Benefits of Maca Root

9 Benefits of Maca Root for Health: Side Effects & How to Take

For thousands of years, Maca root has been revered by the people of Peru as a potent adaptogen from the Andes Mountains capable of boosting health and energy levels.

Known as the "Peruvian ginseng," Maca is increasingly popular for its ability to enhance vitality, improve mood, and support the treatment of various health issues.

So, what are the benefits of Maca root? What are its side effects? And how should it be used correctly? The following article will provide excellent insights for you.

Before exploring further, please read the disclaimer located at the end of this webpage.

Key Takeaways

  • Maca root is a cruciferous vegetable originating from the Andes Mountains of Peru, containing unique compounds, including macaenes and macamides, which may contribute to various health benefits.
  • The main benefits of Maca root include increasing energy, resilience, hormone balance, improving reproductive function, enhancing libido, antioxidative properties, and reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Maca root does not cause serious side effects when used at doses of 3-5g per day for up to 4 months. It may cause mild symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or interactions with medications and other supplements.

What is Maca Root?

maca root and powder

Maca, scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is a root vegetable belonging to the radish family, native to the high plateaus of the Andes mountains. It is often referred to as Peruvian Ginseng and is highly valued by the people of Peru.

Nutritionally, a comprehensive analysis of Maca conducted by Dr. Qun Yi Zheng and colleagues in 1998 revealed that Maca contains 10% protein, 60% carbohydrates, and various beneficial fatty acids.

Research also hypothesizes that compounds like macamides and macaenes present in Maca support sexual function [1].

Currently, Maca root is used as a medicinal herb and dietary supplement to address male infertility and postmenopausal health issues in females.

Additionally, Maca plays a significant role in boosting libido, enhancing bone and muscle strength. To facilitate its consumption, Maca supplements come in various forms such as capsules, tablets, powder, or dried root.

What are the Benefits of Maca Root for Health?

Energy & Stamina

Maca can be used as a caffeine-free method to enhance energy levels. Although research on this benefit is still limited, there are a few studies demonstrating their effectiveness.

A small study conducted on 175 individuals consuming 3g of Maca per day for 12 weeks showed a correlation between the group participating in the trial and the overall energy levels they experienced, specifically a significant increase in energy compared to the non-user group [2].

One of the newest benefits of Maca is improving physical endurance.

A study conducted over 30 days showed its ability to enhance physical endurance by minimizing muscle and liver damage while preserving energy during swimming exercises and male reproductive function by increasing the number of sperm in the testes [3].

Hormonal Balance and Fertility

Maca's ability to balance hormones was first reported in Chacon's study [4].

Widely recognized for its estrogen-free nature and absence of any other plant hormones, Maca can stimulate the endocrine system to maintain hormonal balance through plant sterols [5].

Maca's multifunctional effects on endocrine relationships also positively affect stimulating endocrine glands in regulating hormonal balance in the body, especially in women entering perimenopause [6].

Maca also has great benefits for male reproductive health.

A study conducted on a group of men consuming 2 grams of Maca per day for 12 weeks showed a significant improvement in sperm concentration, although sperm motility and morphology did not show clear differences [7].

Additionally, an experiment using 1.75g of Maca per day for 12 weeks showed improvements in sperm concentration and motility [8].

Manage Menopause Symptoms

maca root benefits for Menopause Symptoms

Maca is recommended regularly for women in perimenopause or menopause. They are considered a "miracle" type that helps women's bodies in this stage not be affected by symptoms caused by changes in estrogen levels.

A study was conducted with 20 women, aged 41-50, who were given 2 grams of Maca per day, split into two doses taken with meals [9].

The results showed improvements in hormone balance and a reduction in negative symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruptions, stress, depression, and palpitations, which are common during perimenopause.

Mood & Cognitive Function

Maca has the ability to increase the body's dopamine levels, thereby reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.

This information was confirmed in a study conducted on mice in 2014, with doses of 250-500 mg/kg, showing Maca's antidepressant effects and its association with activating both the noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems, as well as reducing oxidative stress in the mouse brain [10].

