What is Maca Root?
Maca root is a powerful adaptogenic herb popular for its libido-boosting, stress-reducing, and hormone-balancing effects. Its scientific name is Lepidium Meyenii (Maca), which is considered a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, just like broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy.
Also referred to as Peruvian ginseng, real Maca originates from the high mountains in Peru, South America. Living at such a high altitude, the herb itself contains many stress-adapting nutrients and is beneficial for increasing altitude adaptability.
- What is Maca Root?
- Nutritional Profile of Maca
- Benefits of Maca Root Powder
- Effects of Maca Root on Libido and Fertility
- 1. Increases Testosterone Levels | Maca for males
- 2. Improves Fertility | Maca for females
- 3. May Boost Libido and Increase Sexual Desire
- Maca Root and Thyroid Gland
- 4. May Balance Thyroid Hormones
- 5. Could Boost Metabolism
- 6. Can Increase Energy Levels
- Maca Root for Anxiety and Stress
- 7. May Reduce anxiety and depression
- 8. Helps Reduce and Manage Stress
- Maca Root for the Brain
- 9. May Improve Mood
- 10. Supports Cognitive Function
- Maca Uses, Side effects, Precautions, Drug Interaction
- Frequently Asked Questions
Maca also made it on the fitness market recently, along with Ashwagandha Root which is not by coincidence. It has many athletic performance-enhancing properties such as: promoting bone health, muscular strength, stamina & energy, and improved stress resilience & adaptability.
This Nutrition Powerhouse contains many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and bioactive compounds that can help with restoring balance and freshness in the body, rewiring vitality, and increasing energy levels.
There are many different types of Maca out there but the most studied types are Yellow, Black, and Red Maca. Each of them has specific usage and health benefits, so if you are interested in them, keep on reading.
Nutritional Profile of Maca
Maca is one of the most nutritious adaptogenic herbs on the planet. Its popular uses in fitness as a muscle gain accelerator and testosterone booster are not just a coincidence, this herb works.
Maca root is loaded with tones of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytosterols, and bioactive compounds which can improve our health and increase energy levels.
Keep in mind that the values presented in this section are present in 100 grams of Maca Root Powder, which is far more than regular, daily consumption which ranges from around 1.5 to 5 grams.
However, intake of Maca root powder on a daily basis has been shown to improve many factors such as libido, athletic performance, energy levels, and fertility. Similar effects can also occur with Ashwagandha Root Supplementation.
Macros, Vitamins, and Minerals
Macros, Vitamins and Minerals in Maca Root Powder per 100 grams offers:
|Calories: 325 kcal||Vitamin C: 285 mg (475% DV||Potassium 2000mg (57% DV)|
|Carbohydrates: 71.4 grams||Niacin (B3): 5.7 mg (29% DV)||Copper 6.0 mg (300% DV)|
|Protein 25.5 grams||Vitamin B6: 1.1 mg (57% DV)||Iron 14.8 mg (82% DV)|
|Fats 3.6 grams||Calcium 250 mg (25% DV)|
When comparing Black Maca to the red and yellow version, it turned out that the Black variety had more total phenols and antioxidants. However, further research has shown that yellow maca has a higher antioxidant, radical-scavenging effect than the black version.
Maca Root is a highly nutritious and antioxidant-rich herb. It is important to note that some of its antioxidant compounds like phenols, glucosinolates, alkamides, and polysaccharides can vary depending on the type of maca, quality, freshness, etc.
Potent Antioxidants and Bioactive compounds found in Maca Root:
People who consumed Maca have shown lower levels of inflammation markers like interleukin-6 or IL-6 and scored lower mountain sickness values. (1)
Bioactive compounds found in Maca, known as Macamides can affect the endocannabinoid system, which is a molecular system that regulates many processes in the body such as cell communication, memory, metabolism, and immune response.
Maca is also a pretty good source of protein. Now taking into consideration that you will not eat a lot of maca, since this is an herb and its powder is used in smaller quantities, which means you won’t get a lot of protein from using the supplement itself.
However, it is important to mention that Maca has a pretty rich amino acid profile and can be a complete protein due to the many essential amino acids it contains.
