The maca root is scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii and was found in the Andes, particularly in the Meseta of BomBom, close to Junin Lake. It belongs to the ginseng family and very much related to the mustard plant. These are grown in the Andes Mountains in Peru where the climate is very conducive to the plants’ ability to grow even in such high temperatures and frost. These are primarily grown for their fused hypocotyl and taproot, which is used as a medicinal herb and root vegetable. Maca root takes its Spanish names maca-maca, maino, ayak willku, or ayak chichira, but these are more commonly, the Peruvian ginseng or Peruvian maca.
There are varieties of maca roots that are distinguished by their color: cream, red, purple, and black. The cream-colored maca roots are the most widely grown in Peru and are more favored because of their enhanced size and sweetness.
The red, purple, and black maca roots contain high amounts of natural iodine which is good for avoiding dietary-induced goiters. (This health condition can results from too much consumption of the lighter cream-colored maca.)
The black maca which is considered to provide the strongest in stamina- and energy-promoting properties found in this genus. Its taste is both bitter and sweet.
The flesh of the maca root is where the rich nutrients are found. Maca is rich in natural sugars, vitamins B, C, and E, and minerals like zinc, calcium, phosphorous, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, and amino acids. This impressive content in maca root has earned for it the name “superfood”.
Maca is commonly taken in its powder form, but it can also be an ingredient in food preparation. Its taste needs a little getting used to, but it gets more tolerable when it is mixed with food. It has been found to be good in smoothies, drinks, juices, salads, and cooked food. It should not be added into something too hot; otherwise, it will lose all its nutritional benefits.
Maca root has been used by the Incan civilization for its medicinal, nutritional, and health benefits. It has been a staple of the Andes indigenous people for at least 3,000 years. Being now known as a superfood, maca is steadily increasing in popularity all over the world, especially the red maca root.
With its rich nutritional content, maca has been found to regulate and support as well as balance the body’s hormonal systems regardless of gender. As a hormone booster, it can help with problems related to fertility, digestion, sexual activity, and energy levels. Maca root also has the capability to raise your body’s resistance to diseases by improving emotional and physiological health as well as helping your pituitary and adrenal glands function more efficiently.
Let us take a closer look at some of its known benefits
- Sexual Function. It boosts libido in both men and women, at the same time increases endurance. It balances the body hormones thus increasing fertility. It creates aphrodisiac-like responses in both men and women. In men, Maca increases the quantity as well as the quality of sperm and testosterone levels. In women, maca reduces menopausal symptoms, PMS, improves sexual function, supports mood and overall brain health, and enhances fertility.
- Skin Care. Maca increases collagen synthesis. Skin becomes younger-looking, firmer, and smoother. It is also an anti-acne herb.
- Hair Care. Maca promotes keratinocyte synthesis and protect the hair bulb; thus help fight hair loss and maintain hair thickness. It has been found to improve hair quality and is now even being used in hair care products.
- Bone Density. Being rich in calcium, maca has been found to increase bone density. This herb will greatly help avoid the onset of osteoporosis, especially for women who are more prone to the condition.
- Energy Levels. Because maca is rich in vitamins and minerals, it can also support and maintain energy levels in both men and women as they go about their daily activities. More amateur and professional athletes today are now taking maca supplements because of its high nutritional contents that increase endurance.
- General Health. With its high nutritional content, maca aids in one’s general good health. It has iron that helps restore red blood cells thereby aiding anemia and heart health. It not only increases bone density, but it also helps keep your teeth strong and healthy. If taken with regular exercise, an increase in muscle mass will be evident.
Studies conducted on athletes showed that Maca also aids in injury recovery. So whether you are an athlete or not, maca will help you get back into shape, boost your energy to last for longer periods, and help you recover in cases of injuries.
More evidence is needed to evaluate the following potential benefits of maca:
- Improved memory and increase brain power
- Aids in alleviating chronic fatigue syndrome
- Fight depression
- Helps you get better sleep
- Maca has anti-aging properties
- Helps the body cope with stress
Maca should be taken in small doses and for short periods of time. If it is your first time to use this herb, you can take start by ½ teaspoon once a day and gradually increase to a maximum dosage of 1 tablespoon twice a day. The recommendation is that you take it first thing in the morning or early in the afternoon so you can make the most use of the energy boosting benefit Maca root can provide. In case you feel some negative side effects, slowly wean yourself from it altogether.
Like all other supplements, the best way to maximize the benefits of Maca root is by discussing it first with your doctor. Get professional medical advice how to use it, what to use it for, and for how long you should be using it.
Who should NOT be taking it?
Although maca root has high nutritional content, it is also very rich in iodine and glucosinolate. People with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, testicular cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometriosis should not be taking this herb as it might only worsen their conditions unless there is an approval from their medical doctor. Patients suffering from thyroid problems should seek professional medical advice before taking maca supplements, likewise for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and people with liver and blood pressure issues.
Additional studies determine maca as a safe, yet potent, superfood. This isn’t at all surprising to those in the know, as Maca root has been a staple in the diet of indigenous peoples for thousands of years. For many, Maca root is a daily food, used in smoothies, soups, and baked goods. Whether it’s consumed for enhancing energy, increasing libido, or improving bone density, maca is a tasty addition to any diet.
- Meissner HO1, Reich-Bilinska H, Mscisz A, Kedzia B. Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women – Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Jun;2(2):143-59.
- Dording CM1, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall;14(3):182-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00052.x.
- Uchiyama F1, Jikyo T2, Takeda R2, Ogata M2. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) enhances the serum levels of luteinising hormone in female rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Feb 3;151(2):897-902. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.058.
- Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 2008 November-December; 15(6):1157-62. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953.
- Pino-Figueroa A1, Nguyen D, Maher TJ. Neuroprotective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca). Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jun;1199:77-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05174.x.
- Meissner HO1, Kapczynski W, Mscisz A, Lutomski J. Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. Int J Biomed Sci. 2005 Jun;1(1):33-45.
- Parker G, Gibson NA, Brotchie H, Heruc G, Reese AM, Hadzi-Pavlovic D. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2006 June;163(6):969-78.
- Rubio J, Caldas M, Davilla S, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2006 Jun 23;6:23.