Furthermore, Maca helps the body manage stress. Experts believe that this natural herb stimulates the body's stress response system through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis balance mechanism.

The HPA axis is responsible for the interaction between the central nervous system and the hormonal system in response to stress. Maca can keep cortisol levels from rising when stressed [11].

Sexual Health

Maca contains compounds such as macamides, macaridin, glucosinolates, and alkaloids, all of which are considered powerful aphrodisiacs used to increase sexual desire in both men and women.

Maca performs well in stimulating sexual desire without altering hormone levels. A study recorded results when investigating a group of 45 women using Maca root at a dose of 3 grams/day.

At the end of the study, the Maca user group showed lower signs of sexual dysfunction, while also reducing vaginal dryness and decreasing sexual desire [12].

For male sexual health, Maca performs well in reducing erectile dysfunction. An experiment was also conducted on 50 men affected by mild erectile dysfunction (ED), with this group using 2400 mg of Maca per day for 12 weeks.

The results showed promising signs of Maca supplementation on subjective perceptions of overall health and sexual function in adult patients with mild ED [13]. However, further research on this function of Maca is needed.

May Reduce Sun Damage

maca may reduce sun damage

Maca root also provides some skin health benefits, notably its ability to reduce the harmful effects of sunlight, protect against UV rays, prevent sunburn, and sun damage to the skin caused by sunlight.

Maca is cultivated and grown at various altitudes, adapting well to harsh conditions with low temperatures, strong UV rays, low oxygen concentrations, and diverse climates.

It has been reported to have preventive effects and improve UV-induced skin damage and promote wound healing at high altitudes by regulating the immune system [14].

Fighting Free Radicals

Polysaccharide compounds from Maca demonstrate high antioxidant activity [15], helping protect the body's cells from harmful free radicals.

Additionally, Maca root promotes the formation of natural antioxidants in the body such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase, strongly contributing to counteracting free radicals that can damage cells and prevent some cancers.

May Support Your Bone

Maca helps strengthen bones by increasing bone density after consistent consumption over time.

However, this does not mean that Maca can replace calcium or Vitamin D in constituting the basic function of bones. Simply put, Maca serves to protect organs regulated by steroid hormones, helping prevent bone loss in the body.

A study designed over 4 weeks to determine the impact of different Maca strains on bone structure in ovariectomized (OVX) mice.

The results showed that treatment with estradiol, black, and red Maca reduced the effects of OVX surgery on reducing the weight, diameter, and width of femoral bones.

Red and black Maca protected bone structure in OVX mice without showing estrogen effects on uterine weight [16].

How to Incorporate Maca Root into Your Diet

Adding Maca Powder

Maca Powder is widely used and easily incorporated into a weight loss diet. You can add Maca powder to smoothies, homemade energy bars, oatmeal, or other baked goods. Its flavor is quite appealing, resembling caramel.

In Peru, traditional Maca is often combined with bread or diluted with beverages; other consumption methods include adding it to peanut butter, fruit juice, or soup.

To maximize the benefits of Maca, avoid baking it or adding it to hot beverages or foods.

Maca Capsules

maca capsules

Maca supplements are also available in capsule or tablet form, making it easy to consume a stable and accurate dosage.

This may be more convenient than consuming raw Maca powder or Maca powder.

Additionally, Maca capsules are often processed to reduce the earthy taste of regular Maca. Moreover, capsules make it easier for users to carry around and use conveniently.

Maca Tea

In addition to adding Maca powder to your favorite beverages or consuming it in capsule form, Maca tea is also a suggestion that helps you relax and supports good health.

To make it, prepare 2-3 tablespoons of Maca powder and your favorite hot tea ingredients. Steep the tea to cool for 3-5 minutes, then add the Maca powder, stir well, and use.

How Much Maca Root Should You Take?

Currently, there is not much certainty about the recommended dosage of Maca for specific benefits. However, research suggests that using Maca in the Peruvian way for four months can provide superior health benefits, especially for sexual and reproductive function.

The recommended dosage of Maca for Peruvians is a minimum of six to ten 500-milligram capsules of Maca powder daily, equivalent to 3,000 to 5,000 milligrams of Maca.

