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Andean Maca: 17+ Properties, Contraindications and How to Take it

Properties and benefits of maca

More and more people are interested in knowing and verifying the benefits of Andean maca. This is because maca root, also known as Peruvian maca or Peruvian ginseng, is considered a superfood with a lot to offer us in terms of nutrition and health.

For all those who are willing to incorporate “the magic root” into their healthy lifestyle but still need more information about it, here we explain what its properties and main health benefits are, the types of maca that exist, the contraindicationsforms of use, appropriate doses … and much more.

What is maca?

Maca is a herbaceous plant native to the high Andes of Peru, which belongs to the Brasicáceas (cruciferous) family and whose scientific name is Lepidium meyenii.

Considering that it can grow at altitudes above 3,500 meters, it is considered the highest growing food crop in the world.

It is a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower, kale, or radish; Like the latter, it is also a tuber. Hence its most used part is the root.

This plant has been cultivated in the Peruvian plateaus of the Andes for at least 3000 years and has played an important role in the inhabitants’ culture, religion, food, and natural medicine.

In recent years, the Andean maca has become known around the world like never before. Its incredible properties and health benefits have surpassed the borders of Peru and have aroused the interest of the international scientific community.

Characteristics and data of interest

  • Andean maca is shaped very similar to a radish but is slightly larger.
  • It measures 3-6 centimeters wide and 4-7 centimeters long.
  • Based on the color of the root, 3 types of maca have been identified: yellow, red, purple, or black.
  • Maca’s closest relatives are mustard, turnip,  and cabbage.
  • It has an earthy flavor mixed with the flavor of a nut or seed.
  • It is a good source of vitamins, amino acids, minerals, carbohydrates, and fiber.

Properties and benefits of maca

Did you know that the Incas, a civilization recognized for their wisdom and understanding of the body-nature connection, used Andean maca in many of their medicinal remedies? As the story goes, the Incas were convinced that this root had exceptional properties, especially to improve stamina, libido and raise energy levels.

Different investigations and recent studies have observed that maca not only serves as an aphrodisiac or energizer, but its consumption can also have other health benefits. Thanks to its nutritional value and the presence of certain active components, maca has properties1:

  • Aphrodisiacs
  • Energizers
  • Immunostimulants
  • Regulatory (endocrine system)
  • Antidepressants
  • Antioxidants

In general, it is said that it serves to:

  • Balance hormone levels in men and women
  • Raise the sexual appetite
  • Improve fertility in both sexes
  • Boost memorylearning, mental clarity, and well-being
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Relieve some menopausal symptoms in women
  • Increase physical performance
  • Promote the increase of muscle mass

Let’s see some of these benefits and uses of Andean maca in detail, reviewing the main findings, experiences, and scientific evidence.

1. Strengthens the body’s immune system

An exciting fact is that maca has an adaptogenic effect on our body2 , like ginseng. Adaptogens are substances that increase the state of resistance to disease by introducing improvements in our physiological and emotional health. Its great contribution of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants helps keep the immune system active and the proper functioning of various glands in the body.

2. Promotes a better hormonal balance

Maca is rich in amino acids, which are the building blocks of hormones. Several researchers have reported that consuming maca regularly can balance hormone levels in both men and women3 . It is important to clarify that maca does not contain hormones but basic components from which the body can create its own hormones. This is a special benefit, as having a healthy and balanced endocrine system is the first step in preventing numerous health problems.

3. It has aphrodisiac power and improves sexual performance in both sexes

Decreased sex drive is a common problem among the adult population. Different studies have proven that maca can be an excellent aphrodisiac to increase libido naturally. Its properties have even been observed to help men overcome erectile dysfunction. In this sense, black maca is recommended for men and red maca for women.4.

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4. Increases fertility in men and women

Maca has been shown to improve fertility in both genders 5 significantly. For one thing, men experience an increase in sperm volume, count, and motility(better quality semen), while women begin to experience more regular ovulation and menstrual cycles. Increased libido in both genders is also an added benefit to consider when it comes to boosting fertility.

5. Helps improve mood and fight depression

Several studies have shown that consuming this tuber can improve our mood. Its regular consumption has been associated with reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, particularly in menopausal women. These psychological benefits are thought to be due to the content of flavonoid compounds and their high nutritional value6.

