Maca Root: Benefits and Side Effects

Published May 9th, 2022 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

If you are looking for an all-natural way to improve sexual performance and improve your overall health, maca root may be a good option for you.

Maca root is a plant that is native to the Andes Mountains of South America and has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of that region for its many health benefits.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of maca root, as well as the potential side effects of taking this dietary supplement.

We will also take a look at the different forms of maca root available on the market, and give you some tips on how to choose a quality product.

What is maca root?

Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng or Lepidium meyenii or L. meyenii, is a tuber that grows in the mountains of Peru.

The Peruvian plant has been used for centuries by the indigenous people in the Andes for its nutritional and medicinal properties.

The maca root comes from the family of the mustard plant and is traditionally eaten in Peru as a roasted vegetable, in a soup, or in porridge but there is a local fermented drink called "maca chica" where it is also ingested.

In recent years, it has formed a reputation in Western culture as an alternative medicine with many uses.

maca root

What are the benefits of maca root?

The maca root is a source of niacin, potassium, and fiber according the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or USDA.

For these and others, it has been used for a number of health benefits including:

Improving sex drive sexual function

The maca root has been used traditionally to enhance fertility, increase libido, energy levels, and help with sexual function in both men and women.

In one study of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women, which is a condition causing low libido, vaginal dryness, and difficulty reaching orgasm in women taking antidepressant medications which is also called SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, were found to have increased sexual function over women taking a placebo when taking maca root for 6 weeks.

Other clinical studies have focused on men and have shown some positive results about maca root improving their sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.

Please note that all the studies are not conclusive as there need to be larger sample sizes, more clinical trials, and better quality studies before drawing any firm conclusions about its benefits to sexual activity in both men and women and as an antidepressant treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women.

Increased fertility in men

For men, maca root is thought to improve sperm quality and sperm count, which is the amount of sperm produced.

Multiple clinical trials have had mixed results when it comes to male fertility. One trial of maca root over 12 weeks of treatment showed that taking maca root daily increased sperm concentration levels in adult men; however, it had no effect on sperm motility, which is the sperm's ability to move.

More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of maca root and its fertility-enhancing properties and reproductive function due to small sample sizes and mixed results.

Reducing depression and menopausal symptoms

The maca root has also been traditionally used to help with mood disorders and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

One study has shown that taking maca root could improve your mood and energy compared with a placebo. Menopause can be a difficult time for many women as it is characterized by hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

Maca root may help to alleviate some of these symptoms as it has shown in one study to reduce the number of hot flashes and interrupted sleep experienced by postmenopausal women. In two other studies of postmenopausal Chinese women, it was found to help with depression and one of them concluded that it also helped in treating anxiety.

As with the above benefits, more extensive research is needed to draw any firm conclusions about its antidepressant-like effects or anxiety reducing effects.

Slowing cognitive decline

Cognitive decline is a natural part of aging. Some research has shown that maca root may help to slow cognitive decline behavior in mice.

In one study, it was found to improve cognitive function and motor coordination in mice. More extensive research and scientific evidence is needed on humans before coming to any definitive conclusion of the results.

Improving skin health

Two studies on mice have shown maca root's ability to prevent oxidative stress from the sun, also known as UV damage, and in healing wounds.

Both scientific studies need further research to come to any conclusions about its biological properties in skin health and they should be taken as anecdotal evidence.

Improving prostate health

In one study of mice with an induced prostate enlargement, which is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia, it was found that maca root helped to improve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia in adult mice.

More research is needed though before any firm conclusions can be made about its biological effects on an enlarged prostate in humans due to the only studies being animal studies.

What are the side effects of maca root?

The maca root is generally considered safe when consumed in food with no known adverse effects or health risks in a healthy adult.

Due to the uncertainty of maca root on reproductive hormone levels, do not take maca root before consulting with your doctor or health care provider if you have certain conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or thyroid disease.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor or health care provider before taking maca root as there has not been any study of the effects of maca root on pregnant women or nursing mothers.

Also, consult your child's pediatrician first before giving maca root to children as there is not enough research on its effects on children.

From around the web: Maca Root.

Reddit Community - Experiences with maca root

Reddit Community - Night and Day Difference with Maca Root

Pinterest - 49 New Maca Root Ideas

What forms of maca root are available?

Maca root is available in many forms such as capsules, powder, gelatin, and liquid extract.

It is also included in some foods such as energy bars although maca root powder, also known as maca flour, can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and other foods.

You can find maca root at most health food stores or online retailers.

What do I look for when purchasing maca root?

When purchasing maca root, make sure that you buy it from a reputable source. The labels may "maca" instead of maca root, for example they may be labeled as maca powder or maca extract instead of maca root powder or extract of maca root.

Since the plant is native to the Andes mountains in Peru, you may want to look for maca root that is from there.

Also, look for maca root that is certified organic and free of pesticides and has been third-party tested to ensure quality. If you are taking maca root in capsule form, make sure to take the recommended dosage on the package.

Most studies of maca root used between 1.5 grams to 3 grams as a single dose daily, although some practitioners of alternative medicine advocate for more.

You can also talk to your doctor about the proper dosage for you.

Summary

Maca root is a plant that is native to Peru and has been used for centuries for its purported beneficial health effects. Some of the claimed benefits of maca root include improving libido, sexual function, mood, and skin health while it is also said to help with cognitive decline and prostate enlargement although more extensive research is needed to prove its beneficial effects and connection between maca root and its supposed benefits.

Maca root is generally considered safe when consumed in food but still consult with your doctor before taking maca root, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Maca root is available in many forms such as capsules, powder, gelatin, and liquid extract, and can be found at most health food stores or online retailers.

If you have any more questions regarding maca root, please talk to your doctor or health care provider.

References and sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4411442/

https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-10-44

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/324369/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jvms/65/10/65_10_1145/_article

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1971393/nutrients

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