What is Maca Root?
Maca is a plant which is cultivated in Peru on the high plateaus of Andes Mountains. This plant has been cultivated and used for the past 3000 years. It is part of the cruciferous family similar to broccoli, cabbage or radish. The odor of this plant is very similar to butterscotch. The root of the Maca plant is mainly used for medicinal purposes. Maca is considered as one of the world’s natural “super foods” due to its diverse and unique properties.
After the plant is harvested and grounded, the maca root is then powdered to be used for various purposes. Maca root is known to improve energy levels, boost health, balance hormone levels and provide a positive effect on the body. Apart from these, maca also increases the stamina specially in athletes, provides relief from menstrual or menopause problems in women, improves fertility and helps in building the bones to avoid the medical condition called osteoporosis.
Maca is also widely considered as an ‘adaptogen’. When any plant or herb helps the body to naturally adapt to the outside behavior such as stress, busy schedule, lifestyle changes or demanding jobs, then it is given the name of “adaptogen”.
Apart from being used for healing, maca is also considered as a safe food for consumption. The root of the maca plant tastes pleasant and has high levels of calcium, even more than in milk.
Other Names that it is known by are Lepidium meyenii, Ginseng Andin, Ginseng Peruvien, Maiino, Peruvian Ginseng, Peruvian Maca, Ayak Chichira, Lepidium peruvianum, Maca Maca.
Where can we get Maca?
Since Maca is known as a medicinal plant, it can be purchased from health stores.
Maca root would be available in powder form as well as in the form of pill, capsule, liquid or extract form. Maca is also available in various colours such as yellow, red and black. All types of maca have similar benefits, although few are thought to be more beneficial than the other when it comes to certain medical conditions.
Maca is also widely available in online stores if not near your nearest health care provider.
Recommended Dosage of Maca Root
Maca root is a turnip-like root which is found in the high Andes mountains. There are no chances of overdose. Since it’s a food and not a drug herb or any type of supplement, hence it’s impossible to take in more than required.
One should consider the weight of the person before deciding how much to take in. Your health and age also matters. No two bodies are the same, hence decide how much you need to take in so it has a positive impact on the body.
Nutrition Value of Maca Root
Below are the nutritional facts of Maca root which is also considered as a powerful source of nutrition:
- 77% carbohydrates
- 9% fibre
- 18% protein
- 5% fat
It also has phytonutrients, calcium, Vitamins C, B1, B2 and E, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, sulphur, iron, 8 essential amino acids and 12 other kinds of amino acids, fatty acids such as oleic, linolenic, lauric and palmitic, potassium.
There is no specific amount of serving one should have, it all depends on the person and its taste. However, one can start with one tablespoon a day of maca roots in powdered form. Once you get used to it, then you can increase the serving to two to three tablespoons daily.
Since maca is known to increase stamina and energy, some people prefer to take it before exercising or carrying out some physical form of activity which would need lot of stamina.
Health Benefits of Maca Root
The Maca root benefits are abundant some of which are it improves fertility for both men and women, balances hormone, boosts energy and stamina, improves memory and helps you keep focus, improves sexual functions etc.
It is said that people who consume maca often feel more alive and energetic. They get more focused and it leaves them with a senses of wellbeing. It elevates the feel good factor which is required in today’s high stressed life.
Maca has a high concentration of nutrients such as fibre, magnesium, protein and calcium so it helps the human body in some way or the other. Some of the benefits are explained in detail below:
Improves Energy, mood and memory: People who have been using maca root powder on a daily basis have reported that it gives them an energy of a different level which makes them feel alive and more awake. It keeps them energized throughout the day. As compared to caffeine, it is said that maca is more beneficial since it does not cause jitters or shakiness which is often experienced by people who have caffeine.
Maca provides a positive level of energy and a feel good syndrome signal is sent to the brain. This feel good energy and positive attitude is known to eliminate signs of depression and high levels of anxiety which people often come across in today’s world. There are no known studies on how the energy levels in a person increase with the help of maca, but it is believed to do so by stabilizing the sugar levels in the body which in turn regulates the mood and maintains adrenal health.
Maca is also known to help the pituitary glands to function smoothly, thus regulating the hypothalamus. This is one of the key elements in balancing energy along with focus to provide better concentration, improve memory and give the person the ability to complete any kind of tasks.
- Known to improve circulation: Maca is known to improve circulation of blood, thus reducing the effects of anaemia. However, people who are suffering from blood pressure issues should keep a check or consult the doctor before starting maca, since it can decrease the blood pressure levels.
Known to improve PMS, Menstrual and PCOS: As mentioned earlier, maca roots are very well known to balance the hormone levels in an individual, thus contributing to improve various symptoms of PMS and the stages of menopause. Maca controls the estrogen levels in the body thus helping in improving the PCOS symptoms.
