What is maca?

The maca plant, formally known as Lepidium meyenii, is also known as Peruvian ginseng. The benefits of maca root are vast, so learn why you may want to add it to your diet.

Maca, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale, is a cruciferous vegetable.

It is native to the Peruvian Andes Mountain range’s upper plateaus.

Andean people have been cultivating maca for almost 2,000 years. It’s one of the few edible plants that can withstand the extreme climatic conditions of the Peruvian Andes above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) (1).

Maca was traditionally used by the Andean people as a food, in the form of a fermented drink or porridge. Furthermore, the Andean people used maca as a natural medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and rheumatoid arthritis (2).

Maca products have become increasingly popular in recent years, owing to claims that the plant helps improve libido and fertility.

People have begun mass-producing maca in various parts of the world, including China’s mountainous Yunnan province, as a result of increased global demand (2).

Peruvian superfood maca root isolated on white background

Maca root nutritional value:

Per 100g:

  • Protein: 14g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Vitamin C: 475% DV
  • Copper: 300% DV
  • Iron: 82% DV
  • Potassium: 57% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 57% DV
  • Manganese: 39% DV
  • Vitamin B3: 29% DV
  • Calcium: 25% DV
  • Vitamin B2: 21% DV

Health benefits of maca root:

Maca root, the most often utilized portion of the plant, is high in fiber, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Other bioactive compounds found in maca include macarids, acridine, alkaloids, and glycosylates, which are thought to be responsible for the medicinal properties of the plant (1).

Despite the fact that many individuals believe maca is beneficial to their health in a variety of ways, research on the subject is currently limited, and the results of studies on its effects have been mixed. More research into the usefulness of maca is required.

1. May increase libido:

Taking concentrated maca pills may help those with poor libido or sexual desire, according to some research.

In a 2015 study of 45 women suffering from antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, it was discovered that consuming 3,000 mg of maca root per day for 12 weeks enhanced sexual function and libido much more than a placebo (3).

A 2010 analysis revealed evidence that ingesting maca for at least 6 weeks boosted sexual desire, based on four high-quality trials with a total of 131 participants (4).

The researchers did point out, however, that the studies included in the study were tiny and that there was insufficient evidence to form definite conclusions.

2. May improve certain aspects of fertility in males:

Taking maca supplements may assist persons with sperm and enhance various elements of their fertility.

Maca, for example, has been found in trials to boost sperm concentration or the quantity of sperm per milliliter of sperm. Male fertility is intimately tied to sperm concentration (5), (6), (7).

In a 2020 investigation, 69 males with modestly decreased sperm count or poor sperm motility were evaluated for the effects of maca. Sperm motility refers to the sperm’s ability to swim appropriately.

When compared to placebo therapy, taking 2 grams of maca per day for 12 weeks improved semen concentration considerably. However, sperm motility did not differ significantly between the treatment and placebo groups (6).

 3. May help relieve symptoms of menopause:

Menopause is a natural process that occurs in women who menstruate. It’s the stage of life when menstrual periods come to an end for good (8).

The natural decrease in estrogen that occurs at this time can induce a variety of symptoms, some of which may be unpleasant to some people. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep issues, and irritability are some of the symptoms.

According to research, maca may help women going through menopause by alleviating various symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances (9), (10).

A review of four high-quality trials published in 2011 indicated some evidence that maca therapy can help with menopause symptoms.

The researchers did add, however, that there isn’t enough information to evaluate if maca is safe or helpful for treating menopause symptoms (11).

4. May improve mood and energy:

Maca may help increase energy levels and mood in some people, according to limited research.

Taking 3 grams of red or black maca per day for 12 weeks increased mood and energy ratings in 175 persons living at low or high elevations, according to a 2016 study (12).

Furthermore, 2015 research on 29 postmenopausal Chinese women found that a 6-week treatment with 3.3 grams of maca per day improved depressive symptoms compared to placebo treatment (13).

Furthermore, prior research suggests that maca may be beneficial in lowering anxiety and depression symptoms in postmenopausal women (14).

5. Reducing erectile dysfunction:

People who suffer from erectile dysfunction may benefit from maca root (ED). The effect of ingesting 2.4g of maca root per day for 12 weeks on participants’ perceptions of their general and sexual well-being was investigated in a small study published in 2009 (15).

Males with mild ED were included in the trial. Those who took maca root had a greater rise in sexual well-being than those who took a placebo.

6. Increasing fertility:

Another common usage of maca root is to boost fertility, especially in men.

A review from 2016 (16), maca root may improve the quality of sperm in both fertile and infertile men. More research, however, is required.

7. Reducing blood pressure:

It’s probable that maca root can help lower blood pressure as well. In the same 2015 study (17), 3.3g of maca per day for 12 weeks was observed to reduce blood pressure in Chinese postmenopausal women.

Dehydrated maca powder, lepidium meyenii

8. Reducing sun damage:

Maca may help protect the skin from UV rays, according to a previous study (18) in an animal model. Extracts from maca leaves were discovered to help reduce the production of sunburn cells in another animal study published in 2011 (19).

9. Fighting free radicals:

Maca root also boosts the body’s natural antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

Antioxidants aid in the battle against free radicals, which can harm the body’s cells. Some people believe antioxidants can aid in the prevention of certain diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 

10. Improving learning and memory:

There is some evidence that maca can help with memory and learning. Maca, for example, was proven to boost memory in mice in 2011.

