Chances are that if you’re involved in the fitness and wellness world (which we could probably safely assume you at least have an interest), you’ve witnessed the come-up of the maca plant.
This Peruvian plant has recently exploded in popularity and has become an industry buzzword for promoting everything from an increased libido to a regulated mood. So, is it worth the hype? Let’s investigate.
What is Maca?
Also affectionately known as The Peruvian Ginseng, maca has been treasured since ancient times by Peruvians for it’s usage as a “super food” and adaptogenic, or “healing” herb. Maca is found at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains where few other plants survive. As a cruciferous vegetable, the maca plant is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.
The most edible part of the plant is its root, which is typically dried and ground into maca powder. This earthy-tasting powder is what you’ll typically find on the market today and in thousands of smoothie, baked goods, oats and energy bite recipes.
While most research studies on the effects of consuming maca powder are still relatively new, it has been known to be taken most for these five qualities:
- It’s Highly Nutritious
Maca powder is high in protein and carbs and rich in a number of nutrients, including vitamin C, copper and iron. It also contains many influential bioactive plant compounds. Just 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 RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Because of these nutritional values, maca has been known to be used by ancient Incan warriors and modern bodybuilders alike as an anabolic, high-protein supplement to help regulate stamina and energy.
- To Increase Libido
This desired effect for incorporating maca powder into your diet actually has the most scientific research to back user claims and is arguably its most important.
In 2010, a review that included four randomized clinical studies with a total of 131 participants found that many participants reported increased sexual desire after just six weeks of incorporating maca into their diet. Another study has shown that Maca may help men overcome erectile issues.
Since decreased sexual desire is one of the most common complaints for both men and women, it’s easy to see why maca has recently exploded in popularity.
- To Boost Fertility
Speaking of sex drive, not only has maca been used to support sexual desire, but it’s also been used to support sperm count and mobility in men and to support the regulation of hormones and ovulation cycles in women.
Since maca may also increase overall health as a rich source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and phytonutrients, and healthy humans are more likely to conceive a healthy child, maca has become a staple for both men and women looking to start or enlarge a family.
- To Help Regulate Mood
Many individuals that struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mood-related disorders often seek out a more natural alternative than pharmaceuticals to help stabilize their moods and increase their quality of life.
One study published in 2006 treated mice with depression over a 21 day period using Red, Black and Cream colored maca roots. They discovered that while Black maca helped improve cognitive function the most, all colors of maca were helpful for alleviating symptoms of depression.
Seeing that it is widely-thought that depression may also stem from a lack of adequate nutrition, maca may also support mental health as an incredible nutritional powerhouse with nearly all amino acids, 10 vitamins, 12 minerals, 23 fatty acids as well as several unique glucosinolates.
While a more comprehensive treatment plan may be required for certain cases, maca may help to support and maintain healthy brain function.
- To Build Strong Bones and Muscles
With a higher calcium level than milk, maca supports the body in the building of strong teeth and bones. Maca also promotes healthy bone density.
Calcium is especially important for athletes because they are more likely to lose calcium, as well as other minerals, through perspiration. In addition to being important for strong bones, calcium is required for muscle contraction. Without enough calcium, you may experience muscle cramps.
Maca is also anabolic – The word “anabolic” itself means “building up muscle,” and that’s something maca just may be able to help you with.
Supplementing with Maca
True Nutrition suggests you take 1-2 (500mg-1,000mg) servings 3-4 times daily of our Maca Powder and then working your way up as you desire. While it is impossible to overdose on maca, we recommend not taking too much at once to avoid potential nervousness or increased heart rate.
Adding maca to your daily routine is easy! Having a taste that has been compared to cinnamon or nutmeg, just throw it in your protein shake, smoothie or practically any other recipe to start reaping these benefits.
Yours in health,
Shin BC et al. “Maca (L. Meyenii) for Improving Sexual Function: A Systematic Review,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2010) 10:44.
Stone, M. et al. “A Pilot Investigation into the Effect of Maca Supplementation on Physical Activity and Sexual Desire in Sportsmen,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2009) 126:574.
Rubio, J., Caldas, M., Dávila, S., Gasco, M., & Gonzales, G. F. (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6, 23. http://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-6-23.