The maca plant, scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is a Peruvian plant grown in the mountains of the Andes. Maca root is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that it is like broccoli, cabbage, kale with several health benefits. In recent years, the maca plant is growing in popularity. Traditionally, the maca root can improve fertility and sex drive.
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Maca Root Nutrition Profile
Maca root powder is a very nutritious source of several essential minerals and vitamins. Each 28 grams of maca root powder contains :
- Calories: 91
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Maca root is an excellent source of carbohydrates. It is low in fat and has a fair amount of fiber. Some essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, copper, and iron, are also high in maca. In addition, it also contains other bioactive compounds, such as macamides, macaridine, alkaloids, and glucosinolate, which are thought to be responsible for maca root medicinal benefits.
In fact, the Andeans have been cultivating maca for 2,000 years . It’s one of the few edible plants that can withstand the extreme weather in the Peruvian Andes above 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) . Traditionally, the Andeans consumed maca as a food, as a fermented drink or porridge.
Increases Fertility in Men
For male fertility, it is very important to have sperm quality and quantity. Therefore, there is some evidence that suggests maca root increases fertility in men. Taking maca, for example, has been proven in studies to boost sperm concentration, or the quantity of sperm per millilitre of sperm , .
In a 2020 study, they evaluated 69 males with modest decreased sperm count or poor sperm motility. Sperm motility refers to sperm’s ability to swim appropriately. Taking 2 grams of maca per day for 12 weeks enhanced sperm concentration much more than a placebo treatment. However, no significant difference in sperm motility was found between the treatment and placebo groups .
While these findings are encouraging, research is currently restricted. To examine the impact of maca supplementation on sperm quality and other aspects of male fertility, well-designed research is required.
Improves Mood and Energy
In some populations, limited data suggests maca may help boost energy levels and mood. A 2016 research of 175 adults living at low or high altitudes found that eating 3 grams of red or black maca per day for 12 weeks enhanced mood and energy levels when compared to a placebo . Another 2015 study of 29 postmenopausal Chinese women found that 3.3 grams of maca per day for 6 weeks improved depressive symptoms when compared to a placebo treatment .
Previous research suggests that maca may be beneficial in lowering anxiety and depression symptoms in postmenopausal women . Although maca may have a positive influence on mood and energy levels, there isn’t enough research to draw solid conclusions yet though.
Relieves Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause occurs spontaneously in women who menstruate. It is the stage of life when menstrual periods cease for good . Several unpleasant symptoms can result from the natural decline of estrogen that occurs during this period. These include hot flashes, dryness of the front bottom, changes in mood, lack of sleep, and irritability.
Some studies found maca helped improve symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and interrupted sleep , . A 2011 assessment of four high-quality trials found some evidence that maca therapy improves menopausal symptoms. However, the researchers cautioned that there is little evidence to determine the safety or efficacy of maca in treating menopausal symptoms .
Increases Libido in Men and Women
Some data suggest that taking concentrated maca supplements may help those who have poor libido or sexual desire. A 2015 research of 45 women with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction discovered that consuming 3,000 mg of maca root per day for 12 weeks dramatically improved sexual function and libido when compared to a placebo . A 2010 assessment of four high-quality research including 131 participants discovered evidence that ingesting maca boosted sexual desire after at least 6 weeks .
The researchers warned, however, that the studies included in the review were small, and the evidence did not draw logical conclusions. Despite this encouraging research, it is yet unknown whether maca has any value for treating low libido or erectile dysfunction.
Other Potential Health Benefits
There has been little human study into the potential health advantages of maca. However, preliminary evidence from animal research suggests that maca may have the following effects on health:
Preserve cognitive function: Maca has been shown in rodent studies to increase cognitive performance and motor coordination, as well as to reduce age-related cognitive decline .
Can benefit benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): Animal studies suggest maca may help reduce inflammatory proteins and inhibit BPH or prostate enlargement .
Remember that there is currently no evidence that these putative benefits apply to humans, thus human research would be required to study them.
Possible Side Effects
Little is known regarding the safety and dangers of using maca for short or extended periods of time. Because it is a natural food, it is thought to be safe in high doses. The effect of maca on hormone levels is not well understood. Some research, for example, showed no effect on sex hormones, but animal studies showed greater levels of luteinizing hormone, progesterone, and testosterone .
Because of these potential hormonal effects, if you have one of the following conditions, you should not use maca without first visiting your doctor:
- Breast cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Uterine fibroids
- Thyroid disease
A 2016 research of 175 persons discovered that consuming 3 grams of red or black maca per day for 12 weeks was well tolerated and did not result in major side effects . Traditional methods of consuming maca, such as boiling and then eating or drinking it, have also been associated with no negative effects . Maca has not been studied for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, individuals with medical problems, or those taking medications.
How to Use Maca
Maca is available as a powder, capsules, gelatin, and tincture. It is also occasionally added to foods. Its rich, earthy flavour complements cinnamon well. There is no established dose for maca root. Alternative medicine practitioners advise 3 grams (1 tablespoon of powder) and increasing to 9 grams per day.
What to Look For
Look for organic maca grown in Peru for the highest quality product. When choosing a supplement brand, look for products that one of the following organizations, such as Consumer Labs, NSF International and The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, has certified .
Maca root is used in cuisine to increase libido and vitality. The maca root has also been examined as a treatment for sexual dysfunction, depression, hot flashes, and fertility, though additional research is needed to confirm these health advantages. Because little is known about the short- and long-term negative effects of maca, speak with your doctor before taking the supplement.
Children, pregnant or nursing women, and individuals suffering from hormone-sensitive diseases should exercise extreme caution. Most of the studies, however, are small, and based on animals. While studies on maca are promising, but it needs to be studied in greater depth.