By Reviewed by Published on September 24, 2018 Updated on August 26, 2019
maca-supplement

Maca

Maca is a biennial plant native to South America specifically the high Andes mountains of Peru. It was used to manage infertility and sexual dysfunction among the natives of Peru as well as an energy booster by the Incan warriors so as to be fierce on the battlefield. It has been found that maca contains properties that may be useful in aiding oxidative stress, prostate cancer, depression, low sperm count, low libido, diabetes and much more.

Also, it has been found to be beneficial in regulating important hormones in the body, enhancing mood state, protecting the skin from damage caused by direct exposure to sunlight, increasing endurance, and relieving stress amongst other things. There are many other amazing health benefits of maca. For more information on the benefits of maca and how it works, read on below and discover why the ancient and present-day Peruvian natives trust this herb to improve their health and that of their livestock.

Despite the fact that the Maca root has been used for thousands of years back, it was only in the recent years that the Maca root has been once again recognized and introduced to the modern medicine as a high-quality natural remedy. But that is not all – the Maca root has recently finally earned its status as a superfood, and that, let us say, is quite the honor, again, despite the fact that it took years for us to finally recognize this superfood.

Originally, the Maca root has been known for its abilities to enhance fertility among women and men as well, Maca has been also recognized as one of the best natural aphrodisiacs. But that is not all that the Maca root has to offer you! From mood, energy, and blood pressure problems to many others, the Maca roots seem able to offer us a lot more than its simple aphrodisiac abilities.

So with the thought to honor this superfood, we thought to write an article explaining every little detail that there is to know about the Maca root, especially focusing on its numerous health benefits. Are you interested to learn more about it? We sure are excited to tell you more!

What is Maca?

maca root

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is the root of a plant that grows in the fertile soils of high altitudes of the Andes in South America and it is packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, alkaloids, and other phytochemicals. For centuries, Inca people have used maca due to the numerous benefits it provides. The Incas built one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, in the 15th century. This flagship of the Incan empire is a fortress made of stone that stands almost 2.5km above sea level. The Maca root is also known under the term – Peruvian ginseng since it has been cultivated and used by the people of Peru for thousands of years back.

It is remarkable how the Incas carried tons of stone at that altitude, and some people believe it was thanks to their maca enriched diet. During the peak of the Incan civilization, legend has it that Incan warriors consumed maca as their ritual before going to battle. This would make them ferociously powerful. In fact, there is even a scientific research that looks into the smallest details of the possibility that the Maca root is what gave the Peruvian people the strength to combat the harsh climate, fight infertility and have the power to fight in their battles. [1]Bahhary, S. & Heinrich, M. (2018). Is the hype around the reproductive claims of Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) justified? The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 211:126-170. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.003

How does Maca Work?

Despite the number of studies proving its effects, there is limited understanding of how maca actually works. Part of the difficulty to identify the substances responsible for the effect is that maca is composed of a number of substances that are known to have beneficial effects. [2]Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Reich-Bilinska, H., Kapczynski, W., Mrozikiewicz, P., Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T., … Barchia, I. (2006). Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Study. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 2(4):360-74. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23675005

Some scientists believe that is the combination of all those beneficial substances that produce the known benefits of maca. Other scientists believe that macamides – a substance found in maca root – might be the one contributing in more proportion to its effect. [3]Yang, Q., Jin, W., Lv, X., Dai, P., Ao, Y., Wu, M., … Yu, L. (2016). Effects of macamides on endurance capacity and anti-fatigue property in prolonged swimming mice. Pharmaceutical Biology, 54(5):827-34. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2015.1087036 Chris Kilham, the author of Hot Plants, acknowledges the challenge.

The Maca root is also known to be rich in antioxidants. It is believed that the Maca root neutralizes the free radicals and protects our bodies from oxidative stress, which as you may know, leads to numerous health issues. [4]Sandoval, M., Okuhama, N. N., Angeles, F. M., Melchor, VV., Condezo, L. A., Lao, J., & Miller, M. J. S. (2002). Antioxidant activity of the cruciferous vegetable Maca (Lepidium meyenii). Food Chemistry, 79(2):207-213. Doi: 10.1016/S0308-8146(02)00133-4

“Maca enjoys a very long history of successful medicinal use for menopausal discomfort, infertility, and sexual healing. The question is not whether it works — because we know it works with certainty — but how it works.” So when you think about it, although the fact that more research studies investigating the mechanism of the act of the Maca root should be done is inevitable, we should be thankful for the ones that we can lean on that prove and support the beneficial effects of the Maca root.

