Women’s Health: South American herb treats postmenopausal symptoms

Peruvian food supplement is associated with reductions in psychological and sexual problems

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A small study has shown that a South American herb called maca can help treat psychological and sexual symptoms related to menopause.

“Maca is a food supplement, used by the Peruvians for centuries, which has not been fully investigated and validated yet. Only limited studies have been conducted in men and women — but mostly in animal models,” says Lily Stojanovska, a study researcher and associate professor of biomedical sciences at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. “At the time of our study, no papers have been published showing the potential benefit for postmenopausal symptoms.”

Stojanovska and her colleagues randomly assigned 16 postmenopausal women with menopause-related psychological and sexual symptoms to take 3.5 grams per day of powdered maca, or an inactive powder, for six weeks, and then switch to the other group.

Participants were assessed at the beginning of the study and again at six and 12 weeks. Questionnaire results showed maca treatment was associated with a 30 per cent reduction in psychological symptoms and a 23 per cent reduction in sexual symptoms compared with the beginning of the study, and 27 per cent and 35 per cent reductions, respectively, compared with the inactive treatment.

“This is an important finding as anxiety/depression and sexual dysfunction are common symptoms in postmenopausal women,” Stojanovska says.

“At a time of decline in (the use of) hormone therapy, many women turn to alternative or complementary therapy,” she adds. “Maca is a potential alternative therapy.”