks to the strawberries and banana, this smoothie also provides a good dose of vitamin C, a nutrient that has been shown to boost sperm count and motility in men and progesterone levels in women, leading to an increased rate of pregnancy. [9, 10]

Fertility Smoothie with Maca


  • About 1 ⅔ cups water
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons black or red maca powder
  • 1/2 cup cashews


  • Start by adding the water to a large-capacity blender, followed by the banana, strawberries, maca powder and cashew nuts.
  • Secure the lid, turn the blender on, and slowly increase the speed. Blend at full speed until the smoothie is nice and creamy. Add water if needed to adjust the consistency.
  • Pour equally into two glasses, and serve immediately.

1. H. Levine et al (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 25 July 2017.
2. G. Gonzales et al (2001). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian Journal of Andrology, 3(4), 301-3.
3. G. Gonzales (2011). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 193496.
4. C. Gonzales et al (2006). Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 103(3), 448-54.
5. A. Ruiz-Luna et al (2005). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) increases litter size in normal adult female mice. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 3: 16.
6. K. Lee et al (2004). Supplementation of maca (Lepidium meyenii) tuber meal in diets improves growth rate and survival of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum) alevins and juveniles. Aquaculture Research, 35(3).
7. G. Gonzales (2012). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 193496.
8. Preconception Nutrition. American Pregnancy Association. 9. M. Akmal et al (2006). Improvement in human semen quality after oral supplementation of vitamin C. Journal of Medicinal Food, 9(3), 440-2.
10. H. Henmi et al (2003). Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on serum progesterone levels in patients with a luteal phase defect. Fertility and Sterility, 80(2), 459-461.