Grown in the Peruvian mountains, maca is a starchy root vegetable, traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to enhance fertility. It is similar in appearance to radishes and turnips and is available in colors like yellow, purple and black. This vegetable is generally available in powdered form. Maca root benefits health in several ways such as by improving blood flow, boosting libido and fertility and treating symptoms associated with menopause.
Let us learn in detail about maca root benefits and precautions that you should exercise while consuming this superfood.
Maca root or Lepidium Meyenii is also known as Peruvian ginseng. This biennial plant, native to Peru and Bolivia, grows in the altitudes of 8,000 to 14,500 feet.
Maca root has been a staple food of Peruvians for thousands of years. There are even records of Incan soldiers taking maca root with them during battle to provide strength and endurance.
The maca plant glows close to the soil surface in a rosette pattern. It has small white flowers which self-germinate. There are several different varieties of maca root, with colors that range from yellow and purple to black.
Yellow maca root is the best for treatment of sexual dysfunction and lower libido. Purple Maca is recommended for an increase in stamina and for improving hormonal balance as it is the highest in amino acids.
Experts suggest using black maca for boosting fertility and strengthening of the immune and digestive system.
Maca root benefits
1. Rich in nutrients
Maca root is rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
A hundred grams of maca root powder contains (1) –
- Calories: 325
- Carbs: 71 grams
- Proteins: 14 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Vitamin C: 285 mg (475 % DV)
- Copper: 6 mg (300% DV)
- Iron: 14.8 mg (82 % DV)
- Potassium: 2000 mg (57 % DV)
- Vitamin B6: 1.1 mg (57 % DV)
- Manganese: 0.8 mg (39 % DV)
Maca root is an excellent source of carbs and proteins and is low in fat. It is also a rich source of vitamin C, copper and iron. It also contains plant compounds like glucosinolates and polyphenols.
2. Boosts antioxidant levels
Maca root benefits health by improving the levels of antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, which lowers the risk of many inflammatory diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
According to a 2007 study on rats, when researchers gave concentrated doses of maca to rats, it improved their antioxidant levels, decreases their levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar (2).
Other studies have also indicated that maca leaf extract can protect against neurological damage (3).
3. Improves libido in men and women
Several studies have indicated that the maca root benefits in the enhancement of libido in both men and women. According to a 12-week trial, researchers observed improvement in sexual desire eight weeks into the treatment.
This change was not due to any changes in testosterone or oestradiol levels (4). A 2008 study concluded that maca root could improve libido in those with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) induced sexual dysfunction (5).
According to a review of different studies on the benefits of maca roots in improving sexual function, researchers found evidence that maca root improves sexual desire after around six weeks of taking the supplement (6).
4. Boosts male fertility
Maca root benefits in the improvement of sperm count and motility. If the sperm motility is weak, the sperms are not able to reach the eggs to fertilize them.
During a 2001 trial on nine adult men, scientists observed that four-month oral treatment with maca tablets increases seminal volume, sperm count, motile sperm count and sperm motility (7).
- Also read: How to Increase Testosterone Naturally?
A 2016 review of the various trials showed that semen quality improved with maca intake (8).
5. Symptoms of menopause
During menopause, there is a natural decline in the estrogen levels in the body, and this leads to various unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, diminished bone density, sexual dysfunction, and anxiety.
A 2008 study on 14 postmenopausal women observed that taking 3.5 grams of powdered maca for four weeks reduced psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression and lowered sexual dysfunction (9).
6. Improves learning and boosts memory
Several studies have shown that maca can help enhance learning and increase memory. The natives of Peru use maca to enhance the performance of their children in school.
Studies have also found that maca can slow down age-related cognitive decline (14).
7. Reduces anxiety and depression
Maca is also known as an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen makes your body more capable of handling stress. Several studies have observed that maca root benefits in the reduction of anxiety and depression, particularly in menopausal women (15).
Maca contains flavonoids, which may be responsible for its mood-enhancing and anxiety reducing properties.
8. Improves athletic performance
Studies have shown that maca helps to enhance energy and stamina. It helps by preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar and maintaining adrenal health, which regulates mood and energy throughout the day
This property makes maca a popular supplement among bodybuilders and athletes. Maca helps with the muscle building process and improves endurance. Some animal studies seem to agree that maca enhances endurance (16, 17).
Maca has also been found to improve athletic performance regarding time. According to a study on eight cyclists, maca supplementation helped them improve the time it took to complete a 25-mile bike ride (18).
9. Can treat an enlarged prostate
An enlarged prostate is caused by increased levels of estrogen and the testosterone metabolite DHT. Also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) this condition is common among aging men (19).
Red maca root is known to reduce the size of the prostate and reduce symptoms like urinary frequency. Specific animal studies also seem to suggest that maca may have proapoptotic and antiproliferative effect in the prostate (20).
Red maca contains a high amount of glucosinolates, which may be responsible for reducing the size of the prostate. In fact, glucosinolates are also helpful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer (21).
Maca root can also help lower blood pressure, particularly in postmenopausal women (22). This health benefit can be attributed to the presence of potassium in maca, which is known for its ability in regulating blood pressure.
Since maca is an adaptogen, it helps controls the levels of the cortisol in the body, and this helps prevent high blood pressure.
11. Helps protect skin from UV exposure
Ultraviolet rays from the sun can burn the skin, cause wrinkles, and even lead to skin cancer. According to studies, when maca root extract is applied topically, it can protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV rays (23, 24).
Maca contains polyphenol antioxidants and glucosinolates, which helps in protecting the skin (25).
How to use maca root?
Thanks to its growing popularity maca can be easily bought at health stores, pharmacies and online. It is available as a capsule, liquid and in powdered form.
Though all kinds of maca have the same beneficial properties, it is best to buy it from an authentic harvester who can provide you the best maca root powder. Look for organic maca root powder for the best results.
Maca powder is also categorized by the color of the roots from which it is taken. Though yellow, red and black maca roots share most benefits; some specific medical conditions may require a particular kind of maca.
Maca has an earthy and nutty taste, with a hint of butterscotch. The yellow maca has a sweet taste, while the black variety is a bit nutty.
You can take maca in hot and cold cereals, and add it to smoothies, protein shakes. Some people prefer to take maca with fruit juice.
Though there is no officially recommended dosage for maca, it is best to start out with one tablespoon of maca powder a day. You can gradually increase this up to three tablespoons a day.
Maca root is generally considered safe for use (26). Though the natives of Peru take up to 100 grams of dried maca a day without any side effects, it can sometimes cause some gastric trouble. Some people are sensitive to raw maca powders, and it can cause gas and stomach distress.
If you have thyroid problems, you should avoid taking maca root. Maca contains goitrogens, which can impair thyroid function.
Maca can also alter hormone function. So, people who take hormone changing medicines for breast and prostate cancer should avoid taking maca extract.
People suffering from high blood pressure and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding; should consult with their doctor before taking maca.
Over to you on maca root benefits
Maca root is rich in amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. There are numerous maca root benefits on health like improved libido and fertility, etc.
Also, it helps reduce symptoms of menopause. So, go on and add a spoonful of maca root powder to your daily diet and give your health an upgrade.