According to a review of the literature published in 2014 (20), maca may help with learning and memory. It may be useful in treating disorders that disrupt these processes, like Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the researchers.

However, because only animal models have been studied, it is unknown whether maca will have the same benefits in humans.

11. Benefits your bones:

After taking maca, participants had enhanced bone density, according to the same study that found a link between maca and reduced menopause symptoms (21). Another study, this time using rats, discovered a link between maca and strong bones (22). It’s likely because maca contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, a substance vital for bone health, according to the study’s authors.

“Maca helps make bones tougher,” notes Dr. Wilder, noting that this property is especially important for women as they age. “This isn’t to argue that maca can replace vitamin D or calcium, which are both important for bone health, but there is still a link.”

Other potential benefits of maca:

The amount of human research into maca’s potential health benefits is low. However, preliminary evidence from animal research suggests that maca may have the following effects on health:

  • It’s possible that it’ll aid in the preservation of cognitive function. Maca has been shown in rodent trials to increase cognitive function and motor coordination, as well as slow age-related cognitive decline (23).
  • BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) may be helped (BPH). Maca may help lower inflammatory proteins and limit BPH, or prostate enlargement, according to animal research (24).
  • Skin health may be improved. Maca has been shown to hasten wound healing and to protect animals from UV exposure when applied to their skin in a previous study (25),(26).
  • Maca pills have become popular as aphrodisiacs and fertility boosters.
  • Maca supplements have grown in favor as dietary supplements for aphrodisiac purposes, as well as for enhancing fertility and stamina. However, there is a scarcity of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy (27).
Maca root slices drying on bamboo tray, peruvian superfood

Why is maca good for you?

The calorific value of maca root is moderate. Fresh maca contains slightly more calories than other taproots like turnips and radishes because it is the only Brassica family taproot that is high in starch.

100 grams of dried maca powder contains roughly 325 calories, which is about the same as some cereal grains like rice and wheat (27).

Maca, both fresh and dry, has no cholesterol and just a minor amount of fat. The root, on the other hand, has a number of important phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins that promote vigor, freshness, and overall health (27).

Apart from the primary ingredients, maca root and other plant parts contain anthocyanin colors, alkaloids, tannins, and other health-promoting compounds (27).

Parts of the maca plant are thought to boost energy levels in the past. Maca root pieces were utilized by the Incas to promote fertility and as an aphrodisiac, as well as to control menopausal and menstrual symptoms (27).

Researchers studying maca found that particular active chemicals, such as macamides and macaenes, are principally responsible for the plant’s physiological effects on humans (27).

Maca root powder is a vitamin and mineral powerhouse. Calcium 250 mg, iron 14.8 mg, potassium 2000 mg, sodium 7.9 mg, copper 6 mg, and manganese 0.8 mg are all present in 100 grams of maca powder.

Many of these elements are essential components of maca nutrition, serving as co-factors for enzymes involved in metabolic processes (27).

How to use maca?

The standard dose for maca is 1,500-3,000mg. Maca can be supplemented by eating maca root, or through a maca extract. Extracts should be water or ethyl acetate-based.

Maca should be taken daily, alongside food. Traditionally, maca is treated as a food product, rather than a dietary supplement. Animal studies use 1,000-2,200mg/kg body weight doses of maca, which translates into (28):

  • 9-24g of the maca vegetable for a 150lb person
  • 5-32g of the maca vegetable for a 200lb person
  • 1-40g of the maca vegetable for a 250lb person

Can maca root help with chronic fatigue syndrome?

While some alternative health advocates believe that maca root can help with chronic fatigue syndrome, there is no clinical evidence to back up this claim.

It is, however, employed in Peruvian medicine to increase energy levels. Its nutrient-dense profile may also aid with overall weariness, according to anecdotal evidence (29).

Is maca a stimulant?

Although maca is thought to increase energy, it is not a stimulant. Maca does not have the same negative side effects as stimulants that deliver a sudden burst of energy, such as ephedra. Any revitalizing effects take two to three weeks to feel (29).

Can maca improve your sex life?

Possibly. Maca has long been utilized as an aphrodisiac in folk medicine. According to a few studies, maca may be beneficial to some people’s sexual health.

Maca may help women with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants. Maca may help men have stronger erections, have more libido, and have better sperm quality.

However, there is a scarcity of research, and the findings of studies have varied.

measuring spoon with maca powder on wooden surface

Takeaway on the health benefits of maca root:

Maca has a number of possible health benefits, especially when it comes to sexual wellness. However, because much researchers used small sample sizes or animal models, the evidence for these health advantages is poor.

To evaluate whether maca is useful, researchers need to do more large-scale human investigations. Despite the fact that there are few health dangers associated with using maca, the majority of people can try it without having any negative side effects.

If someone wants to try maca root, supplements can be found at some natural food stores or online.

Other related health benefits:

  1. Health Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
  2. 10 Unexpected Benefits Of Bamboo Shoots
  3. Kohlrabi Health Benefits
  4. Incredible Health Benefits Of Cherimoya
  5. 15 Health Benefits Of Black Seed Oil

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