3 Different Kinds of Maca and their Uses

Maca is the nature’s superfood that is known for a plethora of medicinal properties.

types of maca

It is an adaptogen; a substance that helps support the entire endocrine system in producing an adequate amount of hormones. [5]Gonzales, G. F. (2012). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012:193496. doi: 10.1155/2012/193496 Maca is one of the most nutritionally dense food packed with all essential fatty acids, amino acids, a high concentration of bioavailable protein. It also contains glucosinolates, zinc, calcium, and substantial levels of Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, and C.

Studies indicate that the Maca root powder contains two types of acids – macaenes and macamides, which play a key role in balancing out hormones. [6]Zhang, Y., Yu, L., Jin, W., & Ao, M. (2014). Effect of ethanolic extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp on serum hormone levels in ovariectomized rats. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 46(4):416-9. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.135955

Cultivated in the mountainous regions of Peru, Maca grows in three basic colors:

  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Black

The color shades range from light pink to dark purple, white to yellow color, and light gray to dark gray. Each color spectrum corresponds to different properties. [7]Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Baraniak, M., Piatkowska, E., Pisulewski, P., Mrozikiewicz, M., & Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T. (2017). Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) – III: The Effects of Cultivation Altitude on Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in the Four Prime Maca Phenotypes. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 13(2):58-73. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28824342

These three varieties of Maca are related in many ways but slightly different in taste.

Read here how the three colors of Maca differ from each other in terms of their respective benefits for our health.

Yellow Maca

yellow maca

The yellow maca comes from the same family as the cream-colored maca. Known as the nutritional powerhouse, Yellow Maca has been consumed for over 2,000 years by the natives of Peru.

Yellow maca powder comes with enhanced sweetness. It is nutrient rich and consists of 60% carbohydrates, 12 minerals, ten vitamins, and 40 amino acids.

Yellow Maca may be consumed in its full vegetable form and sometimes come in the form of powders. The Yellow Maca in powder form may be used as a salad dressing, and may even be consumed with a fruit smoothie as it renders a tangy and sweet taste.

Benefits of Yellow Maca

Yellow Maca is the most popular Maca root, known for its ability to enhance the fertility and virility of both males and females. [8]Sanchez-Salazar, L. & Gonzales G. F. (2018). Aqueous extract of yellow maca (Lepidium meyenii) improves sperm count in experimental animals but response depends on hypocotyl size, pH and routes of administration. Andrologia, 50(3). doi: 10.1111/and.12929 Many users reported that it helps regulate their body temperature and Yellow Maca has also been found to be beneficial in enhancing mood state. [9]Gonzales, G. F., Gonzales, C., & Gonzales-Castañeda, C. (2009). Lepidium meyenii (Maca): A plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science. Forschende Komplementärmedizin, 16(6):373-80. doi: 10.1159/000264618

According to the study by the International Journal of Dermatology in 2011, yellow maca protects the skin from the Ultraviolet rays of the sun. [10]Gonzales-Castañeda, C., Rivera, V., Chirinos, A. L., Evelson, P., & Gonzales, G. F. (2011). Photoprotection against the UVB-induced oxidative stress and epidermal damage in mice using leaves of three different varieties of Lepidium meyenii (maca). International Journal of Dermatology, 50(8):928-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04793.x

Yellow Maca is great for those who want to boost their energy levels. It must be noted that Maca is an adaptogen and helps with hormones and fertility regardless of its current state.

