Maca is a plant that certain populations of Peru have used for thousands of years as a food and natural medicinal remedy .
Over the past few decades, maca has gained worldwide popularity as a natural remedy for certain health issues, including infertility and low libido.
This article explains what maca root is, highlights 4 of its benefits, and whether it's safe to add it to your diet.
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What is Maca?
The maca plant, scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is sometimes called Peruvian ginseng.
It is native to the highlands of the Peruvian Andes mountain range. In fact, the Andeans have been cultivating maca for over 2,000 years. It is one of the few edible plants that can survive harsh weather conditions above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) in the Peruvian Andes.
Traditionally, the Andean people used maca as food, consuming it in a fermented drink or porridge. In addition, the Andean people used maca as a natural medicine to treat various health problems, such as respiratory conditions and rheumatic diseases.
Demand for maca products has increased in recent years, likely due to claims that the plant can promote libido and fertility.
Due to the increase in global demand for maca, people have started mass-producing this plant in other parts of the world, including the mountainous province of Yunnan in China.
Maca root, the most commonly used part of the plant, contains fiber, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
It also contains other bioactive compounds, including macamides, macaridine, alkaloids, and glucosinolates, which are believed to be responsible for maca's medicinal benefits.
What are the benefits of maca?
1. Maca increases fertility
Maca has been shown to increase sperm production, motility and volume, as well as prevent erectile dysfunction.
Maca also increases libido and can be used as a natural aphrodisiac for both men and women. It does this by increasing testosterone levels and promoting healthy ovulation.
In addition, it is very rich in several vitamins and minerals that you need to conceive healthy.
This nutritional profile of amino acids, fatty acids, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron and phytonutrients. While you also need to eat an overall nutritionally dense diet, maca is a great way to boost your essential intakes for ovulation and conception.
2. Maca boosts the immune system
Micronutrient deficiencies have been linked to a weakened immune system.
The high micronutrient content of maca root powder helps our immune system work at its best. The iron it contains will be particularly useful in helping your blood cells, a key part of the immune system.
3. Maca increases vitality and well-being
Some scientific studies suggest that maca can give you a great energy boost when consumed and can be used to help fight fatigue.
On the wellness side, maca contains flavonoids, which are believed to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression.
4. Maca improves libido and sexual desire
The best-known benefit of maca root is its increase in libido . There is a lot of scientific evidence to support this claim.
For example, an older study from 2002 found that men who took 1.5 or 3 grams (g) of maca per day had increased sex drive compared to those who received a placebo.
A 2010 review of several studies on maca and sexual functioning found evidence to suggest maca may improve libido, but the authors cautioned that more research was needed.
5. Maca reduces symptoms of menopause
The natural drop in estrogen that occurs during periods of menopause can cause a range of symptoms, some of which can be unpleasant. These include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep problems, and irritability.
Some studies suggest that maca may benefit people going through menopause by helping to relieve certain symptoms, including hot flashes and interrupted sleep.
A 2011 review that included four high-quality studies found evidence that maca treatment has favorable effects on menopausal symptoms .
6. Maca optimizes physical performance
Maca contains 18 of the 20 amino acids needed by the body. These help improve performance and muscle recovery.
It also helps regulate hormones that help preserve muscle mass, can help boost testosterone and reduce excess estrogen (linked to fatigue, weight and recovery).
Maca is rich in soluble vegetable proteins, fibers, magnesium and calcium. All of these nutrients are beneficial for optimizing physical performance.
7. Maca promotes breastfeeding and lactation
Maca is also highly recommended during lactation to increase milk supply , improve milk quality and help prevent post-natal blues . Additionally, you can add maca to your diet if you suffer from conditions such as endometriosis and osteoporosis.
How to use maca?
Maca is available in many forms, including capsules and powders.
You can add maca powder to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, energy bars, etc. It has a nutty, butterscotch flavor, so it pairs well with many sweeter flavors.
The optimal dose for medical use has not been established. However, the dose of maca root powder used in studies typically ranges from 1.5 to 3 grams per day.