For Maca root powder, you can add a tablespoon to your daily smoothie blender and enjoy Maca the Peruvian way [1].

Maca can be consumed at higher doses over a short period, but more research is needed to ensure safety [17]. In summary, consult with experts to ensure effectiveness and safety throughout the usage process.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions

Side Effects of Maca Root

side effects of maca root

A dosage of 3-5g of Maca per day is considered safe for most users without causing any serious side effects [18]. Maca's side effects are uncommon and mild, primarily consisting of digestive symptoms and headaches [19].

Furthermore, Maca root has been reported to cause liver damage, although this is not accurate.

In small clinical trials, Maca extract has been reported to be safe, well-tolerated, and no convincing reports linking Maca to liver damage, either as increased serum enzymes during treatment or clear acute liver damage in clinical practice [19].

However, those with thyroid disorders should be cautious when using cruciferous vegetables like Maca. These foods may contain substances called goitrogens, which interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland.

Additionally, Maca extract has been shown to mimic estrogen in the body, making it unsafe for hormone-sensitive bodies, often prone to diseases such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometriosis. Moreover, pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use it [17].

Maca Root Interactions

Maca root may interact negatively with some types of medications or other supplements.

Currently, the types of drugs that Maca interacts with have not been clearly identified, so consult and speak with an expert or supplier to ensure safety when incorporating Maca into your diet [17].

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Take Maca Root Daily?

Maca is safe for daily use when combined with a regular diet. It has been shown not to cause serious side effects when used at a dose of 3-5g per day with meals, continuously for up to 4 months. However, it's advisable to start with a small dose to gauge your body's adaptability.

Who Should not Take Maca Root?

Individuals who should avoid Maca root include children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with thyroid disorders, and those sensitive to hormones such as cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometriosis.

If you have any of the mentioned conditions, please consult a healthcare professional to ensure safety.

Does Maca Increase Testosterone?

Maca may increase testosterone levels, considered an effective and safe treatment for patients with delayed onset hypogonadism. This is evidenced by test results comparing Maca root users to non-users in a study [20].

How Long does it Take for Maca Root to Work?

The time it takes for Maca to show positive effects depends on the specific purpose you aim to improve. Generally, with consistent and proper dosage, various forms of Maca may show noticeable effects after 12 weeks of use.

What to Look for When Buying Maca Supplement?

It's best to use traditional Peruvian Maca for its superior quality. Good Maca is non-GMO and has high nutritional content. Additionally, opt for products with full certification of origin, organic certification, analysis of yeast, mold, bacteria, aflatoxin, and heavy metals.

Can You Take Too Much Maca Root?

Maca can be used at doses higher than 3-5g per day for a short period, but there isn't sufficient research to guarantee the safety of this usage. Generally, if you're starting to use it, adhere to dosage guidelines and gradually increase if your body tolerates it.

Conclusion

Maca root is a rare and valuable plant with numerous health benefits. From improving sexual function to enhancing cognitive function, Maca root has been proven to be an excellent nutritional supplement. However, similar to other supplements, Maca root should be used cautiously and under the guidance of a physician. Hopefully, this article helps you understand the benefits of "Peruvian ginseng" and how to consume it correctly.

