Maca is an excellent source of protein, fiber and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, copper and iron. It also contains over 20 amino acids — including all eight essential amino acids — and plenty of health-promoting phytonutrients. It also contains many beneficial plant compounds, including glucosinolates and polyphenols, and is a popular choice today.
"Lepidium meyenii", known as maca or Peruvian ginseng, is an edible herbaceous biennial plant of the family Brassicaceae that is native to South America in the high Andes mountains of Peru. It was found exclusively at the Meseta de Bombón plateau close to Lake Junin in the late 1980s.
Today, the pleasant-tasting root, or hypocotyls, is usually available in powder form after being harvested and grounded down. Not only is it a natural source of healing nutrition, but it also has a long history of being a safe superfood that has been consumed for its health benefits for thousands of years in regions like that of the Andes Mountains.
Maca provides a host of important micronutrients and is jam-packed with antioxidants, and it has been shown to improve sexual health, balance hormone levels, and boost energy, mood and memory. It’s also considered an “adaptogen,” a name given to certain herbs, plants and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job or illness.
5 Maca Root Benefits by Dr. Axe
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Maca root acts as a natural antioxidant, boosting levels of antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, fighting off chronic disease and preventing damage to cells.
Improving your antioxidant status may be beneficial for preventing conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes by preventing oxidative stress and cell damage. However, despite these promising results, more studies are needed to understand how the antioxidants in maca root may affect humans.
2. Enhances Energy, Mood and Memory
Those who regularly use maca powder report that it makes them feel more awake, energized and driven, often relatively quickly after beginning to use it. Plus, maca can help increase energy without giving you the “jitters” or a sense of shakiness like high level of caffeine can.
Clinical trials have shown that maca may positively impact energy and stamina. Maintaining positive energy levels can also help improve mood, and some early studies have even found that maca may reduce symptoms of depression.
It remains unclear exactly how maca increases energy levels, but it’s believed to help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar and maintain adrenal health, which regulates mood and energy throughout the day. Keeping energy levels up may also help prevent weight gain as well.
Several studies have also found that maca root benefits memory and focus. In fact, two animal studies in 2011 found that black maca was able to improve memory impairment in mice, likely thanks to its high antioxidant content.
3. Improves Female Sexual Health
Multiple studies have confirmed that maca benefits female sexual health through several different mechanisms.
Maca root may be able to improve sexual dysfunction and boost sex drive in women. One study looked at the effects of maca root on post-menopausal women with sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressants. Compared to a placebo, maca root was able to significantly improve sexual function. Another study had similar findings, reporting that maca was well-tolerated and able to improve libido and sexual function.
A study in 2008 also found that maca root benefits both psychological symptoms and sexual function in post-menopausal women. In fact, maca was able to reduce menopause-associated depression and anxiety after six weeks of treatment.
Maca is also able to balance female sex hormones and has even been shown to alleviate symptoms of menopause. Balancing hormone levels is crucial to many aspects of reproductive health and can help reduce symptoms like infertility, weight gain and bloating.
4. Balances Estrogen Levels
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. An imbalance in this vital hormone can cause a slew of symptoms ranging from bloating to irregular menstrual periods and mood swings. Estrogen levels that are too high or low can also make it difficult for a woman to ovulate and become pregnant.
Maca root can help balance hormone levels and control the amount of estrogen in the body. One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science gave 34 early post-menopausal women a tablet containing either maca or a placebo twice daily for four months. Not only did maca help balance hormone levels, but it also relieved symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes, and even increased bone density.
In addition to reducing symptoms of menopause, regulating estrogen levels may also help with improving reproductive health and fertility and decreasing symptoms related to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, such as excess hair growth, weight gain and acne.
5. Boosts Male Fertility
So what about maca root for men? While studies don’t support the claim that maca boosts testosterone levels, they do show that maca powder benefits male sexual health and fertility.
One study out of Peru found that supplementing with maca for eight weeks increased sexual desire in men. Meanwhile, another study in 2001 found that maca helped improve sperm quality and motility, two important factors when it comes to male infertility.
Maca may also benefit sexual dysfunction as well. A 2010 review summarized the results of four clinical trials evaluating the effects of maca on libido and reported that two of the studies showed an improvement in sexual dysfunction and sexual desire in both men and women. However, the other two trials did not find a positive result, so further research is still needed.