When it comes to getting down in the bedroom, root vegetables may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but if you're looking to improve your libido, there's one starchy tuber that can help turn up the heat.
Maca is an Andean root vegetable that South American cultures have enjoyed for centuries to improve energy, balance hormones, and enhance libido — the Incan warriors were even known to eat maca for endurance. And a number of studies have concluded that maca may do all of the above.
In one small study, men completed a 40-kilometer cycling time trial before and after taking maca extract or a placebo for 14 days. After the two weeks were up, participants who took the maca extract experienced improved athletic performance and heightened sexual desire. (If that's not a win-win combination, I'm not sure what is.) Maca's benefits are not just for men either. One study looked at a group of 20 women (ages 41 to 50) who either took 500-milligram capsules of maca root powder or a placebo twice a day. The women who were prescribed the maca experienced significant improvements in their mood and sleep and reported less frequent night sweats and hot flashes (associated with menopause).
Even if menopause isn't in your near future, when your hormones are out of whack, it can directly affect your desire to have sex. Since maca naturally increases your body's ability to both combat stress and balance hormones, the latter study might hold the key to maca's power in the bedroom. "Maca is the only thing I know that works reliably on libido," says Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.
If you're interested in reaping maca's benefits, don't worry about having to roast the root. Maca powder is readily available in health-food stores, and you won't even taste its addition in your favorite smoothie. Culinary director of Sonima Wellness Center Joy Houston does her best to steer clear of coffee and instead enjoys a helping of maca powder every morning to give her a boost. Just be sure to opt for raw and organic powder for the least-processed product possible, and like anything else, follow the serving-size recommendations.