An abundance of amino acids present in Maca: (2)
|Leucine (91.0 mg)||Valine (79.3 mg)|
|Arginine (99.4 mg)||Isoleucine (47.4 mg)|
|Phenylalanine (55.3 mg)||Glutamic acid (156.5 mg)|
|Lysine (54.3 mg)||Serine (50.4 mg)|
|Glycine (68.30 mg)||Aspartic acid (91.7 mg)|
|Alanine (63.1 mg)|
Maca Root contains some Fatty acids such as lauric, linoleic, palmitic acid, oleic, and stearic acid that can offer many health benefits.
Difference between Yellow, Black, and Red Maca
Some Maca experts discussed the difference between black, red, and yellow maca. Harvest ratios of Maca range around 60-70% of Yellow Maca, 20-25% of Red Maca, and 10-15% of Black Maca.
Shamans claimed that this is not just a coincidence, but Maca’s properties affect the way it is consumed. Different types of maca should be consumed differently. Yellow is the everyday Maca, black and red varieties are saved for sacred use and disease treatment. (3)
- Yellow one is neutral (hormone balancing)
- Red Maca is internal (feminine energy)
- Black Maca is external (masculine energy)
Benefits of Maca Root Powder
This Peruvian adaptogen has many health-related benefits, like increasing energy & stamina or improving libido & fertility.
Many of its health benefits come from the hormone-balancing effects this adaptogen has. Maca works in multiple pathways in the body to produce its effects, meaning it will not produce the same effect in everyone.
That trait is often related to adaptogens, due to their balancing effects. This means if you have too much or too little of a certain hormone, it will lower or increase it to restore your body to balance.
Effects of Maca Root on Libido and Fertility
Maca Root has a history of use as an aphrodisiac, due to its sexual performance-enhancing effects.
Maca Root does wonders for Libido, both for Males and Females. Since it is an adaptogenic aphrodisiac, this means it will adapt to the consumer’s needs.
Maca has the potential to increase libido for men, mostly through elevating Testosterone levels, but for females, there is another route.
Since it is an adaptogen, in females it will work on different pathways to enhance libido and it won’t drastically elevate testosterone levels.
1. Increases Testosterone Levels | Maca for males
Maca may elevate testosterone, especially in men, by increasing the cytoplasmic area of Leydig cells. These are the cells that secrete androgenic hormones such as Testosterone, DHEA, and androstenedione.
Maca has powerful libido and fertility-enhancing properties for males.
In 9 healthy men, Maca was given at dosages of 1,500 mg or 3,000m mg for 4 months. The results were astonishing. Maca significantly improved seminal volume, motile sperm count, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility. (4)
Maca Root Extract has been shown to also increase the weight of seminal vesicles which are two small glands that produce many constituents of semen. Treatment with Maca extract also increased serum testosterone levels significantly in 6-week treatment in male rats. (5)
2. Improves Fertility | Maca for females
Maca has also an effect on Female fertility, and can likely boost the chances of conceiving.
Most of its effects on female fertility are indirect, which means it works by affecting other factors such as balancing pituitary and hypothalamus function or reducing stress, cortisol, and ACTH which can positively affect women’s reproductive health.
Besides this, Maca was shown to increase levels of FSH, estradiol, progesterone, and ACTH in premenopausal women. This suggests the potential use of Maca for improvement in PMS symptoms, reproduction, and hormone balancing in females. (6)
There is evidence that Maca also enhances serum levels of Luteinizing hormone (LH) in female rats, which can support the fertility enhancement theory. (7)
3. May Boost Libido and Increase Sexual Desire
Maca can affect the body’s sexual desire in multiple ways. Some of which are direct and others are secondary.
For example, balancing hormones and reducing stress can indirectly affect one’s sexual desire. Maca has been proven to work for both sexes, affecting their hormone levels to improve libido.
Maca is one of the most powerful libido-boosting herbs out there. It can affect both men’s and women’s libido, research shows. (8)
Sexual Desire in women with Sexual dysfunction was positively affected by the administration of Maca root. Dosages of 3 grams daily for 12 weeks were enough to improve women’s libido dysfunction, induced by antidepressants. (9)
Another study supports its libido-boosting properties as again, maca was shown to improve sexual desire in 21-56 years old men. They split them into two groups receiving dosages of 1,500 mg and 3,000 mg daily and the improvement was seen in the 8th week. (10)
Maca Root Powder or Extract can support sexual function and increase sexual desire in healthy men and menopausal women. It has multiple effects from stress reduction, hormone balancing, and sexual-hormones stimulating properties that can enhance libido and improve fertility, both in men and women.