Yellow Maca also comes with the ability to increase the stamina and has amino acids for muscle building along with controlling the blood glucose levels, and much more. [11]Inoue, N., Farfan, C., & Gonzales, G. F. (2016). Effect of butanolic fraction of yellow and black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on the sperm count of adult mice. Andrologia, 48(8):915-21. doi: 10.1111/and.12679

Black Maca

black maca

Black Maca is harvested from the roots of a dark-colored maca and is known to be its rarest form. According to a recent study, Black Maca was considered to be the best [12]Sun, Y., Dai, C., Shi, S., Zheng, Y., Wei, W., & Cai, D. (2018). Composition analysis and antioxidant activity of essential oils, lipids and polysaccharides in different phenotypes of Lepidium meyenii. Journal of chromatography, 1099:25-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2018.09.010 of all varieties for increasing the libido as well as the sperm production. [13]Inoue, N., Farfan, C., & Gonzales, G. F. (2016). Effect of butanolic fraction of yellow and black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on the sperm count of adult mice. Andrologia, 48(8):915-21. doi: 10.1111/and.12679

The taste of black maca resembles that of the roasted soybeans. If you include Black Maca regularly in your diet, it will work as a natural antidepressant [14]Stojanovska, L., Law, C., Lai, B., Chung, T., Nelson, K., Day, S., … Haines, C. (2015). Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric,
18(1):69-78. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.929649
, protect you from stress, fatigue, and will increase the learning ability and memory. [15]Gonzales, G. F., Villaorduña, L., Gasco, M., Rubio, J., & Gonzales, C. (2014). Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp), a review of its biological properties. Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental Salud Publica, 31(1):100-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24718534

Benefits of Black Maca

A recent study concerning Black Maca has shown that the root improves the memory, focus and concentration skills of an individual. [16]Gonzales, G. F., Villaorduña, L., Gasco, M., Rubio, J., & Gonzales, C. (2014). Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp), a review of its biological properties. Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental Salud Publica, 31(1):100-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24718534

The benefits of the Black Maca also includes increasing strength and bone density.

The Black Maca boosts sex drive as well as libido. In a scientific research, the effects of Maca and its ability to increase the sex drive were investigated. As a part of the research, the effects of Maca were compared with the ones caused by the placebo. At the end of the research, it was clear that the Maca root successfully increased the sex drive among the participants after 12 weeks of treatment with the Maca root. [17]Gonzales, G. F., Cordova, A., Vega, K., Chung, A., Villena, A., Gonez, C., & Castillo, S. (2002). Effects of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia, 34(6):367-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620

It is also known to increase sperm production and sperm motility in men, which helps promote fertility.

Black Maca is also very popular because of its capability to strengthen the immune system and prevent common infections such as colds and flu. [18]Zhang M1, Wu W1, Ren Y2, Li X1, Tang Y1, Min T1, … Wu H1. (2007). Structural Characterization of a Novel Polysaccharide from Lepidium meyenii (Maca) and Analysis of Its Regulatory Function in Macrophage Polarization in Vitro. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 65(6):1146-1157. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b05218

Red Maca

red maca

Red Maca is a rare and unique variety of this popular high-altitude root. It has a malty taste and almost looks like beet crossed with a purple cabbage. Red Maca contains the highest amount of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our body.

Under the phytochemical analysis for seven functional nutrient groups, the highest peak values of all the nutrients were found in red maca.

Benefits of Red Maca

Protects from Prostate cancer. According to research published in the Journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, red maca root substantially decreased the size of the ventral prostate in rats. [19]Gonzales, G. F., Miranda, S., Nieto, J., Fernández, G., Yucra, S., Rubio, J., … Gasco, M. (2005). Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reproductive biology and Endocrinology, 20;3:5. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-3-5

Another benefit of red maca includes a strong protective effect on the structure of bones and bone density. [20]Gonzales, C., Cárdenas-Valencia, I., Leiva-Revilla, J., Anza-Ramirez, C., Rubio, J., & Gonzales, G. F. (2010). Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Forschende Komplementärmedizin, 17(3):137-43. doi: 10.1159/000315214

In a study published back in 2016, it was widely discussed whether or not the Maca root is able to naturally increase the energy levels in humans. What the study found out was that both red and black Maca root is able to naturally increase the energy levels among the participants. That, you see, is yet another highly beneficial effect of the Maca root. [21]Gonzales-Arimborgo, C., Yupanqui, I., Montero, E., Alarcon, Y. D. E., Zevallos, C. A., Caballero, L., … Gonzales, G. F. (2016). Acceptability, safety, and efficiency of oral administration of extracts of black and red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in adult human subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Pharmaceuticals, 9(3). doi: 10.3390/ph9030049

According to a study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science, the results of red maca could not be duplicated by other varieties of Maca. [22]Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Mrozikiewicz, M., Baraniak, M., Mielcarek, S., Kedzia, B., … Pisulewski, P. (2015). Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (I) Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in Three MacaPhenotypes. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 11(3):131-45. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26508907 But all of the other benefits that have been attributed to other types of Maca can also be seen in the Red Maca.

