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Maca Root: full overview and health benefits

Maca is a Peruvian plant that has gained its popularity for its numerous health benefits. It is a superfood that is categorized under the broccoli family and is commonly made into a dietary supplement.

For centuries, the locals in Peru have been using this plant for culinary and medicinal purposes. It is sometimes called Peruvian ginseng and is scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii.

This herb is normally baked or roasted. It can also be added to soup and is used as the main ingredient for a drink called maca chicha.

The Maca root is the most commonly used part of the plant. It is dried and made into powder, capsule or liquid extract.

maca rootBenefits

  • Improves fertility
  • Boosts libido
  • Enhances energy and stamina
  • Maintains a healthy immune system

Maca is also used for the following medical conditions:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Female hormone imbalance and menstrual problems
  • Weak bones
  • Depression
  • Stomach cancer
  • Leukemia
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tuberculosis
  • Erectile dysfunction

In animals, maca root is used in livestock to improve their fertility.

Nutrition Facts

There are not a lot of studies performed to test the potency of maca root in treating specific conditions. However, it is believed to be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.

An ounce of Maca root powder contains:

  • Calories (91)
  • Carbohydrates (20 grams)
  • Copper (85% of RDI)
  • Fat (1 gram)
  • Fiber (2 grams)
  • Iron (23% of RDI)
  • Manganese (10% of RDI)
  • Potassium (16% of RDI)
  • Protein (4 grams)
  • Vitamin B6 (15% of RDI)
  • Vitamin C (133% of RDI)

Potential Side Effects

There have been no reported serious side effects of taking the recommended dose of maca. However, consuming raw maca may cause gas and indigestion on some people.

The gelatinized maca is recommended to individuals who experience stomach problems when taking raw maca.

Safety Precaution

  • There is a lack of research regarding the use of maca by pregnant and breastfeeding women. Pregnant women should not consume maca to avoid complications.
  • Maca acts like estrogen. Individuals who are suffering from hormone-sensitive conditions like cancer of the breast, ovaries or uterus must not take this herb to avoid aggravating the problem.

Raw Vs. Gelatinized Maca

The process required to produce raw maca preserves the vitamins and minerals in the herb. For this reason, it is considered a stronger choice than gelatinized maca when it comes to boosting energy and stamina.

The raw maca is best for athletes and individuals who are suffering from chronic fatigue. It also reduces the risk of cancer and increases the immune system’s ability to fight off diseases.

However, it is important to follow the recommended dose (one teaspoon) of raw maca as it possibly toxic to a few individuals.

Gelatinized maca undergoes a heating process that eliminates the starch from the plant, making it easy to digest. Hence, it is a perfect alternative for people who have gas and indigestion as a result of consuming raw maca.

Although the process removes some of the herb’s vitamins and minerals, it also makes the secondary metabolites more concentrated. This means that gelatinized maca is still effective in balancing the hormones and strengthening the immune system.

Types of Maca

There are three main types of maca and they are categorized according to their color. All of them are nutritious, but each has its own unique property.

The color of the maca root is determined by the outer skin and not the flesh so the color of the powders are only slightly different from each other.

Yellowyellow maca root and powder

Yellow maca is made from white to yellow roots. This is the most common type of maca and makes 60% of the annual harvest.

Its taste is described as tangy. This type of maca is best for women for having these benefits:

  • improves fertility
  • relieves symptoms of menopause
  • treats hormonal imbalance

It is also a great mood enhancer for both men and women.

The yellow maca is popular in men who want to experience an instant boost in their libido.

Redred maca root and powder

Also referred to as the purple or pink maca, the red maca root is the rarest and the most powerful type of maca. It is described as having a malty taste.

Red maca is most effective for the following:

  • Stabilizing hormones
  • Improving stamina and strength
  • Relieving stress and depression
  • Increasing bone density

It is becoming more popular because of its high antioxidant and amino acid content. The Journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2005 has published a study stating that out of the three types of maca, only the red one was able to treat enlarged prostates in rats.

Although the red maca is the best choice for maintaining a healthy well-being, studies show that it is the only type of maca that doesn’t improve fertility and sperm quality.

Blackblack maca root and powder

This type of maca is from gray roots and tastes like roasted soya beans.

It is best for individuals who are struggling to conceive because of its ability to increase libido, fertility and sperm mobility. In fact, it is considered a natural viagra.