Maca Root and Thyroid Gland
When it comes to hormone balance, Maca and other Adaptogenic herbs work to stimulate the endocrine system to get back in balance.
This means it might not directly alter gland function and change hormone levels, but even if it doesn’t, changes are seen.
For example, in this study on women, depression, and anxiety were reduced and sexual function was improved with the addition of 3.5 grams/day of Maca for 6 weeks. This effect was independent of estrogenic or androgenic activity, meaning it did not significantly affect hormone levels. (11)
4. May Balance Thyroid Hormones
Since Maca can affect the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, it is fair to say that it may play important role in many other glands and their hormone secretion, since the main controller is the hypothalamus.
Hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (THR) which then stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which in turn affects the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone.
Thyroid glands produce T3 and T4 hormones, which are known to regulate or play part in our metabolism rate, bone growth, protein synthesis, neural maturation, and heart rate.
There are many success stories on the Internet of how this herb improves thyroid function and people who took maca along with their medication, lowered their medication dosages.
However, for anyone with a thyroid condition is best to keep their thyroid levels in check and consult a doctor for any additional supplements first.
Even though Maca has iodine and goitrogen, in regular consumption they haven’t had negative effects on the thyroid, on contrary, they improved other things such as sexual function and stress levels which have indirectly improved the thyroid too. Anyone allergic to Iodine should stay away from Maca.
In ovariectomized rats that had lowered TSH levels, Maca was effective to restore TSH levels. (12)
5. Could Boost Metabolism
Maca can affect metabolism speed because of its effects on hormones that play a major role in modulating metabolism, such as the thyroid hormones.
The thyroid hormone is the main regulator of energy expenditure and basal metabolic rate. (13)
Lower thyroid levels or Hypothyroidism is associated with a slower metabolism, lower energy levels, and weight gain.
Black Maca Extract prevented metabolism disorder through the regulation of Gluconeogenesis and Glycolysis in Hamsters fed with a high-fat and high-fructose diet. (14)
Maca can increase energy expenditure which means it can speed up metabolism, which might enhance weight-loss ability. The faster your metabolism, the more calories you can burn. This is the reason behind Maca’s weight loss effects.
Maca has many potential effects to balance out hormones, help with weight loss, and reduce stress, and triglycerides levels. (15)
6. Can Increase Energy Levels
Because of its effect on balancing thyroid hormones, Maca can affect overall energy expenditure and potentially increase energy levels. This can be beneficial for both athletic performance and weight loss.
The thyroid hormone plays a major role In energy metabolism which modulates energy expenditure. (16)
Increasing thyroid levels in hypothyroidism can alter metabolism and improve energy levels, thus improving energy levels.
Due to its energy-boosting effects, Maca can also improve Athletic Performance.
In this study, 8 participants who completed 40 km of cycling, were separated into Maca and non-Maca groups. Participants from the Maca group significantly improved 40 km cycling performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists. (17)
Maca Root for Anxiety and Stress
As with other adaptogens, Maca helps in dealing with stress.
It doesn’t necessarily decrease stress, but it enables the body to deal with it better. It builds resilience to stress.
Think of it like this, If you exercise, at the end of your session you destroyed many muscle fibers, causing inflammation and physical stress. When you rest, eat, and sleep your body recovers. After a specific period, the same stressor (same number of sets, reps, km) will not produce a further effect, but your body will be able to fight it without having such inflammation and physical stress.
This is how adaptogens work, they cause stress and provide the nutrients we need to enable the body to fight back and regenerate. The same amount of stress, whether mental or physiological, does not produce the same stress in us anymore. We become more resilient, we become more efficient at conquering stress.
7. May Reduce anxiety and depression
When it comes to mood, one of the major points is to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. It turns out that Maca is quite successful in this perspective, as in postmenopausal women, at 3.5 grams daily for six weeks, it had anxiolytic effects and improved depressive symptoms. (18)
Although maca didn’t alter changes in biological and hormonal levels, again in postmenopausal women, was still efficient in reducing symptoms of depression while improving blood pressure values. (19)
8. Helps Reduce and Manage Stress
Ass one of the multi-functioning adaptogens, maca might also reduce cortisol levels, replenish our adrenal glands and boost energy levels and stamina.