One of the more recent theories about the global prevalence of depression suggests that this is due to lack of nutrition. Hence, maca powder can be a good ally as a treatment (it contains almost all amino acids, 10 vitamins, 12 minerals, 23 fatty acids, and several unique glucosinolates). In 2008 several researchers studied a group of women for 12 weeks. This group was divided into two sub-groups. One received 3.5 grams of maca powder each day, while the other only received a placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers observed a significant reduction in the activity of psychological symptoms, including the subscales of anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction, in those women who consumed maca.

6. Boosts sports performance, acts as a natural energizer, and helps you lose weight

The powder Andean maca is a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders because it can help gain muscle ( buttocks, legs, arms ), increase strength, energy levels, endurance, and improve performance during physical exercise. As the story goes, both the Incas and the Spanish consumed large amounts of maca root before going into battle to increase their dexterity and decrease recovery time.

Researchers claim that maca increases energy levels balanced and sustainedly without actually stressing the adrenal glands. It is a natural supplement that differs from other energizing products available on the market, as it does not contain caffeine, artificial sugars, or chemical energy enhancers.

It has been observed that being a natural stimulant, maca can also accelerate metabolism, causing us to burn more calories and lose weight progressively. Some studies claim that maca does not have such a significant effect on losing weight, but rather that it prevents us from gaining weight over time.

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7. Protects the skin from sun damage

There is some evidence that the application of maca extract (a concentrated form of the plant) can protect our skin from UV radiation. This protective effect is attributed to the polyphenolic antioxidants and glucosinolates found in this tuber.

It is not recommended to replace the use of a conventional sunscreen during prolonged exposure to the sun.

It has also been observed that being so rich in nutrients and regulating hormones, maca consumption can greatly improve skin tone and even help fight acne7.

Some consumers have reported that one of the indirect results of using maca is acne relief. Apparently, once hormone levels have balanced, acne begins to recede. It is worth mentioning that maca helps balance hormones and promotes the expulsion of toxins out of the body; Excess toxins are known to affect skin health and worsen acne symptoms.

The key to using maca powder for acne is to start with small doses and see what happens. If you notice a worsening of symptoms after taking it, it is best to avoid it.

8. Boost learning and memory

Regular consumption of maca can improve brain function; in fact, it has traditionally been used by native Peruvians to improve children’s performance in school. Several studies in animals have shown that maca improves learning ability and memory. Apparently, black maca is more effective in this regard than other varieties.

9. Raises mental clarity and concentration

Maca is recommended to improve concentration, the feeling of well-being, and boost mental clarity during a strong day of study or work, preferably black or red maca.

10. Improves blood circulation

One of the most interesting benefits of maca is that it can improve blood circulation, reduce anemia and decrease the healing time of wounds. It has also been found to lower blood pressure in some people.8.

11. Boosts hair growth

Another traditional use of maca is taking it in shakes or capsules to stimulate hair growth, strengthen it, and prevent hair loss.

12. Protects the health of teeth and bones

Due to their high content of bio-available calcium, all types of maca have been linked to better tooth and bone health 9 . Its regular consumption can help us have stronger teeth and denser and more resistant bones. An animal study showed that Peruvian maca favors the treatment of conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis10.

13. Promotes the proper functioning of the thyroid

Its bio-available iodine content and regulating hormonal levels make maca an excellent natural supplement to improve and stimulate healthy thyroid function. 10 g of maca powder contains about 104 mg of iodine or 70% of the RDA (150 mg daily guideline). It is said that it can be beneficial for cases of hypothyroidism.

Note: 10 g represents about 3 teaspoons of maca.

14. Promotes better health in people with diabetes

Although they are not conclusive, several studies indicate that certain compounds in maca can help control type 2 diabetes by assisting in the distribution of insulin and increasing the sensitivity of cells to this hormone. This results in better blood glucose control. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power of its compounds has also been linked to this regulatory effect11 12.

Likewise, there has been talking of other benefits of maca for diabetics, for example, its ability to raise energy levels and improve performance during physical activity. Exercise is key to keeping your cells sensitive to insulin.

See all about this root in Andean Maca – Properties, Types, Contraindications, Frequently Asked Questions, and More.

All the above benefits and uses of maca are valid for both sexes; however, it has been observed that this root has some properties that specifically favor men or women.

Maca root benefits specifically for women

In addition to improving fertility, preventing osteoporosis, and fighting depression, the consumption of maca can be beneficial for women to deal with the symptoms of menopause. The natural decrease in estrogen that occurs during this stage can cause many unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, trouble sleeping, and irritability.

