Maca for PCOS – Is it all its cracked up to be?

I’ve recently been asked about using Maca for PCOS and if it’s something that I would recommend. I must say that I have heard of Maca powder before but never really investigated it nor have I tried it myself. Having looked into it, I’m intrigued. Let me tell you what I have found.

Research? What research?

Maca-for-PCOS-researchBefore I get into the details, I need to be really honest and say that I have found little medical evidence or research on the benefits of maca powder for PCOS. There has been research done on mice, postmenopausal women and rats, but nothing on women struggling with PCOS. (1) Also, only four pieces of research have been done on postmenopausal women – not enough to draw and real conclusions about the benefits of Maca. (2)

So, with that in mind, let’s look at why many women try maca powder for their PCOS and you can make your own decision about it.

What is Maca?

The maca plant is a close relative of the turnip or radish and grows high in the Peruvian mountains in extreme weather conditions. There are a number of varieties, each a different colour, and each with reportedly different properties. It is a food and if fresh, can be boiled and mashed, similar to potatoes. (3)

Medicinal value

Maca has been used for centuries not only for it’s nutritional value but also for it’s medicinal value. It is important to remember that it is a food so it’s unlikely to cause any serious harm if you have too much of it.

Here are the suggested benefits of Maca:

  • overall stress protection
  • aids in sleep, cures insomnia
  • quicker injury recovery
  • increases metabolism, may help with weight loss / obesity
  • improve sex drive and cures erectile dysfunction
  • reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • may ease symptoms of arthritis and joint pain
  • improve workout performance, endurance, stamina, strength and muscle gain
  • raises testosterone in men and eliminates hormonal problems in women
  • increases brain function leading to better mental clarity and perception
  • lowers high blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, increases energy levels


Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Before you rush off to order it, just remember that there is little evidence to support all of this.

How does Maca work?

Maca is thought to act on the hypothalamus, the gland that controls a lot of body functions as well as the pituitary gland. The pituitary also controls the adrenal glands, ovaries, testes and thyroid. So, you can see where all of the suggested benefits come from as these are all things that the hypothalamus and pituitary glands influence. (5)

Maca is thought to be an adaptogen. This means that it helps to bring balance or homeostasis to the body, neither stimulating it or inhibiting it. So, if your hypothalamus is a bit sluggish, Maca will give it a boost and if it is in overdrive, Maca will help to calm it down.

Maca for PCOS

Maca-for-PCOS-speechRight, let’s look at why so many women will turn to Maca for their PCOS.

The thinking again comes back to Maca’s effect on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. It makes sense as these glands control the menstrual cycle and stimulation of the ovaries. If we could get them functioning better, maybe we could normalize our cycles and minimize the effects of PCOS.

However, research has revealed that Maca has no significant impact on circulating Estrogen, Luteinzing hormone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone or testosterone (6). Not all that promising then is it?

From trawling the forums, many women have reported improved energy levels but I have seen little other improvements in PCOS symptoms. Also, some women have also experienced a complete disruption to their normally regular cycle.

Summing it Up:

So, although Maca’s reputation seems to be growing in the PCOS community, I am not convinced by the medical research or evidence. I’m really open to hearing more, though. So, if you have tried Maca powder and found it to be helpful in treating your PCOS, please do let me know. I’d love to hear your story!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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