Maca ( Lepidium meyenii) is a root-based or tuber plant that is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng” due to its ability to boost energy, stamina, fertility, and sexual performance.
Maca is native to Peru, in the higher elevations of the Andes mountains and around Lake Junin at an elevaation where only maca and potatoes are grown.
Maca has been around for over 3,000 years. It is related to the radish and turnip plants. Maca has an odor that has been likened to butterscotch. Maca comes in a few different varieties, such as red, black maca, and yellow maca. Traditional medicine and research both show that maca has many health benefits.
Maca powder is a dried form of the root, which can be stored for years. There have been limited negative effects on maca. Women who are lactating or pregnant should avoid maca.
Vitamins and Minerals
Maca root is high in nutrients. Nutritional value is similar to grains like rice and wheat. Maca powder has roughly 65% carbohydrates, 10% protein, 8% dietary fiber and 2% fats.
Maca is a good source of vitamin B, C, and E. It is high in calcium, potassium, and also has iodine, copper, iron, zinc, manganese, linolenic acid, oleic acids, palmitic acid and 19 amino acids.
Maca also has magnesium, selenium, and polysaccharides. It also contains a chemical that is known for its potent aphrodisiac property called p-methyoxbenzyl isothiocyanate.
In addition to being a powerful aphrodisiac, maca powder can improve the quality of semen (motility, sperm count, and semen volume) and overall fertility in both men and women, reduce prostate enlargement, and reduce menopause symptoms in women.
WebMD has interviewed two industry experts on the effects of maca root and sexual performance. Chris Kilham, the author of Hot Plants indicates that he has a history of successful medicinal use for infertility, menopause, and sexual healing.
Psychiatrist Hyla Cass, MD states that in her practice, she has seen maca improve sexual desire and fertility for both men and women. Menopausal symptoms can relate to hot flashes, anxiety, body aches, cramps, depression, and mood swings.
Another study done in 2008 by CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics stated that maca can help with sexual dysfunction caused by popular antidepressant SSRIs (selective serotonin reputake inhibitors). The study also indicated improved libido for both men and women.
A study on men who completed a 40 kilometer cycling timed test before taking maca extract and again after (versus a placebo) for 2 weeks showed that patients who took the maca experienced improved athletic performance in addition to increased sexual desire.
Maca can be a healthier alternative to steroids for improved stamina and endurance in athletics.
One study done in 2008 from the journal Menopause followed 14 post menopausal women while they took 3.5 g of maca powder for 6 weeks followed by a placebo for 6 weeks.
The results showed maca reduced anxiety and depression. Studies published in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine have indicated that maca helps improve learning and performance in school for children.
Black maca in particular decreases oxidative stress and increased memory and learning parameters in mice.
Another study showed maca had an antidepressant effect on rats while sedating them without affecting their cognitive functioning. The rats had lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress-related and energizing hormones.
Studies show that populations where maca is consumed (such as Peru) tend to have overall lower blood pressure levels than those where it isn’t traditionally consumed.
Maca’s potassium level helps to control high blood pressure. A study done in 2010 in Bioresource Technology indicated that maca can lower blood pressure due to the phenolic compounds in maca that inhibit enzymes related to hypertension.
This indicates that maca may help in both preventing and treating hypertension. When uncontrolled and left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious health issues.
Maca works as an adaptogen, which means that it responds to individual bodies’ needs differently. It will help regulate hormonal imbalances.
If your body is producing too little, maca will help stimulate hormone growth. If your body produces too much, it will help reduce the growth.
Maca particularly enhances adrenal function and increases the body’s production of cortisol, which is a hormone that has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Maca also regulates tissue function, growth, and sexual development. Hormones can play a role in many diseases, making hormone regulation vital.
Maca is particularly known for sexual hormones including menopause, PMS, hot flashes, anxiety, libido, and sexual function. This is where Maca gets the nickname “nature’s Viagra.”
Other Health Benefits
A study done in 2007 in BMC and Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that maca may help people who suffer from joint pain.
The study concluded that a combination of the herb called cat’s claw and maca powder improved symptoms of osteoarthritis pain.
The maca powder supplement was equally as effective as glucosamine sulfate, which is popular for use in those who suffer from arthritis.
Some studies indicated that maca soothed upset stomach. Others show that maca puts the body through a detoxification, getting rid of harmful and non-nutritional “junk” from the body.
Click here to read more health benefits of maca root for women.
Add Maca to Your Diet
You can eat maca like any other root crop—baked, roasted, steamed, or fried. You can alternatively use maca powder in smoothies, or add a bit to cereals, oats, rice, and more.
Add a teaspoon of maca powder to a cup of tea. You can add a teaspoon to vegetable or bean soup as well. For baking, add 1 cup of maca to 3 cups of flour.
Try adding maca powder to organic popcorn and flavor with sea salt and coconut oil. Start with half a teaspoon in your diet and over a few weeks work your way up to one to two a day.
Maca powder can be found in pill form as well. Most pills have 500 mg of maca powder and suggested doses can range from 3 to 6 a day. According to Drugs.com, the recommended daily dose is 450 mg taken with food.