Maca (Lepidium meyenii), an Andean plant of the brassica (mustard) family has been used for centuries in the Andes as an adaptogenic plant to manage anemia, infertility and female hormone balance. The aim of this review was to assess the evidence for and against the effectiveness of the maca plant as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. We searched 17 databases from their inception up to June 2011 and included all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that compared any type of maca-based intervention to a placebo for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. All studies were assessed for methodological quality using the Cochrane 'risk of bias' assessment tool. Four RCTs met all inclusion criteria. These RCTs tested the effects of maca on menopausal symptoms in healthy perimenopausal, early postmenopausal, and late postmenopausal women. Using the Kupperman Menopausal Index and the Greene Climacteric Score, all RCTs demonstrated favorable effects of maca. There have been very few rigorous trials of maca for menopausal symptoms. The results of our systematic review provide limited evidence for the effectiveness of maca as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. However, the total number of trials, the total sample size, and the average methodological quality of the primary studies, were too limited to draw firm conclusions. Furthermore, the safety has not been proved yet. Therefore, the efficacy and safety should be tested in larger studies.
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