Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are medications often prescribed to relieve symptoms of depression. Although there are several drugs in this category, all can have similar side effects, which can include nausea, headache, agitation and insomnia. SSRIs may also cause decreased libido in some people, as well as problems maintaining an erection for men and difficulty experiencing an orgasm for both sexes. Maca is a traditional herbal remedy that may relieve some of the sexual side effects of SSRIs. Consult your doctor to determine if taking maca is appropriate for you.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in several parts of your brain. It modifies some important functions, such as mood, sleep patterns and appetite. SSRIs inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin by nerve cells, making the neurotransmitter remain in the junction between the nerves cells -- the synapse -- for a longer time. The result is often an improvement in mood. Because they are considered effective drugs, patients often put up with the sexual side effects that SSRIs can cause. Maca is a natural treatment that may decrease some of these effects, increasing libido and improving sexual function.
Maca, or Lepidium meyenii, is a native South American plant that grows at high elevations and belongs to the same family as broccoli and cabbage. South Americans have used maca root for hundreds of years as a remedy for several sexual complaints including infertility, symptoms of menopause and poor libido and sexual performance. The root contains several natural compounds that may be responsible for aiding in the relief of some sexual problems. Although its mechanism is not well understood, it does not involve changes in any of the sex hormones, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website.
A number of laboratory and clinical studies have examined the potential for maca to improve sexual performance. For example, in a study published in "Urology" in April 2000, laboratory animals that consumed maca extract had enhanced sexual function compared to another group given a placebo. In a clinical trial published in "CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics" in August 2008, human subjects with SSRI-induced sexual problems consumed either maca or a placebo. In this study, taking maca resulted in significant improvement in both sexual function and libido.
Recommendations and Precautions
Maca is available from most health food stores in capsules or tablets. The usual dose is 450 milligrams, three times daily. Maca is generally considered safe and typically does not have any significant side effects. However, do not take maca if you are pregnant or breastfeeding since its safety in these situations has not been tested. Discuss the use of maca with your healthcare provider to be certain that it is a good choice for you.