My latest article was about Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng. Today I am going to be dealing with Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng. I got interested in its health benefits after watching an Italian TV show on health and wellness, and I thought it would be a good idea to share a bit of information on it with you guys.
A natural and legendary anti-fatigue plant, grown for more than 4000 years on Peru and Bolivia highlands, Peruvian Ginseng is an actual energy concentration.
Traditionally used by Incas as a natural tonic and aphrodisiac, it is also an ingredient of choice in dieting (especially athletes), acknowledged for its energizing, antioxidant and reinvigurating effects.
So let’s see in detail Maca benefits and let’s pay attention to its side effects as well.
What is Maca?
The name “Maca”, means fortifying food grown in the mountains. Grown for thousands of years by the early pre-Columbian civilizations, it is also known as Incas gold and Peruvian ginseng, due to its valuable nutritive, tonifying and aphrodisiac properties, and its countless other benefits for health.
Very much appreciated by either the ruling class or Inca soldiers, Spanish Conquistadores showed off its aphrodisiac properties all over Europe, since they noticed its beneficial effects on the reproductive ability of their horses.
What are Maca health benefits?
Peruvian Maca is a high quality food, mostly made up of glucids (60 – 75%), protein (10-15%), fiber (8,5-9%), and lipids (2%).
Besides being a superfood, Maca is an adaptogenic plant, ideal: its in-depth action on the nervous system is adjusted according to the physiological, physical and psychological needs of the organism.
Maca’s countless nutritional benefits are due to its extraordinary composition, rich in more than 150 vitamins and active principles:
Vitamin B1, B2, B12, C, D3, E and P;
Minerals and trace elements like iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, calcium and iodium;
- Over 19 aminoacids, among which arginine, lysine, methyonine or tryptophan;
Maca is also packed up with energetic lipids, among which saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, and linoleic fatty acid.
Due to the fact it is extremely packed with vitamins and trace elements, Maca is a strong hormone regulator, with important consequences on brain function, sex performances, vitality and energy.
Balancing the nervous system.
Rich in essential amino acids, Maca helps regulate hormone production by affecting adrenals and brain. It boosts endorphine and serotonin secretion, limiting the synthesis of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Maca acts as a relaxant on the central nervous system.
What is more, due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it ehances brain function based on the body needs. In nutshell, it is tonifying and energizing if you are physically or mentally fatigued, though it has soothing properties in case of intense stress.
There is more to its brain action: Maca improves memory and sleep quality, thus improving the overall wellbeing.
Boosting fertility and libido
Maca is a strong aphrodisiac, and it’s been used as that for thousands of years. It boosts fertility in both men and women, due to its main amino acids, arginine and lysine: it enhances arginine levels in male reproductive cells, positively affecting fertility, erectile dysfunction, libido and sex; lysine promotes fertility and libido in women, regulating menopause disorders and vaginal dryness.
Women from the Andes have known its benefits on menopause for thousands of years.
American gynocologists prescribe Maca root as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy for ovarian function on the onset of the early menopause symptoms; they prefer Maca over exogenous hormones, as it boosts ovaries and other glands naturally.
It has been shown that taking Maca dramatically reduces the symptoms preceding and accompanying menopause (flushing, night sweats, fatigue, tachycardia, constipation) and, in premenopause, taking Maca powder may help have a regular menstrual cycle, normal estradiol levels in the bloodstream as well as improved overall health conditions also due to zinc, copper, chrome, phosphorus and magnesium.
Maca is, thus, an endocrine adaptogen: it means it doesn’t contain hormones, but it balances them, due to those nutrients which promote their proper production.
Maca contains flavonoids, which are thought to improve mood and reduce anxiety. A study in 14 postmenopausal women found that maca may reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Also, a 2015 study found that maca could reduce symptoms of depression in Chinese postmenopausal women.
Reducing blood pressure
It is possible that maca root can also help to improve blood pressure. The same 2015 study also found that 3.3g of maca per day for 12 weeks lowered blood pressure in Chinese postmenopausal women.
Reducing sun damage
An older study in an animal model found that maca might help protect the skin from UV rays. Another animal study in 2011 found that extracts from maca leaves might help prevent the formation of sunburn cells.
