The Maca plant is part of the Brassicaceae family, so it’s botanically related to broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. This vegetable is native to the Andes, in Peru. While all parts of the plant are edible, it is the root that’s considered a superfood. The root has been used as a food and medicine in the Peruvian culture for centuries. An adaptogen, Maca root contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that have a balancing effect on the body.
According to The Maca Team, LLC, “The high amino acid content of maca plants (which includes arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, phenylalanine, serine, threonine, tyrosine, and valine) is likely responsible for many of the profound health benefits offered by our organic maca powders. These essential amino acids are responsible for several crucial human biological processes, including the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline, both of which support not only mood stability but also sexual health.”
Maca is generally found in dried powder form and is available in larger grocery stores and online. The rich malt-like-flavor of maca tastes divine when brewed alone or with cacao (another well-known superfood). Maca can be added to smoothies, overnight oats, and even into porridge and stews to help improve stamina and boost energy. Many people can break free of a morning coffee habit by making the switch to Maca!
Let’s explore Maca in a little more detail so you can decide for yourself if it’s right for you.
- It is a great source of nutrition.
This root is a nutrient powerhouse! It is high in protein, fiber, Vitamin C, copper, iron, potassium, B6, and manganese. Maca is also a good source of riboflavin and niacin. The amino acids profile in maca may be behind the exceptional health benefits (see the note above.) Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and every cell in the body needs them.
2. Eases stress and supports the body.
Maca root belongs to a category of substances called adaptogens. Adaptogens help the body respond better to stress and illness while they gently restore balance. Where the caffeine in coffee boosts energy and stress the adrenal glands, the nutrients in Maca boost energy and support the adrenals! The adrenals are responsible for regulating cortisol, which is our major stress hormone.
3. Maca regulates hormones.
The nutrients in Maca nourish and support the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, also known as the master glands in the body. Incredibly, Maca also regulates blood sugar and blood pressure (with a lowering effect on both!)
4. It may boost sexual desire.
Maca helps to increase your libido and sexual desire. This natural aphrodisiac has also been shown to increase sperm counts! It can also increase libido in women who have gone through menopause.
5. Maca eases menopausal symptoms.
The Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine completed a review of 17 major medical databases and found that all of the studies done on maca and menopause showed that maca eases menopausal symptoms in women. While the researchers did not say that Maca treats menopausal symptoms, their findings prompted a call for further research into this exciting aspect of the root!
6. Maca root eases depression and anxiety.
This beneficial root is also known for alleviating anxiety and depression as it has an antidepressant effect on the user when included as part of a healthy diet.
7. It eases migraine headaches.
By balancing the progesterone and estrogen levels in our body, maca reduces the severity of migraine headaches. The long term effect of hormones that are balanced may mean fewer migraines for sufferers whose migraines are hormonal in origin. Some research also shows that maca is neuroprotective in non-hormone related ways as well.
8. It supports the immune system.
Maca root is also capable of enhancing our immune system due to which it also protects us from getting ill occasionally.
9. Maca helps prevent bone loss after menopause.
One 2006 study concluded, “Maca was effective in the prevention of estrogen-deficient bone loss.” The research team noted that Maca might normalize estrogen levels while boosting progesterone, balancing blood sugar, and reducing systemic inflammation. Those factors all contribute to bone loss, so it makes sense that supplemental Maca would help!
It might be tempting to add maca to everything now that you’ve read about all the amazing health benefits. However, there are some reasons to use caution. According to health expert Yuri Elkaim, there are some safety guides for getting started with Maca.
“If you’re on HRT: Women on HRT should talk to their doctors about using maca. It may be possible to replace some or all of your estrogen dosage with maca, but please do it under a doctor’s supervision.
If you’re a breast cancer patient: Women taking tamoxifen or other estrogen blockers, and people who have had breast cancer should discuss the use of maca with a doctor, because it raises estrogen levels.
If you’re at risk for breast cancer: Men or women with a strong history of breast cancer should discuss maca use with a doctor first.
If you’re on thyroid medication: Work with your doctor to monitor your thyroid activity.
If you’re pregnant: Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take maca, as a general precaution.
If you’re just starting out with maca: The best way to begin reaping maca benefits is to start adding it to a daily green smoothie. One half-teaspoon the first week is a good place to start. Increase this amount to one teaspoon per day as your body becomes accustomed to the supplement. If you notice any side effects like breast tenderness or aggression, feel free to pull your dosage back a bit. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to find the amount that’s right for you.”