After spending hours exploring the walled jungle fortress of Kuélap, you head to Laguna Parón and swim in the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca. The days that follow are filled with treks through the Chavín ruins and dining at local restaurants like the Central.
Peru is a beautiful country that has a lot to offer. From beautiful beaches to ancient landscapes the views are not only breathtaking, but some of the finest health foods come from there as well.
One of those health foods is the maca plant. In this article, we’ll talk about maca root, including its many benefits, uses, and any potential risks in taking it.
What Is Maca
Looking a bit like a cross between a radish and a potato, the maca root (Lepidium meyenii) has been used for many different purposes for centuries.
High in the Andes Mountains you’ll find an interesting vegetable with sparse green stalks and tiny leaves. Pulling it up from the ground, the bulbous root takes up most of this plant’s mass.
Also known as Peruvian ginseng, it doesn’t actually belong to the ginseng family but the mustard family (13).
While it’s not recommended to eat raw, this root has many elements that can boost your health efforts when cooked. I can also be taken as a supplement.
Some people use the dried root powder to make tea. Because of its mild, almost nutty flavor, it makes a good addition to smoothies, health shakes, or juice. Some people also add it to their coffee or oatmeal. In Peru, it can be part of a soup or roasted as a side dish, or drank as a fermented drink known as “chica de maca” (1)
Side note: fermented foods are packed with probiotics, which are good for gut and overall health.
You can also take capsules, liquid, or extract form.
Maca is considered a cruciferous vegetable. Like cabbage, kale and broccoli, it contains compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds are being studied for their potential anti-cancer effects (2).
While more studies need to be done, traditionally it’s been used to help (3):
- Increase libido: Low testosterone is a growing problem among the male population. A 12-week study was done with a group of men aged 21-56 years old. The men were given maca extract in either 1,200 mg, 3,000 mg daily doses, and the third group received a placebo. After comparing before and after data using self-perception and Hamilton tests, the groups that received maca had an increase in sexual desire (4).
- Reduce Anxiety or Depression: Mood shifts can be hormonal, especially in postmenopausal women. One study tested the effects of maca root on a group of postmenopausal Chinese women. After 12 weeks, tests confirmed that those who took the maca had both lowered blood pressures and lower symptoms of depression (7).
- Improve learning and memory: Keeping up with all the important information can be difficult sometimes. Maca has been shown to be helpful in supporting positive mitochondrial function in the brain, memory and learning abilities (10).
- Enhance physical stamina: Taking maca could help you stay stronger for longer. One group of male cyclists took maca over the course of a training session and recorded better cycling time over those who took a placebo (8).
- Assist with bone mineralization: Hormone changes such as menopause can increase some women’s risk of developing osteoporosis. One study showed that maca can help protect the bones after such hormonal shifts, preventing the likelihood of osteoporosis later on down the road (6).
- Decrease prostate size: As men get older, an enlarged prostate can make it more difficult to pass urine. Some studies have found that maca can help decrease the size of the prostate, maintaining normal urination processes (11).
- Support energy levels: Running on empty is not ideal. Researchers studied a group of 175 people who took 3g of maca every day for 12 weeks. After the results were recorded, some of the biggest outcomes were increased mood, health status, and energy (9).
- Enrich sperm count and motility: Between a series of 5 small studies, researchers have observed the positive impact maca had on the quality of sperm in both infertile and healthy men (5).
How much maca root should you take? While everyone responds to things differently, a safe daily intake can range between 500mg – 3000mg (3). This also depends on which method you take, and for what purpose.
While generally considered safe, it’s not recommended to consume raw. Cooked, dried or extracted versions are deemed safest.
Any side effects that may occur are likely from taking too much, and may result in stomach upset or headaches (3).
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor before taking maca root.
Also, if you have a thyroid condition, consider a different herb. Maca is shown to have goitrogens, which are substances that may interfere with a dysfunctional thyroid or corresponding medication (12).
The maca root is a vegetable found in elevated mountain areas of Pero. This root has been around for centuries, used by the locals for both food and medicinal purposes.
Scientists are realizing its potential to help with health conditions such as enlarged prostates, low sex drives, anxiety, depression, hormones and low energy levels. It’s a relatively safe herb to take, and can now be found in many forms such as liquids, tables, capsules or powders. It can also be consumed as a whole, as long as it’s cooked.
Now that you know how beneficial maca can be, are you considering adding it to your regimen? Be sure to check with a doctor if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, taking medication or have a thyroid condition.
Do you know someone who could benefit from this information? Be sure to share with friends and family!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author