The maca is a vegetable that is used not only as food but also as a remedy for ailments such as hormonal imbalance and lack of sexual drive or libido.
Also known as, the Peruvian ginseng, due to its beneficial properties, the maca root powder is commonly added to smoothies or shakes in the western world. The powder can also be pressed in to maca tablets. In Peru, the plant is considered as vegetable with the people adding it to soups and porridges. The roots of the plant can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted and in certain instances are fermented to the local beverage known as maca chica.
Many Benefits of Maca
Research and studies conducted on maca reveal that it can benefit individuals who are suffering from mild erectile dysfunction, people with low sex drive, and women with PMS symptoms as well as help alleviate depression, hair loss and those suffering from PCOS syndrome.
The plant contains glucosinate (a plant compound that is also present in other vegetables such as cabbage) which is said to have high cancer preventing properties. To date however, there is no strong scientific evidence that supports this claim.
Some research suggest though that the maca plant has other properties that can be essential to our well-being. In a 2010 report published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the author analyzed four clinical trials and reported that two out of the four trials show that the maca may be beneficial. For those who are suffering sexual dysfunction and that it can have positive effects on the sexual health of men and women who are going through midlife crisis such as menopause/andropause.
Two of the trials however reported that the maca failed to have a positive effect on the sexual function for both sexes.
Men’s Sexual Health
One study looked at the effect of maca supplements on the male test subjects’ sexual health. In the four-month study, they analyzed the semen quality, count, volume and motility of the nine adult males. The researchers found an increase in the quality of the sperm, as well as its motility and volume.
The maca however has no positive effect on the levels of the testosterone and estradiol of the test subjects.
The maca plant has different varieties; however, the black maca appears to have the greatest effect especially on the sperm count followed closely by the yellow maca.
Women’s Sexual Health
In a 2008 study, 14 women who were in their post-menopausal stage participated in the study. All of the test subjects were given 3.5 grams of maca powder for 6 weeks. They were then placed in placebo for another 6 weeks. The study revealed that the women experienced reduced depression and anxiety as well as an improvement in their sexual activity.
In another study published in Climateric, it showed that taking maca daily for 6 weeks could reduce depression, anxiety as well as lower blood pressure.
As the research conducted is small, further studies or research should be done to support these reports.
Increase Energy Level
In the ancient times, the Peruvians use the maca to help boost energy levels. Today, athletes and sports enthusiasts use maca powder often in shakes to improve their performance. Preliminary findings from animal-based studies reveal that the maca extract helped the test subjects to recover from muscle fatigue. There is however no scientific evidence that supports the claim for human consumption.
Sexual Dysfunction cause by Anti-Depressants
In a 2008 study (CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics), researchers have found that the maca can help alleviate sexual dysfunction caused by SSRIs medication used to treat depression. The study included 20 subjects who were diagnosed with depression and taking SSRI medication resulting to SSRI induced sexual dysfunction.
A 2015 study was published in the Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; the study involved 45 women who were diagnosed with antidepressant induced sexual dysfunction. The group was put on a 1.5grams twice-daily maca for 12 weeks, and increased remission rate was observed.
There are limited studies and researches that back up the claims as well as any side effects that come with consuming maca for short or long terms. It was noted however that patients who have high blood pressure should not consume maca. The maca also has estrogenic effects that can have negative effects on people who are diagnosed with hormone sensitive conditions or cancer. Examples of hormone sensitive cancer include uterine fibroids, breast cancer, ovarian, endometriosis and uterine.
The FDA does not test supplements and as such, those who have existing medical conditions, breastfeeding or pregnant women should not take maca, like other supplements. If you want to know more about how to use the maca, it is important to discuss it with your health care provider. Keep in mind that the best way to protect yourself is to talk with your health care provider.
Using Maca Powder
Maca powder supplements are easy to use and can be added to just about anything; however, for best results, you can add it to your smoothies, shakes or drinks. Raw powdered ones can also be included in raw food diet. The maca is available not only in powdered form but also in tablets.