Maca is a plant that has a scent that is a lot like butterscotch. The root of the plant is used to make medicines too. Maca root is rich in protein and carbohydrate, has low-fat content and contains a significant amount of fiber. It is also rich in some essential minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin C, iron, and copper. In addition, maca root contains certain chemicals such as fatty acids and amino acids. Also, the root contains various plant compounds, including polyphenols and glucosinolates.
Maca is well-known for its ability to alleviate chronic fatigue syndrome and boost memory, stamina, energy, and athletic performance. The root, when taken by mouth, helps to boost immunity, arouses sexual desire, improve fertility, as well as alleviate menstrual problems, menopausal symptoms, and female hormone imbalance. It treats sexual dysfunction caused by osteoporosis, antidepressants, depression, leukemia, cancer, erectile dysfunction (ED), HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.
As a meal, maca is either roasted or baked, used to make a fermented drink known as maca chichi, or prepared as a soup. It is also used to improve fertility in livestock.
The Health Benefits of Maca
Now, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of maca.
Maca may improve learning and memory. In fact, it is traditionally used to improve children’s school performance. In some studies, maca has shown to improve learning and memory in children with memory impairment. Interestingly, black maca seems to be more effective than other varieties.
Certain studies have shown that maca can improve your mood. It is believed to help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly in women going through menopause. Maca is made of plant compounds known as flavonoids, which is believed to be partly responsible for the psychological benefits the herb provides.
Boosts Energy and Athletic Performance
Maca root powder is a very popular supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. It is believed to be effective for gaining muscle, boosting energy, increasing strength, as well as improve exercise performance. In fact, according to some studies, maca root can also boost endurance performance.
Improves Libido in Men and Women
The problem of reduced libido has become a common one among adults these days. Luckily, maca root is a herb that naturally helps to boost libido. In fact, maca is heavily promoted as being effective at improving libido. According to some studies, maca is effective for improving sexual desire after some weeks of use.
Increases Male Fertility
With regards to male fertility, the quality and quantity of sperm are very vital. Fortunately, there are some indications that maca root increases male fertility. As a matter of fact, studies suggest that maca improve the quality of semen in both healthy and infertile men. After consistently consuming maca for some months, maca has shown to help increase the count, volume, and motility of sperm.
Alleviates Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is that time in a woman’s life when her menstrual periods stop permanently. The natural reduction in estrogen that happens during this time can lead to a range of unappealing symptoms. These symptoms include mood swings, insomnia, hot flashes, irritability, and vaginal dryness. Some studies on menopausal women have found that maca is effective for alleviating menopausal symptoms, including sleep irregularities and hot flashes. Additionally, studies suggest that maca can help support bone health. Women are known to be at a higher risk of osteoporosis after menopause.
Good for the Skin
The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun may actually burn and damage to exposed, unprotected skin. After some time, UV radiation can result in wrinkles, fine lines, and increase your risk of skin cancer. Interestingly, there is some evidence that applying maca extract, which is a concentrated form of the plant, to the skin may help protect it from UV radiation. Some studies found that maca extract, when applied to the skin, prevents skin damage from UV rays. Its protective ability is credited to the glucosinolates and polyphenol antioxidants present in it.
Reduces Prostate Size
The prostate is a gland only found in men. An enlargement of the prostate gland, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is common in aging men. A larger prostate can cause various problems with passing urine, as it surrounds the tube through which urine is removed from the body.
Interestingly, a few studies in rodents suggest that red maca reduces prostate size. It has been proposed that the effect of red maca on the prostate is linked to its high amount of glucosinolates. These substances are also associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
How to Use Maca
Maca is easy to incorporate into your diet. It can be taken as a supplement or added to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, energy bars and more. It is available in powder form, capsules or as a liquid extract.
The optimal dose for medicinal use has not been established. However, the dosage of maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5–5 grams per day.
You can find maca in some supermarkets, at health food stores, and from various online retailers. There is also a very good selection available on Amazon with thousands of interesting reviews.
While yellow maca is the most readily available type, darker types like red and black may possess different biological properties.
Side Effects and Precautions
Generally, maca is considered safe. However, it is believed that consuming fresh maca root may have an adverse health effect on our health. So it recommended that the herb is boiled first.
Additionally, if you have thyroid problems, you may want to be careful with maca. That’s because it contains goitrogens, substances that may interfere with the normal function of the thyroid gland. These compounds are more likely to affect you if you already have impaired thyroid function.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use these extracts.
Lastly, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult with their doctors before taking maca.
The Bottom Line
Supplementing with maca may provide us with an impressive range of health benefits, such as improved mood and increased libido. However, there isn’t enough evidence to verify these benefits. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your doctor before using the herb.