References

  • [1] Kilham, Chris. Maca: Peru’s Natural Viagra.
  • [2] Gonzales-Arimborgo, Carla, et al. “Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 9, no. 3, 1 Sept. 2016, p. 49, www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/9/3/49/htm, https://doi.org/10.3390/ph9030049.
  • [3] Shin, Sun-Hee, et al. “Gelatinized and Fermented Powders of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) Improve Physical Stamina and Epididymal Sperm Counts in Male Mice.” Journal of Embryo Transfer, vol. 23, no. 4, 2008, pp. 283–289, koreascience.kr/article/JAKO200806942466254.page. Accessed 6 June 2024.
  • [4] Chacon RG. PhD Thesis. Peru: Univ. Natl. Mayo de San Marcos; 1961. Phytochemical study on Lepidium meyenii; pp. 1–46.
  • [5] Chacon G. 1st. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos; 2001. “Maca” Millenarian Peruvian Food Plant with Highly Nutritional and Medicinal Properties; pp. 1–337.
  • [6] Walker M. Effect of Peruvian Maca on Hormonal Functions. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. 1998;11:18–22.
  • [7] Alcalde, Ana María, and Jordi Rabasa. “Does Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) Improve Seminal Quality?” Andrologia, 12 July 2020, https://doi.org/10.1111/and.13755.
  • [8] Melnikovova, Ingrid, et al. “Effect OfLepidium MeyeniiWalp. On Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, 2015, pp. 1–6, https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/324369. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
  • [9] Meissner, H. O., et al. “Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) Used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study.” International Journal of Biomedical Science: IJBS, vol. 2, no. 2, 1 June 2006, pp. 143–159, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23674976/.
  • [10] Ai, Zhong, et al. “Antidepressant-like Behavioral, Anatomical, and Biochemical Effects of Petroleum Ether Extract from Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) in Mice Exposed to Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress.” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 17, no. 5, May 2014, pp. 535–542, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025608/, https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2013.2950.
  • [11] Tang, Ruying, et al. “Antianxiety and Anti-Depressant Effects of Maca (L. Meyenii) Ethanolic Extract on Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress of Rats through Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis.” Journal of Food Science & Technology, vol. 4, no. 4, 28 May 2019, www.siftdesk.org/article-details/Antianxiety-and-anti-depressant-effects-of-Maca-emL-meyeniiem-ethanolic-extract-on-chronic-unpredictable-mild-stress-of-rats-through-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/466. Accessed 6 June 2024.
  • [12] Dording, Christina M., et al. “A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, 2015, pp. 1–9, https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/949036.
  • [13] Zenico, T., et al. “Subjective Effects of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) Extract on Well-Being and Sexual Performances in Patients with Mild Erectile Dysfunction: A Randomised, Double-Blind Clinical Trial.” Andrologia, vol. 41, no. 2, 1 Apr. 2009, pp. 95–99, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19260845/, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x.
  • [14] Castañeda-Alarcón, Malena, et al. “Actividad Fotoprotectora de Una Crema Con Extracto Acuoso Liofilizado de Lepidium Meyenii (MACA) Frente a La Irradiación Ultravioleta En Piel de Ratones.” Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental Y Salud Pública, vol. 38, no. 3, 11 Oct. 2021, pp. 434–41, https://doi.org/10.17843/rpmesp.2021.383.7420. Accessed 24 Feb. 2022.
  • [15] Zha, Shenghua, et al. “Extraction, Purification and Antioxidant Activities of the Polysaccharides from Maca (Lepidium Meyenii).” Carbohydrate Polymers, vol. 111, 13 Oct. 2014, pp. 584–587, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25037390/, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2014.05.017.
  • [16] Gonzales, Carla, et al. “Effects of Different Varieties of Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) on Bone Structure in Ovariectomized Rats.” Forschende Komplementarmedizin (2006), vol. 17, no. 3, 2010, pp. 137–143, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20616517/, https://doi.org/10.1159/000315214.
  • [17] “Maca: MedlinePlus Supplements.” Medlineplus.gov, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/555.html.
  • [18] ---. “Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 9, no. 3, 1 Sept. 2016, p. 49, www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/9/3/49/htm, https://doi.org/10.3390/ph9030049.
  • [19] “Maca.” PubMed, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548552/.
  • [20] Shin, Dongho, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) in Patients with Symptoms of Late-Onset Hypogonadism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” The World Journal of Men’s Health, vol. 41, 2023, https://doi.org/10.5534/wjmh.220112.
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Author

Ralph S. Albert, with over 10 years of expertise in nutrition and research, now heads the Research division at Vinatura Supplements. His dedication and extensive knowledge ensure top-quality articles on nutrition and health, collaborating with a skilled team. He has successfully completed The VINATURA Expertise Research Training Program, underscoring his commitment to Vinatura's mission. Ralph has also published numerous articles and conducted valuable research in the field, making him a trusted resource for individuals on their wellness journey.

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