Maca Side Effects and Warnings

Clinical trials on Maca found no considerable side effects, therefore Maca is safe to use. [23]Gonzales-Arimborgo, C., Yupanqui, I., Montero, E., Alarcón-Yaquetto, D. E., Zevallos-Concha, A., Caballero, L., … Gonzales, G. F. (2016). Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca(Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals, 9(3). pii: E49. doi: 10.3390/ph9030049 However, Maca should be used with caution when a hormone responsive cancer is present such as breast or prostate cancer, and women using birth control pills due to the potential effect on sex hormone regulation.

The use of Maca may decrease PT/INR values in patients being monitored for anticoagulation therapy.

Maca could stimulate the central nervous system and should be used with caution by people with hypertension. Also, if you are currently pregnant and/or breastfeeding please consider talking with your doctor first, before you proceed to take Maca on your own. Although we are talking about a natural remedy, it is unknown whether or not any effects regarding your pregnancy or breastfeeding can be expected.

If you are using any other medications at the moment, please do consider talking to your doctor as well. It is unknown whether or not does the Maca root interact with other medications and what effects can be expected.

How to Take – Maca Dosage

The recommended dosage for 1:6 concentrated Maca is 2 capsules in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. However, you might want to experiment with different dosages until you find the one that works best for you. However, I do not recommend to excess of 8 capsules per day.

There is some controversy about cycling Maca, some people think it should be cycled and some others don’t. When combining Tongkat Ali and Maca, some people take them alternatively (example: 4 days of Tongkat Ali, then 4 days of Maca). We believe that Maca should not be cycled because it is an adaptogen food: it contains many beneficial nutrients for the body and endocrine system. Hence, we believe that the best result is obtained with continuous use.

How to Buy Maca?

Raw vs Gelatinized Maca

Most Maca supplements come in one of two forms: Raw or Gelatinized. Gelatinization is the process of removing the starch, hence concentrating the product making it more easy to digest and absorb (higher bioavailability). Traditionally this process was done by pressure-cooking the Maca, hence destroying some of the nutrients in the process due to the high heat. Because of this, raw Maca is generally considered as a better option and gelatinized Maca was reserved for those with a sensitive stomach.

With today’s technology, however, it is possible to gelatinize Maca without using heat, hence preserving all nutrients intact. This modern gelatinization method is patented and only a handful of companies such as Herbolab can offer it. Low-temperature gelatinized Maca offers more concentration, better bioavailability, and easier digestion than raw Maca, making it the best choice.

Conclusion

The Maca root is yet another great herbal remedy of whose existence we should be thankful for. We are talking about a highly powerful remedy that has the abilities to treat numerous health issues that trouble many men and women all around the world. From infertility, low sexual stamina, low libido, reduced athletic performance, bad mood, low energy levels to many, many different other health problems – the Maca root owns the power to soothe them all. So what are you waiting for? Go on and order your Maca root extract and start using it today – trust us, you will be questioning how were you able to live without it for so long! Yes, that is how great the Maca root really is.

References   [ + ]

Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

About Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

Fran Sanchez, the founder of Herbolab, graduated from Uppsala University (Sweden) with a master in molecular biology and Karolinska University (Sweden) with a degree in medical sciences and business. He then moved to Singapore to run e-commerce operations in a pharmaceutical company, until eventually, he could fulfill his dream of creating a brand dedicated to help men reach their peak performance. Drawing on his experience as a lifelong multi-sport athlete and cutting edge medical and scientific research, Fran launched herbolab tongkat ali as flagship supplement in April of 2014. Fran now spend most of his time weight lifting and creating content dedicated to improve people’s lives.

More posts by Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc