What is Maca?
Maca is a plant found in the Andes high plateau in Peru. It is also called Peruvian ginseng. It grows at several thousands of feet above sea level in a very harsh climate. The color of its root can be red, brown, purple, or black. It is divided into different categories based on the color of the root. It smells like butterscotch and is very similar to radish.
Maca root is also grown in several regions of the Yunnan province in China at very high altitudes. It has proven to increase fertility, reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, and also improve memory according to anecdotal and scientific evidence. It is also used to increase the fertility of livestock in agriculture and has been used for hundreds of years.
Today maca is mainly available in its powdered form. In this way, it is added to oats and other cereals. Maca is also baked, roasted, or prepared as a soup. It is used for making a drink called maca chicha. The taste of maca has been described as an earthy and nutty taste. It is also available as capsules.
What are the benefits of Maca?
Maca has several benefits. Many of these benefits are attributed to its antioxidant properties. Some of these benefits are:
Very high nutritional content
Maca is very rich nutritionally. It is very high in carbs, and has a number of vitamins and minerals. It is low in fat and rich in fiber as well. It has about 133% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. This makes it beneficial for strengthening the immune system and improving the health of gums and teeth. It is also very rich in copper and iron, which helps in preventing the risk of anemia. It also contains other beneficial compounds found in plants.
Increases Libido in men and women
Antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction (AISD) can be found in those taking antidepressant medication for anxiety disorders. It affects more than half of the patients taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). This, in turn, is seen to lead to reduced self-esteem, quality of life, and negative impact on the mind and relationships.
Sexual dysfunction could affect general libido, arousal, or orgasm. Because of the sexual dysfunction, many people choose to discontinue their medications and therapy. This will, in turn, lead to complications because of the untreated psychiatric condition.
Maca root has been proven effective in increasing fertility in animals. There is both anecdotal and scientific evidence for this. The effect of maca on the fertility of human males has also been studied. Studies have proven that it increases the motility of sperm and the sperm count as well.
A recent study also focused on the effects of maca root in treating sexual dysfunction in women. In this case, sexual dysfunction was caused by antidepressant medications. The results were positive. The administration of about 3 grams of Maca a day led to enjoyable sexual experiences in women with AISD. They also reported greater sexual activity than before.
There is scientific evidence also to support the sleep-inducing characteristic of maca. It contains hexadecanoic acid, calcium, and potassium, which promote sleep. It also aids in the production of melatonin, which then makes you fall asleep. This combined with the beneficial effect that maca has on anxiety and depression and the reduction of fatigue will help with sleep.
In another study, higher GABA levels were observed in red maca than in black maca. GABA also acts as a neurotransmitter, reducing stress and anxiety levels in the body. It also reduces blood pressure and promotes sleep.
Reduced severity of symptoms after menopause
The root of maca may be a boon for women in their menopause as well. Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her periods stop.
Menopause is followed by a deficiency of estrogen that leads to several unpleasant events. It causes mood swings, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and even interrupted sleep. Maca root has been proven effective in reducing these symptoms effectively.
Postmenopause, the bone health of a woman also begins to decline. Maca was found to be effective in managing cases of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Skin protection against UV rays
When applied topically, it helps protect the skin from UV rays. This helps prevent the possibility of skin cancer and even wrinkle formation. The positive results were obtained in a study conducted on mice and the results were attributed to the polyphenols and the glucosinolates that are present in maca.
Please note that maca helps improve skin health only when it is applied externally on exposed skin. When maca powder is ingested, for instance, it does not help with skin health. In addition, scientists believe that it cannot totally replace a conventional sunscreen.
Reduces prostate size and risk of prostate cancer
The prostate is a small apricot-sized gland that comes in between the bladder and the penis. The prostate’s function is to produce some ingredients in the semen. With age, enlargement of the prostate is a malady common in men.
