This plant was first documented in the Peruvian Andes, where the Incas used it as a stamina and strength booster for their warriors. At one time, only the elite and the royals were permitted to consume this herb.
Today, the maca root is utilized in different parts of the globe. Maca extract is now valued as a liquid tonic or as a nutritional supplement because of its impressive nutrient content.
It contains amino acids, minerals, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and many other compounds that can provide the body with wholesome benefits.1
Maca for Men: Improving Sexual Drive and Fertility
Maca has been called “Peru’s Natural Viagra” because of its strong effect on male sexual drive and stamina.2 As an aphrodisiac, maca has the ability to boost libido and endurance in males, even in people who are affected by impotency and infertility.
In an animal study, it was observed that daily intake of maca helped improve and preserve spermatogenesis. It has also been found out that maca generally protects prostate health by increasing zinc levels and helping convert testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).3
Studies also revealed that ingesting maca helped improve the quality, quantity and motility of the sperm of both fertile and infertile men. It does not directly affect or increase the amount of testosterone in the male body, but it normalizes the production of hormones.4
For Women, Maca May Help Regulate Menstruation and Menopause
Maca can be used by women as a supplement to boost sexual drive. Lack of sex drive in women can be caused by numerous factors, such as decrease in hormone production, fatigue, the intake of certain medications, relationship problems and illness.
However, while it has been proven that maca helps in improving sexual drive, it is still not clear on how it reacts to the body to yield this kind of result.5 According to numerous sources, maca is an adaptogen, a natural substance that helps the body deal with different stressors.
This may be one of the reasons why maca effectively helps with decreased sex drive. Studies also show that women who added maca to their diet helped their body deal with and improve menstruation, fertility and even menopause.6
Maca helps women with their menstruation cycles by normalizing the number of days and amount of blood flow, as well as providing pain relief. It does this by stabilizing hormones that are responsible for pain management and mood.
Its wide array of minerals and nutrients also allows it to relieve or prevent menstrual pain and cramps.7
In modern times, women are more overworked and fatigued, and some have a history of using birth control medication. These factors have led to a decline in female fertility. However, an animal study found that rats given maca daily showed improved fertility through the improvement of egg follicle development.8
Maca is also linked to the prevention of most menopausal effects and symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of libido.9 It is also being used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Instead of introducing external hormones into the body, maca works to help balance the estrogen and progesterone levels.10
Other Maca Root Benefits
Maca is famous for its aphrodisiac effect on the body, but its benefits are not limited to this. It contains numerous vitamins and minerals that provide the body with more than an increase in sex drive. Here are some of the benefits that you can get when you add maca to your diet:
• Relieves mild depression. Studies show that maca is just as effective as pharmaceutical treatments for depression, but without the negative side effects associated with them. This herb works by increasing the serotonin levels in your body.
It may work for people with postpartum depression, dysthymia and low energy.11
• Helps in dealing with stress. As an adaptogen, maca promotes homeostasis in the body by normalizing the production of stress hormones, keeping you calm during stressful situations.12
• Supports skin health. Applying maca topically gives you protection from UV radiation, so you don’t have to be as concerned about premature aging and skin damage.13
• Restores red blood cells. Maca contains high amounts of iron, which help in the restoration of red blood cells, preventing anemia and other cardiovascular diseases.14
How Do You Use Maca?
Because of the increasing demand for maca, different forms of this herb have been introduced to the market:15
• Maca powder comes in two forms: regular maca powder and gelatinized maca powder. The gelatinized version is processed to achieve a more effective and concentrated powder from the root. These are usually added to smoothies, juices and baked goods.
• Maca capsules are popular because of their convenience. People can take them anywhere with a sip of water, and they do not require cooking or any processing.
• Maca tincture is the liquid extract of the maca root. It is usually taken with water or added to food recipes.
How Much Maca Should You Take?
I recommend that you start with a low dose in order to give your body enough time to adjust to the intake of maca. You should be taking about one or two capsules or a teaspoon of maca extract per day.16
From this amount, slowly build up your tolerance and increase the dose, while carefully monitoring how your body is reacting to the new herb. However, be cautious not to overdo the intake of maca to prevent desensitizing your body from the numerous health benefits it provides.
When you start building up your tolerance, it is recommended that you limit the intake of maca to nine capsules per day.
Grow Your Own Maca and Reap Exciting Benefits
Maca was originally grown in the Andes where the temperatures can sink well below 0°F. It is a very tolerant plant that can survive poor soil, cold temperatures, drought and flooding.
The one thing that should be noted when trying to plant maca is that it doesn’t fare well if it competes with other lowland plants and weeds, due to its low- and slow-growing properties.17 The typical season for maca planting is in late winter or early spring. This is because the maca plant requires a lot of water during its vegetative stage.18
Usually, numerous maca roots are set aside to allow regrowth. The seeds are usually taken from maca roots by drying them out, and then extracting and planting.19 Here is a step-by-step guide to growing your own maca:20
1. Mix maca seeds with organic matter and plant where it will not come into contact with weeds or other lowland plants. Maca typically takes 20 to 25 days to germinate.
2. Make sure that no weeds or grass grow in the patch of land during the germination period. This period usually lasts up eight to nine months.
3. Collect the roots when the aerial parts of the plant develop. The root also starts to produce seeds during this time. These are going to be important if you’re planning on replanting maca the following year.
Try These Maca Powder Recipes
While maca is usually taken as a supplement, it is also added to smoothies and other food recipes to provide a unique nutty flavor. Here are some tasty and healthy recipes that you can try:
Seedy Chocolate, Banana and Maca Smoothie Recipe 21
- 2 cups (480ml) raw milk
- 1 cup (30g) chard
- 1/4 cup (18g) raw cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
- 1 tsp. gelatinized maca powder
- 1 tsp. natural vanilla extract
- 2 pitted dates
- A pinch of Himalayan salt (optional)
- 2 medium-sized frozen sliced bananas
- 1 cup (125g) ice cubes
1. Combine all of the ingredients into your blender and blend on high for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth and creamy.
2. Consume immediately, as the maca flavor intensifies when left to sit.
Chocolate Energy Bites Recipe22
- 1/2 cup hemp seeds
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 3 Tbsp. raw maca powder
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 6 to 8 Medjool dates (depends on size; 6 large or 8 small)
- A pinch of Himalayan salt
1. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, grind walnuts, salt, and hemp seeds until fine. Add the dates, cacao, and maca, and blend till the mixture is uniform and holds together well.
2. Shape into 18 to 20 balls. Store in the fridge to firm them up and to keep them fresh. They should last at least a week, unless you eat them all first!
Maca Side Effects You Should Look Out For
While maca root has not been directly linked to serious side effects, caution should still be exercised if you plan to use this extract, as certain side effects have been noted during the first few days of taking maca, which include:23
• Development of acne. This is usually caused by the maca’s ability to change the body’s hormone levels. The acne happens during the first days or weeks of use, but usually clears out after a few weeks.
• Digestive issues. It can also cause diarrhea, bloating and other intestinal issues because of the high amount of starch found in its root. For people with sensitive digestive systems, gelatinized maca powder is recommended because of its low or zero starch content. This will help your body absorb and digest the maca extract more efficiently.
• Feeling jittery. While maca provides you with an energy boost, it can also make you feel jittery. This is usually caused by the sudden introduction of maca extract into the body, so you may need to minimize your dosage until your body gets used to it.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also avoid the intake of maca root because it may cause adverse effects. While it’s not been proven yet, maca extract may have potential effects on an unborn infant or breastfeeding child.