Several studies in menopausal women have claimed that maca helps relieve symptoms of menopause, scorching flashes and insomnia, by regulating hormone levels naturally.

It is important to understand that maca does not contain hormones. Instead, it contains a class of nutrients called glucosinolates that stimulate the body to produce more balanced levels of hormones.13 . For example, taking maca powder has been shown to increase estrogen production.

Recommendations for using maca during menopause:

  • Make sure you take the proper dosage. A person weighing 150 pounds should take between 6 and 12 grams (2-4 teaspoons) of maca powder per day.
  • Maca should be taken regularly. Being consistent is the key to getting all your benefits.
  • Most people experience positive results 2-3 weeks after starting maca, but others need more time, even up to 6 weeks.
  • The type of maca recommended to relieve menopausal hot flashes is red maca.

Specific benefits of Peruvian maca for men

An exceptional benefit of maca, especially red maca, is its ability to shrink the prostate. The enlarged prostate gland, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a common condition in men as they age. This can cause urination problems, erectile dysfunction problems, and even lead to the development of cancer.

It has been suggested that the effect of red maca on the prostate is associated with its high content of glucosinolates, substances that are also associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Why does maca improve male and female fertility?

Maca is one of the few plants that are considered  “adaptogens” That means it has the ability to adapt to certain conditions within an organism and restore it to its healthy balance. In particular, maca acts on the endocrine system, balancing the female and male hormones.

Scientific studies have observed that the use of black maca increases the count and activity of sperm in men and that it regulates the processes of the menstrual cycle in women. It also causes a marked increase in libido in both sexes.

In addition to improving hormonal balance, taking maca also provides excellent nutritional support. This root is rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Having proper nutrition greatly increases your chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy.

How to use maca for fertility: a basic guide

When using maca to get pregnant, it is necessary to consider several aspects that maximize the probability of success.

  • Use only high-quality certified organic maca powder (organic maca). Unfortunately, many low-quality products on the market are made from heavily processed maca or old roots that have already lost their potency.
  • Use the correct amount of maca. The use of maca root to increase fertility is considered a therapeutic use. Therefore a constant dose should be taken regularly. The recommended daily dose ranges from 500 to 3000 mg, which can be taken at once, but it is best to distribute it in smaller doses throughout the day. You can start by taking the minimum dose in 450 mg capsules, 3 times a day, and then increase the dose to 1000-1500 mg, 3 times a day. Those who prefer maca powder can consume  2 to 3 tablespoons per dayIt is always important to consult your doctor before using any natural supplement, especially if you want a baby.
  • Both of you should use maca to be most effective. It is not enough that only one of the two uses it. Women should consider using red maca, as it is usually better for female fertility. Men should use black maca to increase their sperm count and motility.
  • Completing a cleansing and detox program will help you get more out of your maca. A good detox will cleanse the intestines and allow the body to absorb nutrients better.

If you are trying to increase your fertility naturally, maca is definitely a good supplement to consider.

Types of maca and their benefits

Their color distinguishes the Andean or Peruvian types of maca. The root can vary from white to yellow, light pink to red, and gray or purple to black. Whatever the color, it can be seen mainly on the skin, similar to radish. Once the root is processed and powdered, the color difference between one type of maca and another is usually very slight.

Several scientific investigations have shown that slightly different properties and benefits can be obtained depending on the type of maca.

Black maca: sperm production, memory, concentration, immune system

The black maca is obtained from the maca dark and is considered the strongest in terms of energy and stimulating properties. Its taste can be compared to the taste of roasted soybeans.

Also known as “natural viagra,” black maca is a particularly potent strain for increasing sperm count and motility in men; its effect in this sense is much more significant than that of yellow or red maca. It can also regulate the production of certain hormones and increase sexual appetite. In general, it is a highly recommended supplement for men with fertility problems.

Black maca has also been shown to help manage stress, depression, and fatigue, increase memory and concentration, improve mood, improve sleep quality, and strengthen the immune system to prevent common infections such as flu and cold. Learn about black maca in detail in Black Maca – Properties, Benefits, Contraindications, Dosage, and More. 

Red maca: prostate health, antitumor, increased bone density

Red maca, also known as pink or purple maca, is another exceptional variety of maca. Its appearance can be described as a combination of beetroot and purple cabbage, and it tastes very similar to malt. It is the type of maca that contains the highest amount of antioxidants and amino acids.