Red maca, in a lab study that was conducted on rats, was found to reduce prostate size to normal. The reason for why red maca is so effective could be its higher glucosinolates content. Other studies have also proven that maca is beneficial in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
In a study involving the spray-dried extracts of red and black maca, about 80% showed greater levels of energy and an elevated mood. The reason for this elevated mood is attributed to the macamides, a group of fatty acid lipids. Their action on the Endocannabinoid System seems to be a reason for the elevated mood. The presence of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) in both red and black maca is another reason for the elevated mood. The GABA levels were higher in red maca than in black maca.
Improves physical activity and endurance
Several physical trainers recommend Maca root and bodybuilders frequently use them to gain muscle and increased strength, energy, and endurance. In a study involving a group of cyclists, maca supplements were proven to have increased the energy levels of the cyclists and improved their endurance.
But does it really improve muscle mass or strength? The answer is a resounding “maybe” only because so many who have seen results use it. However, there is no scientific study to corroborate this.
Improves brain function
In Peru, it has been used for a very long time to improve memory in school-going children. The evidence for generations was only anecdotal. However, recent scientific evidence has proven that maca, particularly the black maca, improves memory and learning.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme catalyzes the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Generally, AChE inhibitors are used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary studies have proven that black maca also exhibits AChE inhibitory activity in mice with induced memory impairments. The positive results were confirmed by the use of behavioral studies in the mice. This beyond doubt proves the neuroprotective effects of black maca.
In addition to the AChE inhibitory effect, the extract of black maca also acts as an antioxidant. Oxidative stress is very much a problem when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The presence of unpaired electrons in certain compounds called free radicals created after metabolism causes them to be chemically active. These will, therefore, look for another electron and break down DNA, lipids, etc. to obtain them. This leads to oxidative stress. An antioxidant is a vitamin or a mineral that can combat this effect. Black maca is nutritionally very rich in such vitamins and minerals and therefore becomes of use in this regard.
What is the recommended dose of maca?
When taken in small amounts, especially as a powder, maca seems to be healthy for most people. It is still safe when taken in larger amounts (up to 3 grams per day) for up to as long as 4 months. Most people also do not seem to exhibit any side effects on increased maca intake.
However, that being said, the appropriate dose of maca also depends on the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. Natural products may or may not be safe for you. The doctor is the best judge of whether you should include a supplement in your diet, natural or not, and also how much of it you must take.
Side effects of maca use
The maca is a miraculous root useful for the treatment of several diseases, for the natives in Peru. The same natives, however, believe that raw maca is not good for one’s health. They would suggest you boil the maca root before you consume it.
Additionally, maca is not good for you if you have thyroid problems. If you do have thyroid disorders, then taking maca will increase the extent of the disorder. This is because the root of maca contains goitrogen, which is likely to increase the level of thyroid damage. The result is goiter, due to excessive iodine uptake.
Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are also advised not to take maca. This is because its effects on them have not been studied yet.
Certain cancers such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and other medical conditions such as endometriosis are hormone-sensitive. With an increase in estrogen, the complications from them also increase. Maca acts in a way that is very similar to estrogen. Therefore, if you have a medical condition that you think would be made worse by taking maca, avoid taking this root.
What you should know before you buy herbal supplements
Some herbal supplements have been used for thousands of years. The evidence for their benefits is mostly anecdotal. There is very little scientific evidence to back them up. Herbal supplements also do not require approval from the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they are brought to the market. Because they may undergo rigorous manufacturing procedures and quality checks in certain cases only, it helps to always buy them from a reputed brand and store. Your doctor’s advice must also be taken as these herbal supplements could have side effects much like any other synthetic drug.
How beneficial is maca?
Maca has several benefits such as increased libido, lowered stress and blood pressure levels, etc. Some of these benefits, such as that of increased libido, are backed by enough scientific evidence to warrant its use for the same. Whereas others about its reported effects on muscle mass and energy levels still need more research. Side effects of maca use are very rare and there are no known drug interactions either. This makes it one of the safer herbal supplements that one can recommend. And if you are the kind of person who desperately needs a boost in your libido, maybe maca root could be your last herbal resort. It might just work that magic for you.
Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.
If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!
Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.
We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click
Help Others Be Fit
- Chymoral Forte
- Meftal Spas