A woman with either high or low levels of estrogen usually has a problem in conceiving or ovulating. Maca is known to balance the amount of estrogen produced in a women’s body. Apart from balancing the estrogen, the amount of related progesterone produced is also important when it comes to improving the fertility and reproductive health in females. Symptoms of PCOS are reduced such as excess hair growth or excess hair loss along with irregular periods.
- Improves Fertility and Testosterone levels in Male: Black maca plant compared to yellow or red maca plant has shown to have some positive impact on the production of sperm count in males. The red maca plant has shown to reduce the prostate size, but it is only in studies yet. It has not been fully confirmed on a human. Apart from improving the sperm production, maca has shown to be beneficial for males in all aspects of increasing fertility. It also increases sexual libido in both men and women.
Balances women’s hormones and increases sexual health and fertility: Maca has shown positive benefits when it comes to boosting women’s mood during menopause phases and also reducing the levels of anxiety and depression which is very often seen in women irrespective of the menopause stage. Improved mood in turn leads to increase in sexual libido due to the positive effects of serotonin and the feel good hormones.
Maca supports the endocrine system which is known to regulate the thyroid hormone production and healthy adrenal, thus restoring the women’s hormonal balance. Thyroid and adrenal glands are known to play a major role in regulating the feelings such as stress, happiness or appetite. If these two glands are restored and taken care of, then it helps out in the other functioning of the body as well.
Disease prevention: Since maca is known as an adaptogen and a good tonic, it is well known for overall health in a number of ways. Maca root helps to restore red blood cells, which provides fresh oxygen in the body. This in turn avoids diseases such as anaemia and heart-related diseases. It also promotes prostate health, thus avoiding prostate cancer.
The nutrients in maca have also proved to be beneficial for bones and teeth. It is also known to quickly heal the wounds. However, people who are suffering from cancer should consult the doctor before taking maca.
- Promotes healthy skin and hair growth: Maca has also known to be beneficial for skin health. It helps to clear skin by reducing acne and blemishes. Some people have also experienced a decrease in skin sensitivity. Maca is also known to provide relief from extreme hot or cold temperatures. There is no full proof evidence yet, but traditionally it is said that maca is known to stimulate the growth of hair and is also used as a prevention technique to reduce hairfall.
Acts as an antioxidant: The root of the maca plant is a natural antioxidant which is known to boost SOD also called as Superoxide dismutase and glutathione. These two are known to act as two major fighters in the body against any infection or diseases. The root helps to prevent any chronic development of illness caused due to bad cholesterol or impaired glucose intolerance.
An improvement in the glutathione level is known to improve the immune system thus helping the body resist any diseases. It also helps the body to balance cholesterol levels, thus avoiding the accumulation of bad cholesterol. Maca roots are also known to lower glucose levels in the blood thus causing a significant improvement in glucose tolerance, especially for people who worry about diabetes or heart-related diseases.
Apart from the above benefits, maca root is known to have some positive impact on the below as well, however the effectiveness is yet to be fully proved:
- Develops healthy bones to avoid osteoporosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Stomach cancer
Benefits for Women: increase in energy, fertility enhancement, promotes hair growth, reduction in hairfall, balances hormones, prevents osteoporosis, improves the thyroid gland, increases energy and stamina, keeps more focus and increases memory, reduces depression and mood swings, boosts libido.
Benefits for Men: increases energy and stamina, promotes hair growth, reduces depression, boosts libido, provides strong teeth and bones, increases testosterone, enhances fertility.
Side Effects of Maca Root
Since it is considered as a safe natural food since centuries, there are no potential side effects by consuming maca root powder or supplements. Since maca affects the hormone levels in the body, some studies suggest that it should not be consumed by people who are more reliant on hormone altering medicines for treatment of diseases such as breast or prostate cancer.
People who are suffering from high blood pressure are also advised to stay away from the consumption of maca. There is no full proof research to suggest whether it is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, hence it is best to avoid this until research confirms the safety.
As best practice, one should always consult the doctor before consumption specially in cases of people who are going through some illness wherein they need to have medications.
Use of Maca Root
In the field of agriculture, maca is used to improve the fertility of the livestock. Maca can also be baked or roasted while using it as food. It can be prepared as soup or a fermented drink called as maca chichi.
One can add maca powder in meals such as breakfast. While baking, some people may not prefer to heat it at high temperature since the essential nutrients would reduce or diminish during the heating process. Some people prefer adding maca in various recipes for a different taste.
Maca is not very sweet, it has a slight sweet and natural nutty taste which is very much similar to cinnamon or nutmeg. You can also add maca powder while preparing smoothies, cereal or oatmeal.