Positive effects on the digestive system
Its action on the hormonal system goes further than its benefits on the brain functiom, as it is known Maca affects also other essential methabolic functions, like the digestive system: it regulates the digestive function and enhances bowel wellness.
Boosting the immune system
Since it is tonifying and energizing, Maca boosts the psychological and physiological balance of the body, boosts the immune system and has a reinvigurating effect. It is then fit for the elderly, in order to reinvigurate the organism and tackle aging disorders.
How to take Maca
As with most treatments, it is recommended to gradually adjust the body to Maca intake, in order to limit any possible side effects. The recommended daily dose is 1-3 grams. It is ideal to follow a treatment 2 or 3 months long, with a one-week pause at the end of the first month. Traditionally, pre-Columbian civiliatizions from the Andes didn’t take Maca for more than 3 months, in order to let the body take a break from it.
Maca for chidren
Maca virtues are not limited to adults only; actually, this plant is helpful in order to help children suffering from attention-deficit disorders.
It regulates the hormonal function in young adults and treats acne as well.
Maca effects on athletes
Stimulant, energizing, anti-fatigued, tonifying: Maca is athlete-friendly !!!
Actually, Inca warriors took Maca before fighting in order to feel reinvigurated.
Maca is known as it boosts stamina, strength, muscle-building and soothes post-workout pain.
Athletes and weight-lifting enthusiasts appreciate Maca for its analobic and anti-asthenic properties as a natural alternative to hormones.
It is important to point out Maca is not a doping substance.
What is more, its positive impact on the nervous function, promotes concentration, learning and reaction abilities: essential qualities when being involved in sport at the highest level !!!
Maca and weight loss: true or false?
Even though it hasn’t been backed by any studies yet, Maca has lots of properties that make it a supplement of choice, when it comes to dieting and well-balanced nutrition.
Its antioxidant properties and its zinc and manganese concentration promote metabolism, thus stimulating the elimination of fat and adipose tissue.
Maca is a diuretic plant and works as a natural dotox agent to enhance weight loss. In Peru it is taken as an infusion before meals, to promote weight loss.
Maca side effects
In nearly every maca-focused study, researchers note that the root is usually well-tolerated by subjects (human and mouse alike). But again, maca is not super well-researched, and it may not be for everybody. As is the case with other supplements, maca isn’t regulated by the FDA, and there’s little information about the safety of long-term maca consumption.
You’re probably already on it, but if not talk to your doctor if you’re considering taking maca as a supplement, and avoid it altogether if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. And look out for these potential maca side effects.
“Jittery” feelings and insomnia
One online supplement store has received complaints from customers who reported feeling “jittery” and having trouble sleeping after they began taking maca. That said, there’s no scientific research to back up the customers’ claims that their troubles were related to their maca consumption—just that anecdotal evidence.
Altered thyroid function
If you have a thyroid condition, don’t take maca until you get the go-ahead from a medical professional. As an adaptogen, maca impacts the endocrine system that rules your body’s hormones. So if you have a thyroid disorder, adding an adaptogen like maca into the mix might not be the best idea without your doctor weighing in.
Plus, some research suggests that eating too many cruciferous vegetables (remember, maca is a member of the family), may cause hypothyroidism (a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone) in people who are iodine-deficient.
You likely have to be way overdoing it on maca to have this happen—a small study found that people who ate up to five ounces of Brussels sprouts a day didn’t have thyroid issues—but still, good to keep in mind.
Speaking of hormones, experts caution that maca extract may act like estrogen once it enters the body, and advise people dealing with hormone-sensitive conditions to avoid it entirely. So if you’re being treated for breast cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or ovarian or uterine cancer, it’s best not to chance it—there are plenty of other superfoods that are totally safe for you to use with the blessing of your doctor.
In this article I covered Maca health benefits and side effects. Peruvian ginseng is a good option if you’re looking for something to boost your immune system, fertility and libido. Yet, as you’ve read, there is more to Maca: its energizing, antioxidant and reinvigurating effects are among the most appreciated properties. It improves mood and reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and reduces sun damage.
Being multi-faceted is definetely the reason why this legendary plant has been known and used for thousands of years. If you liked this article, please share it with your friends.
If you have any questions to ask me, I will be more than happy to help you out, Alex