In rats, Maca was able to produce some anxiolytic effects, and reduce levels of ACTH and Cortisol levels, which suggests it may have a sedative effect in overly stressed subjects. (20)
Extracts of Red or Black Maca may improve your body’s ability to adapt to higher altitudes. It can reduce symptoms of mount sickness and reduce hemoglobin levels in individuals who live at high altitudes.
Maca Root for the Brain
Maca has an amazing amino acid profile that can support healthy brain function.
Aside from that, some of these amino acids are direct neurotransmitters that have major functions in learning & memory, sleep & regeneration, mood control, and cognitive performance.
Such neurotransmitters in Maca are:
|Tyrosine||precursor for dopamine and norepinephrine|
|Glutamate||excitatory neurotransmitter, involved in learning and memory|
|GABA||inhibitory neurotransmitter, reduces nerve cell activity|
|Glycine||CNS neurotransmitter, involved in processing motor and sensory information|
|Phenylalanine||precursor for tyrosine, dopamine, noradrenalin, adrenalin|
9. May Improve Mood
Maca contains Anandamide, which is also found in chocolate and is partially responsible for the mood-boosting effects of chocolate. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that can bind to the CB1 receptor known to uplift mood. The name itself originated from “ananda” which in Sanskrit means bliss or joy, supporting his characteristics as a mood enhancer.
In this analysis of endocannabinoid concentrations and mood, a correlation between improved mood, singing and exercising was found. In fact, the same compound found in Maca and Chocolate, the Anandamide was increased by 42% by singing alone.
Without affecting sexual hormones, Maca supplementation in women improved anxiety and depression scores significantly. 12 weeks of 6 weeks on and 6 weeks off Maca supplementation had positive effects on mood. (21)
Maca has also shown some anti-depressant effects in mice, who were exposed to chronic and unpredictable stress. 250mg/kg and 500mg/kg of maca extract had anti-depressive effects associated with noradrenergic and dopaminergic system activation. (22)
The dopaminergic system is crucial for learning, reward or feeling of satisfaction, executive function, and motivation. Dopaminergic pathways in the brain are the neuron projection responsible for dopamine synthesis and secretion. Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, which works to enable signal transmission between neurons and it also functions as a hormone, mainly in mood & emotional responses, but also in motor reactions. It is “the reward” hormone, which plays a major role in motivation and feelings of satisfaction.
10. Supports Cognitive Function
Different forms of Maca have been researched for different benefits and uses.
As you might have read, black and red maca has been associated with a more specific and intense effect, while the yellow (the biggest producing) variety has been proven beneficial for daily usage.
A study done on Mice found that Black Maca Extract significantly improved memory impairment, exerted antioxidant-like effects, and inhibited acetylcholinesterase activity. (23)
There is even research that shows Maca’s neuroprotective effects and its ability to preserve cognitive function. In this study, the Maca effect on cognition was mainly associated with improvement in mitochondrial activity, which suggests it may be a potential agent in slowing down brain aging. (24)
In cognitive decline, aside from amyloid plaque build-up, another factor is decreased Acetylcholine activity. So this study aimed to find specific medicinal plants that could inhibit Acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, to increase its levels.
They found out that Maca extracts improved spatial learning, and memory impairments, and ameliorates memory deficits. Maca also reduced AchE activity by 45% in comparison to the placebo group which only received scopolamine. (25)
Disclaimer: The content on this Site is for informational purposes only, and it is NOT intended to give or replace medical advice. Make sure you consult your physician, doctor or health professional before using any supplement, for its dosage, uses, precautions, and interactions.
Maca Uses, Side effects, Precautions, Drug Interaction
Potential Side Effects
Adaptogens can be a great hormone-balancing alternative, mainly because they can reduce or increase specific hormone secretion, depending on what your body needs.
However, many people think that they can take higher dosages because of this, but you are better off following your doctor’s recommendation or sticking with the dosages already tested.
- Maca is possibly safe to be taken by mouth by healthy adults in dosages for up to 3 grams a day for 4 months.
- Some side-effects such as jittery feelings, unstable energy (energy crash), or insomnia are a possibility with Maca consumption.