Among its most notable benefits are the anti-stress and anti-depressant effect, the prevention of loss of bone density, the prevention of prostate cancer, the balance of hormones, and the increase of strength and endurance. For more details, visit  Red Maca – Benefits, Ways of Consumption, Dosage, and Contraindications.

Yellow maca: energy, vitality, fertility, hormone balance

Yellow maca is the most cultivated and preferred in Peru for its strong flavor. The resulting powder from this root has a cream or light brown color. The main benefits of the yellow variety include the ability to increase fertility in women and alleviate menopausal symptoms, improve mood, increase libido, and increase energy levels.

Nutritional information of Andean maca

Maca is a superfood; it is a rich source of amino acids, phytonutrients, proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. In general, it contains:

  • 59% carbohydrates: maca is rich in quality carbohydrates, which, combined with its alkaloids and other nutrients, make it an excellent option to obtain sustained energy over time.
  • 2% protein is high in bioavailable vegetable protein, which is easy for the body to assimilate.
  • 5% fiber: Maca contains relatively high levels of cellulose and lignan, compounds that stimulate intestinal function.
  • Essential amino acids: contains almost all essential amino acids. These include aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, histidine, glycine, arginine, threonine, alanine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, valine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, and proline, among others.
  • Free Fatty Acids: This tuber contains 20 different fatty acids, with linolenic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, and steric acid being the most abundant. Other important natural fats found in maca are lauric, trideconoic, mystic, pentadecanoic, palmtoleic, heptadecenoic, linoleic, nonadecenoic, eisosenoic and lignocentric acids, among others.
  • Vitamins: the most abundant vitamins in the Andean maca root are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and ascorbic acid or vitamin C.
  • Minerals: it provides minerals as important for health as calcium (maca contains a higher level of calcium than milk), phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Other minerals also present, but in less quantity, are copper, zinc, manganese, iron, selenium, and boron.
  • Sterols: Regular use of sterols have been shown to have a positive impact on lowering blood cholesterol. Maca contains ergosterol, campesterol, ergostadienol, sitoserol, and brassicasterol.
  • Sugars: for every 100g, raw maca contains 20g of sugar and almost 50g if it is gelatinized maca.
  • Glucosinolates: Contains aromatic glucosinolates such as benzyl glucoside, p-methoxybenzyl glucosinolate, fructose, glucose, and benzyl isothiocyanate. The action of chewing releases glucosinolates in the body, and these, in turn, are transformed into bioactive compounds to which anti-cancer properties are attributed.
  • Macans and macamides : (Machina 1, 2, 3, 4); These are polyunsaturated acids and amides absolutely unique to maca.

Its nutritional value indicates that in 1 ounce (28 grams) of Andean maca powder, there are approximately 14:

  • 91 calories
  • 20 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 1 gram of fat

How to take maca?

Maca can be easily incorporated into the diet, either as a supplement or as an ingredient in smoothies, oatmeal preparations, baked goods, energy bars, among other recipes.

It abounds on this topic is: How to Take Andean Maca? Options, Dosage, Precautions.

This superfood is usually available in health food stores, pharmacies, and online retail stores. It can be found in the form of:

Note: Yellow maca is generally more common than the red and black variants.

When buying maca powder, it is highly recommended to select a product that is correctly certified as organic, pure and of Peruvian origin. Visit: Where to Buy Original, Pure and Organic Maca Powder?

Maca contraindications

Maca appears to be well tolerated by most people. In general, its consumption is considered safe as long as the recommended dose is not exceeded. Even so, there are some contraindications and precautions to take into account 15  16 . These are some of the most sensitive groups:

  • Women during pregnancy and lactation
  • People with estrogen-sensitive diseases
  • People with thyroid problems
  • Allergic people
  • Children and patients under medical treatment, among others.

Learn everything you need to know about the subject in What Contraindications and Side Effects Does Andean Maca Have?

Quick answers to frequently asked questions

What is the ideal dose of maca?

The appropriate dose of maca depends on several factors, such as the person’s age and general health. Although there is still not enough scientific information to determine the exact dose for maca consumption in children and adults, there are general recommendations.

