What is Maca? And where does it come from?
The Maca plant is native to Peru, where it’s been grown in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountain range by the Andean people for thousands of years due to its ability to survive and thrive in the harsh mountain weather conditions. 
It’s actually a cruciferous vegetable (think cabbage, broccoli and kale), with the root being consumed historically in soups and stews, as a roasted vegetable or turned into a fermented drinks called maca chica. The Peruvian natives also used it within their traditional medicinal systems, for both themselves and their livestock, to treat a variety of health conditions including infertility and arthritis.
What are the benefits of Maca?
Maca root is particularly nutrient dense vegetable, being rich in numerous vitamins, minerals and other bioactive compounds including alkaloids, and glucosinolates. So as a starting point, there is merit in consuming Maca for nutritional purposes in the same way as it is beneficial to consume other cruciferous vegetables including kale and broccoli. In short, eat your greens!
It's the bioactive compounds however that deliver Maca’s potential health gains (over and above simple nutrition) through the influence they have on hormones in the body. These health benefits include:
Potential to increase libido and fertility levels
It’s well documented that a common use case of Maca for the Peruvian’s was increasing libido and treat fertility problems. Whilst not a silver bullet, there is certainly science available to support this, with a 12 week study in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine pubished in 2015 finding an improvement in both the concentration and motility of sperm after men were given Maca, compared to a placebo .
May relieve menopausal symptoms.
Women going through the menopause may experience a range of quality of life impacting symptoms, mainly cause by hot flashes inducing sleep problems, irritability and mood swings.
Several reviews on Maca have demonstrated promising links between it’s consumption and reduction of hot flushes, with a number of high quality scientific studies finding evidence of it’s effectiveness in reducing menopausal symptoms [3, 4].
Potential to improve mood & energy levels
Many of our customers report improvements in mood and energy levels when consuming Maca, and add it to their diet for a caffeine free energy boost. A 2016 study backs this up, which found that consuming 3 grams of Maca per day (roughly 1 teaspoon) improved mood and energy levels in 175 people when compared to a placebo .
May support cognitive function
Alongside energy levels, many customers report a caffeine-free boost and improved focus when consuming Maca regularly. Whilst there is limited human studies into this benefit, there are certainly rodent studies that have demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function and a slowing of age-related decline .
What are the potential drawbacks/side effects of Maca?
As a natural food, the majority of people tolerate Maca well with no side effects. Care should be taken however by people with certain medical conditions who could be sensitive to Maca’s hormonal effects:
- Breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer
- Uterine fibroids
- Thyroid disease
If you have one of these conditions, and/or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor before taking Maca.
How do I consume Maca?
Maca can be consumed in supplement form as a powder or capsule, and with a subtle, caramel like taste many people enjoy it in smoothies, porridge and other recipes. As with any nutrient dense food, it is advisable to start with a lower dosage (1/2 to 1 tsp) daily and increase the amount over time to avoid any potential side effects.
If you’re considering Maca, consider the quality and origin of supplements before you buy them. With the popularity of Maca soaring in recent years, demand has led to lower quality plants being cultivated artificially. Always look for Maca sourced from Peru, grown and cultivated organically using traditional methods.
1. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), PubMed.
2. Effect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men, Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.
3. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause, PubMed.
4. Nutritional management of surgically induced menopause, PubMed.
5. Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects, PubMed.
6. Preservation of Cognitive Function by Lepidium meyenii (Maca), PubMed.
Blog content is intended as general information only and does not consider your specific circumstances and dietary requirements. Should you have any concerns about your health and wellbeing, you should always speak to your doctor or a suitably qualified medical practitioner.