If you are watching health and fitness trends, you probably already heard about maca root and its many health benefits. With numerous potent properties, maca root is now widely available as a nutritional supplement in various forms including powder, capsule and tea. It has a combination of both sweet and nutty flavors with a bitter aftertaste.
Maca root is from a cruciferous vegetable that is native to the Central Andes region of Peru. While it is popularly known as Peruvian ginseng, it does not belong to the same family as ginseng. In fact, it is more closely related to cauliflower, broccoli and turnips. In Peru, maca roots are commonly roasted and consumed as a vegetable, added to soups and oatmeal, or made into a beverage called “maca chica.”
How does Maca Root Work?
Considered as one of the highly nutritious supplements, maca root is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins C and B6, copper, iron, potassium and manganese. It is low in fat and a good source of carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids.
You can easily incorporate maca root in your diet and enjoy its health benefits. You can take the capsules as part of your daily supplement or mix the maca root powder in your smoothies, shakes, oatmeal and more.
Benefits of Maca Root
Many athletes use maca root supplements to boost their energy and stamina. This supplement also helps bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts improve their strength and performance.
Maca root contains a flavonoid compound that helps manage light to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and low energy.
Improves brain function.
Native Peruvians traditionally use maca root to improve the cognitive ability of their children. New research has found that maca root indeed helps with cognitive function. It is also useful in helping those suffering from age-related brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Alleviates the symptoms of menopause
During menopause, women experience unpleasant symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, sleeping problems and irritability among others. These symptoms are partly due to the natural decline of estrogen in the body. Four studies conducted on menopausal women showed that maca root helps alleviate these symptoms.
Regulates hormones that affect libido
Compounds present in maca root support endocrine system functions, thereby helping in hormonal regulation. This is especially true for men and women who have issues with fertility and libido.
Dating as far back as 3800 B.C., Peruvians were already using maca roots for their libido-boosting traits. More recent studies support this health benefit. In 2002, a study showed that men who take 3 grams of maca root per day experienced increased libido than their counterparts who did not. Another study in 2015 showed that maca root helps reduce sexual dysfunction among women who are in their postmenopausal stage.
Reduces blood pressure
Maca root has also a potential health benefit in reducing high blood pressure. A 2015 study on Chinese postmenopausal women showed a significant decrease in their blood pressure after taking 3.3 grams of maca root per day for 12 weeks.
Fights free radicals
Free radicals are the common causes of serious health problems including cancer. Maca root helps the body produce natural antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione which fight these free radicals.
Helps reduce the risk of prostate gland enlargement
Enlargement of the prostate gland is a common condition among aging men. Also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), this condition causes a number of symptoms including painful passing of urine. The high amount of glucosinolates in maca root reduces this risk.
Other health benefits.
Maca root may also help reduce your risk of other diseases including anemia, leukemia, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, tuberculosis and problems with the immune system. However, more studies are still needed to prove this claim.
Side effects of Maca Root
Since maca root is naturally consumed as food where it is available, it is generally believed to be safe. If ever it has potential side effects, they are relatively low, including:
- Feeling jittery – You may experience jittery and trouble in sleeping after taking maca root supplement.
- Altered thyroid function – As an adaptogen, maca root has compounds that affect the endocrine system which is responsible for regulating the body’s hormones. If you have a thyroid condition, consult your doctor before taking maca root supplements
Interactions of maca root with other substances
There is no known adverse effect of taking maca root along with other substances. However, safety precaution is advised as to its use if you have certain health conditions or are taking medication for those conditions which may include:
- Hormone-sensitive conditions – If you are being treated for hormone-related conditions such as thyroid problems, uterine, ovarian or breast cancer, uterine fibroid or endometriosis, it is best to avoid taking maca root supplements without the approval of your medical doctor. Certain compounds in maca root work like estrogen and could worsen the symptoms of these conditions.
- Pregnant and nursing – There is no study that supports the safety of taking maca root if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is always best to stay on the safe side.
Dosage of Maca Root
There is no standard recommended daily intake for maca root. Generally, it depends on several factors such as your age and health condition. Those in the alternative medicine recommend starting with 3 grams of powder or its equivalent in capsule or extract, and then work your way up to 9 grams a day for adults.
For your safety, be sure to read the product label for the recommended dosage or consult your healthcare professional before taking the supplement.
Cost of Maca root
Maca root is available in capsule, powder and extract form. If you are buying online, you can buy 100 pcs of 500-mg vegetable capsules for an average price of $7. For powder, an 8-oz pack is available for $15 to $20.
To ensure getting the best quality product, look for organic maca from Peru. Also, when choosing a brand, pick one that is certified by Consumer Labs, NSF International or the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.
Maca root is considered a wonder supplement due to its many health benefits. However, just like when taking other kinds of supplements, it’s best to always stay on the safe side.
If you are considering taking maca root as a OTC supplement, be sure that you don’t have any of the conditions listed above. If you have, consult your doctor first.