4 considerations to take into account to know how much maca you can take a day

  1. Maca is a food. Pure maca powder, whether gelatinized or raw, comes from a tuber. Therefore it is a highly nutritious food.
  2. Although it is almost impossible for a person to consume too much maca, starting with a conservative amount and gradually increasing it is important. Some people report increased heart rate and nervous energy when they take a significant amount.
  3. To know how much maca we should take per day, bodyweight must also be considered. A thin and small person should start with the minimum dose, while larger people generally take more.
  4. The therapeutic dosage of maca is different from the general dosage. Doses recommended for therapeutic purposes are generally higher than for general health benefits. For example, if a person takes maca specifically to improve their fertility, they will need to increase their consumption over time.

Considering these data and current scientific evidence, the RDA for maca capsules ranges from 1,500 to 3,000 milligrams, or 1-3 teaspoons of powdered maca. This regimen can be followed for 3 to 6 months, resting for 1-2 weeks before resuming use.

How do you know where maca really comes from?

As we have explained in this article, maca is a crop native to the high Andean mountains, currently produced mainly in Peru and Bolivia. However, it is a fact that in the market we can also find maca products that do not come from these areas.

All sellers that offer quality maca usually state directly on the label where their maca comes from. If they don’t, it may be because they are using inferior quality maca, for example, from countries like China.

Consuming fattening maca?

There is some debate as to whether maca helps you lose weight or actually makes you fat. The truth is that this tuber has been linked with both possibilities. On the one hand, maca’s nutritional content and active compounds stimulate metabolism, raise energy levels, improve physical performance, and promote greater weight loss. But on the other hand, they can also promote total weight gain by stimulating muscle mass growth.

What is the maca plant like?

It could be said that maca is special since it grows in rocky soils that are inhospitable for most plants; It thrives in extreme weather conditions, such as cold, strong sunlight, and high winds.

It is a biennial herbaceous plant, which belongs to the cruciferous family. The development, size, and proportions of maca are very similar to those of radish and turnip. It grows as a rosette, with a short stem and barely visible due to the dense foliage, without reaching more than 20 cm in height.

The green leaves of maca are small, thin, and compound; arranged along with a spike, they describe a frilly shape, 6-9 cm long.

The inflorescence consists of axillary racemes with tiny flowers, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, and light green.

The maca fruit consists of two seed pods, separated by a partition that divides the fruit into two equal parts. The seeds are orange, yellow, or brown in color and are the only means of reproduction of the plant (maca reproduces mainly through self-pollination).

Maca produces a thick central root, with lateral roots from which numerous absorbent hairs are shed. This fleshy root is the edible part to which all the nutritional and medicinal values ​​are attributed. It can be light yellow, black or reddish in color, and its size is similar to that of a large radish.

How is maca grown?

Maca is a small, slow-growing plant that is easily overwhelmed. It is poorly adapted to compete with more vigorous lowland plants. It is a tuber very tolerant to difficult environmental conditions; it can survive wind, floods, drought, cold or very hot temperatures.

Peruvian maca is grown with an average minimum temperature of -1.5 degrees Celsius and a maximum temperature of 12 degrees Celsius. In this growing area, the soil is acidic, with a pH of 5 or less.

Before planting, it is recommended to prepare the soil and fertilize it with some type of compost. The seeds had to be kept in a dry and cool place to prolong their useful life. They are generally sown in early spring or late winter, using a bowling technique; they are spread on the surface and then pushed into the ground by hand. Germination will occur 20 or 25 days after sowing. At this stage, the plant requires a lot of water. Hence it is sown in spring to take advantage of the rains.

The development of the roots takes approximately 8 or 9 months, at which time they are usually collected for commercial use. In the following months, the maca plant continues to grow until it produces the seeds collected for the next phase of cultivation.

It is important to note that prolonged exposure of mature roots to overwatering during the development phase can significantly degrade their quality. The soil of this crop must have good drainage.

What is the origin of maca?

It is said that this plant was discovered near Lake Junin, on the Bombón plateau, in the Andean mountain range. The history of maca dates back more than 2 millennia when native farmers in central Peru noticed the effects of this tuber on livestock and began to domesticate the plant. However, it was not until the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century that the medicinal benefits of maca were first documented.

Some observers described its effect on fertility and energy levels, while others noted its use as a stimulant before going into battle. In 1843 maca was formally identified and received the scientific name of Lepidium meyenii.

In the 1960s, maca was made known worldwide, and several years later, in the 1990s, the scientific community was studying its effects. The evidence obtained since then has made the export of Peruvian maca one of the most important in that country.

What other names does it have?

Maca is known by other names, both in Spanish and in the Quechua language. Some of the most common are Andean maca, Peruvian maca, Peruvian ginseng, maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, ayak willku.

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