Maca, the root of the plant native to the Andes Mountains, has long been used by Andean native tribesmen for healing all manner of ailments. It’s also used extensively in alternative medicine circles as a dietary supplement and as an aphrodisiac. Scientifically, there’s little to none of the truth to the claims. However, many people do swear by it. Below are the top benefits of maca root and potential side effects.
The first benefit of maca powder is its ability to increase muscle mass. There’s some hard scientific evidence behind this claim, too. For instance, an old study from 2021 showed that elderly men who took either a placebo or maca powder had increased muscle mass over a three-month period, while those who got a sugar pill only saw a small decrease. Those participants who supplemented with maca powder also reportedly had significantly higher muscle mass than those who didn’t.
The second benefit of powdered maca is that it may act as a libido enhancer. In a study published in 2021 in the Clinical Journal of the University of Minnesota, women who took a placebo reported fewer libido-related complaints than did women who took back. Other studies have supported this finding, too. For instance, a British study revealed that women who regularly consumed powdered maca had more libidos than women who didn’t.
Maca is high in fiber, so it should work as a stool softener and a natural laxative. It’s also rich in potassium and magnesium, which are both important for maintaining electrolyte balance. If you’ve ever felt cramps or bloated after defecating, then you’ve probably also noticed that the urge to go to the bathroom is more frequent when you’re ill. This is probably because of the nutrients the root vegetable contains. The ancient Mayans believed that the plant rejuvenated the soul and provided protection from illness and injury, and today many Indians and gynecologists believe the same.
However, there’s no solid scientific evidence that any of the health benefits of maca are due to its positive effect on one’s reproductive organs. The Mayo Clinic advises women not to take back if they’re currently undergoing fertility treatment. And doctors warn pregnant women to stay away from the root as well: The plant can cause birth defects in both the fetus and the infant. So it’s best to stay clear of the stuff if you’re pregnant or expecting. However, some people swear by it and may wish to try it for personal growth benefits.
In South America, maca is used for the treatment of urinary tract infections and to promote general health. In the Andes mountains, the Andes mountain travelers often put a little maca powder in their food, claiming it keeps them “warm” during their treks. Other Peruvian people also believe the root can ease the discomfort of childbirth and is useful in easing nausea and vomiting. There have also been reports of increased energy and concentration following intake. Scientific evidence doesn’t support the claims for all of these uses, but some nutritionists caution against overusing the stuff.
What does support the Peruvian theories regarding the health benefits of many is the fact that the plant has been used for centuries in herbal medicines in the Andes mountains. Andes scientists say the plant has several properties, including being an excellent source of protein, calcium, niacin, potassium, and vitamin C. Among other nutrients, it may be responsible for a healthy immune system and less heart disease and strokes. The variety of data used in Peruvian herbal medicines is more similar to that found in ginseng, not in the medicinal use of the root. Ginseng, too, is considered an important and powerful nutritional supplement.
When selecting a nutritional supplement, you want to choose one that is good for you and does not cause undesirable side effects. Some nutrients that do not mix well with prescription medications include Vitamin D and Calcium. Also, if you are breastfeeding, be sure to check with your physician first. Maca comes as a powdery extract, which means you will need to mix it with water. It is easier to add a few drops to juice, or to a smoothie. To get the most from maca, consume it in its extracted form.