Maca

Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

What does this rating mean?

The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a plant which is native to Peru. The root of the plant can be eaten and is also used in alternative medicine.

How does it work?

It is not clear how maca may help depression.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on maca for the treatment of depression. One study compared the effects of maca to a placebo (dummy pill) to treat symptoms of menopause, which included depression symptoms. Both the maca and placebo treatments reduced depression symptoms. None of the women who participated in the study had clinical depression. More studies are needed to understand the effectiveness of maca for depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

It is not clear if maca has any side effects. Like all dietary supplements, maca may have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. It should always be taken under the supervision of a health care professional. 

Where do you get it?

Maca can be purchased as a powder or tablet supplement from health food shops and supplement retailers.

Recommendation

Given the lack of evidence on maca, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, et al. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2015; 18(1): 69-78.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019