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Introduction

Maca is the common name for a plant in the broccoli family called Lepidium meyenii.

Obviously Maca ‘root’ refers to the root of the plant, which is the main edible part that exists in many different colors.

Maca has been traditionally used in Peru as a natural medicine for vitality, fertility, and sex drive.

Its main active component is thought to be an alkaloid known as macaridine. Other molecules such as glucosinolates and macaene fatty acids may also be having an effect.

However, the active components of Maca and their metabolic effects are not well known and are only logical assumptions at this point.

Maca Root Health Benefits

Good Nutrient Profile

One ounce (28 grams) of maca root powder contains:

  • Calories: 91
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Vitamin C: 133% of the recommended daily intake
  • Copper: 85% of the recommended daily intake
  • Iron: 23% of the recommended daily intake
  • Potassium: 16% of the recommended daily intake
  • Vitamin B6: 15% of the recommended daily intake
  • Manganese: 10% of the recommended daily intake

It contains trace amounts of various plant compounds including glucosinolates and polyphenols.

May Be An Aphrodisiac

An aphrodisiac is a substance which stimulates sexual desire.

Maca has mixed results in animal models to whether it has an aphrodisiac effect or not [1].

Based on subjective reports from human questionnaires, ~20-40% of people stated they felt increased sexual desires when taking 1.5-3 grams of maca per day for 3 months [2].

A scientific review that analysed some clinical studies also concluded that it seems as though maca improves sexual desire when taken for at least six weeks [3].

The mechanisms by which it achieves this are unknown, but they appear to be independent of the ability of maca to induce locomotor activity or change hormonal levels [4] [5].

Researchers suggest the active component may be the macamide (lipid) component, although future research is needed for conclusive answers [6].

As a side note, maca also appears to benefit men with mild erectile dysfunction, with studies noting significant improvements in scores on the “rating scale for erectile dysfunction” [7].

May Benefit The Brain And Help Depression

Animal studies have found that 1 gram of maca per kg bodyweight can reduce immobility by ~10% and seemingly having anti-depressant effects [8].

Human studies are less conclusive, with maca only appearing to potentially have a benefit when there is a pre-existing anxiety or depression disorder. However, maca still has at least shown some benefit for reducing anxiety and symptoms of depression, particularly in menopausal women [9].

The flavonoid content of maca is said to be responsible for this, as these have shown to be at least partly responsible for certain psychological benefits [10].

Lab studies also suggest that maca has a dose-dependent protection against hydrogen peroxide which can ultimately improve brain function [11].

This early evidence could mean that maca is a neuroprotective agent that might be of use in conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases, however this is yet to be studied.

How to Take Maca Root?

The recommended dose for maca root is 1,500-3,000mg per day, despite there being no official clinical dose.

It can be consumed by eating maca root, or through a maca extract supplement. If a supplement is used, it is advised to stick to the label instructions.

Supplements tend to be in either powder or capsule form, and one form is not superior to the other.

Maca Root Safety And Side Effects

Maca is generally considered safe by most experts [12].

There have not been any signs of toxicity reported in human studies with maca root, however one study did note an increase in blood pressure when it was taken in moderate amounts for 3 months [13].

Animals also seem to tolerate large amounts without adverse effects – ~5 grams per kg bodyweight – however this does not necessarily mean humans can too [14].

Overall, up to 3 grams of maca a day is well-tolerated in human trials [15].

The only key thing to be aware of it that maca contains goitrogens, which are substances that may interfere with the thyroid gland. If you have thyroid issues, please consult with your doctor before supplementing with maca root to avoid further impaired thyroid function.

Conclusion

Maca root is the root of the maca plant which has been traditionally used as a natural medicine for vitality, fertility, and sex drive.

The current science suggests it may be able to boost sexual desire and help with issues regarding anxiety and depression.

The recommended dose for maca root is 1.5-3 grams per day, and it is generally considered a safe supplement.

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.