- Even though it is considered generally safe, people with thyroid issues should consult a doctor before supplementing with maca and get their thyroid levels checked.
As with each adaptogen or superfood, it is important to note that you shouldn’t use a supplement as a medication replacement before consulting with your doctor.
There is not sufficient evidence supporting Maca’s use as a medication, but rather as a potential agent that can provide benefits that help with alleviating symptoms of certain conditions or improving overall health.
Maca may be used and potentially be beneficial in:
- Low libido
- PMS pains
- Chronic fatigue
- Athletic Performance
- Anxiety & Stress
- Immune system
- Menstrual problems
- Memory & Learning
According to WebMD, extra precaution should be exercised by the following groups, in terms of Maca consumption.
- Children & Pregnant Women should stay away because there is not sufficient research done on the safety of this herb and its long-term or short-term effects.
- Hormone-sensitive conditions such as ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, and uterine cancer might interact with Maca, due to its estrogenic effects so avoid if having this or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
- People with thyroid conditions such as Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism must consult with their doctor before using this supplement and keep their thyroid hormone levels in check.
*Studies have some limitations, important to evaluate the validity of their results. Here’s a highlight of some and NOT ALL studies (and limitation), shown in this article, for context.
- Aged data or data older than 10 years *2011, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2001, etc.
- Use of SF-20 questionnaires, might reduce the validity of results *subjective values.
- Cross-sectional studies, hard to demonstrate cause-effect relationship.
- Further research is needed to address, understand and provide strong evidence for maca’s underlying mechanisms of action.
- In vitro or in vivo research in animal models or cell culture *male rats, ICR mice, Leydig cells, Wistar rats, golden hamsters.
- Insufficient quantitative analysis *information collected by virtual screening.
- Limited number of trials, total sample size and average (moderate) methodological quality.
- Research dominant in specific populations *males to test testosterone *postmenopausal women
- Biased results and inaccuracy due to self-reported answers.
Maca is one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs, used for its stress-reduction, libido-boosting, and hormone-balancing effects. There are three types of Maca, Yellow, Black, and Red Maca, out of which the Yellow version is the most used one. Maca has very potent nutrition, as it is loaded with amino acids and antioxidants. Aside from natural Testosterone Boost, Maca may also improve mood, boost energy and reduce stress.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of maca root?
The benefits of supplementing with maca root are:
– may boost libido and enhance sexual function
– is highly nutritious, abundant in bioactive compounds
– may increase exercises performance and energy
– has potent antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory
– may aid in thyroid hormone balance
– can potentially improve mood, reduce anxiety & depression
– may speed up metabolism and aid in fat-loss
– supports brain function (neurotransmitters)
Can maca increase libido and testosterone?
One of the major benefits that may come as a result of supplementing with maca root is libido boost. It is considered to be an adaptogenic aphrodisiac for a reason. In males it may increase androgenic hormones like Testosterone, DHEA, and androstenedione. In females, it may improve fertility and increase FSH and estradiol levels.
Is maca an adaptogen good for balancing hormones?
Balancing hormones is a tricky subject and should involve blood checks and more advanced monitoring. When it comes to hormones, you always want to do a lab test and consult your doctor first. Generally, adaptogens are known to adapt to one’s body and aid in balancing the needed hormones, which means may increase what you need more of, and reduce what you have too much of. Specifically, maca can affect thyroid levels and consequentially, metabolism speed.
Which type of maca is the best: yellow, red or black?
Harvest ratio of Yellow maca, and the general market share is around 2/3 of all maca. But why is Yellow maca better than black or red maca? It is not, it is just more practical, adaptable and less intense. Red maca is considered internal and usually more marketed towards females, while black maca is considered external, suitable for the masculine energy. Yellow maca is for general use, black and red maca for sacred use, and might be more intense.
Is maca better than ashwagandha?
Both adaptogens work very well, and are quite popular. The primary reason for using one over the other might be different. Both supplements come in a powder or extract form, originally from a root. Ashwagandha may aid in bone-density improvement, libido, weight gain, muscle growth and regeneration more, while Maca root will affect metabolism speed, libido and produce higher energy boost. But in general, their uses are quite similar, including libido, energy, muscle growth, anabolism and hormone-balancing.