Other health benefits are:

  • enhances sleep and mood
  • improves learning ability and memory
  • boosts the energy and immune system
  • prevents colds and flu
  • reduces depression, stress, and fatigue
  • relieves body aches
  • increases bone density

Maca Forms

The maca plant is being distributed all over the world in four different forms.

Powdermaca powder

The taste of maca root powder is generally described as earthy and nutty with a bitter aftertaste. It is usually mixed with food or sweet drinks to mask the taste.

Maca powder is sold raw or gelatinized.

How to Use

Maca powder has become a trend in the fitness industry when bloggers started adding it to smoothies to boost their stamina and athletic performance.

Adding a spoonful of maca powder to energy balls is also believed to be beneficial while working out.

Dosage

Maca is considered a food and not a supplement. For this reason, dosing is not always necessary as the herb is well tolerated by the general public.

Still, the daily recommended dose for Maca powder is 1 teaspoon. For men who want to boost their libido and fertility, it is advised to take one teaspoon daily. The dose may be gradually increased to a maximum of 3 to 6 teaspoons every day in a span of three to six months.

After 6 months of continuously taking maca powder, it is advised to take a 2-week break before taking this herb again.

Capsulemaca capsule

The capsule forms are derived from dried roots of maca. It is also available as raw and gelatinized.

Because of the dirt-like taste of maca, the capsule form is preferred by most people.

How to Use

Simply take one capsule with water. Others prefer to break the capsule and add the content to smoothie or food.

Dosage

The body requires at least 1,500 milligrams of maca to reap its benefits. 500-milligram capsules must be taken 3-6 times a day, preferably in the morning, noon, and at night.

When taking maca capsules for the first time, take the lowest recommended dose on your first few days and gradually increase your dose in small increments to avoid side effects.

A few men who experimented with this herb believe that the maca supplements on the market are ineffective because they contain a very low dose of maca root. For this reason, some men use at least 5 grams of gelatinized maca to see an immediate effect.

On the other hand, five grams of maca may be way too strong for some. In fact, clinical trials use only 2 grams of maca supplement a day. Although the effect is not as fast as when taking a higher dose, taking 2 grams of maca daily for a span of time can be effective.

Liquid

Most maca liquid extract tastes much better than its powder form. The liquid extract is the form that is easiest to absorb by the body as it can also penetrate the blood vessels under the tongue.

This form is commonly marketed as a natural energy booster.

Liquid extracts are obtained from powdered maca root and made into a glycerin-based supplement. Glycerin is a mix of alcohol and sugar and is considered by FDA as a carbohydrate. Because most brands require a small dose of the product, sugar intake from supplementing with maca extract is very minimal.

How to Use

Some maca extracts are taken using a spoon to measure the dosage. Most brands come with droppers to easily measure a dose.

Dosage

Liquid extracts have different dosing depending on how the manufacturer processed the product. You have to read the label carefully to know the correct dose.

Teamaca dried leaf

There are two versions of maca tea: loose dried leaf or powdered maca root packed in tea bags. It is sometimes brewed with other superfoods like ginger.

How to Use

Maca tea is brewed in a cup of hot water for up to six minutes. It is important not to boil the herb in order to preserve the nutrients.

Dosage

Maca tea has different dosage depending on the blend designed by the manufacturer. Up to three pinches of the loose dried leaf is enough to make a cup of tea beneficial.

One teabag of maca powder should be used for a cup of tea.

Maca for Men

Research shows that a daily intake of maca can help men produce more high-quality semen.

There are not enough studies for maca root’s effectiveness for improving fertility. However, most manufacturers still use maca root extract in their supplements to promote healthy semen.

Maca root is also believed to increase sex drive in men. Animal studies show that maca is an effective aphrodisiac. However, these studies do not support the claim that it can be a potent libido enhancer for humans.

Maca for Women

Women face the risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction as a side effect of taking anti-depressant drugs. Research in the past suggests that consuming maca root 2 times a day can counteract this side effect.

Taking maca root can also alleviate the symptoms caused by menopause. Having a daily dose of maca for 6 weeks can improve mood, ease depression and anxiety as well as improve the blood pressure.

It is also believed that this herb can treat hormone imbalance in women, but further research is needed to prove this claim.

Updated: November 27, 2018 — 10:54 pm

1 Comment

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  1. Great post! Glad I came across this article since I would really prefer herbal medicines. Thanks for sharing this info! 🙂

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