Despite being Maca root revered for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, is one of the newer medicines that has come into the spotlight relatively recently. Maca rightly deserves its superfood status and scientists are constantly discovering new health benefits associated with this powerful root vegetable;
What is matzah?
Maca peruviana (Lepidium meyenii) is often referred to as Peruvian watercress and is most commonly called maca, or also maka. It is the only plant in the rich cress genus that has a tuber instead of a root. It is a type of cruciferous vegetable native to Peru. Maca is similar in appearance and size to radishes or turnips, with green tops and roots that range in colour from yellow to purple and black;
The pleasant-tasting roots, or hypocotyls, are ground up after harvesting, usually available in powder form. Not only is it a natural source of medicinal nutrition, but it also has a long history as a safe superfood that has been consumed in the Andes mountain regions for thousands of years for its health benefits.
It is also considered an “adaptogen”, which is the name for certain herbs, plants and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to stressors such as a hectic life, a demanding job or illness. Not only that, maca provides a number of important micronutrients and is full of antioxidants. It has been shown to improve sexual health, balance hormone levels and boost energy, mood and memory.
Health benefits of maca root
1. Rich in antioxidants
Maca root acts as a natural antioxidant, increasing the level of antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, fight chronic diseases and prevent cell damage. One test tube study in 2014 showed that polysaccharides extracted from maca have high antioxidant activity and are effective in fighting free radical damage. (link to the study)
An animal study in the Czech Republic even found that giving a concentrated dose of maca to rats not only improved their antioxidant status, but also significantly reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the liver and lowered blood sugar levels, which helps prevent the development of chronic diseases;link to study) Meanwhile, another test-tube study showed that the antioxidant content of maca leaf extract may even protect against neurological damage. (link to the study)
Improving antioxidant status may be beneficial in preventing diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes by preventing oxidative stress and cell damage. Despite these promising results, more studies are needed to understand how the antioxidants in maca root may affect humans.
2. Improves energy, mood and memory;
Ti, kteří pravidelně používají prášek z kořene maca, uvádějí, že se díky němu cítí více probuzení, a energičtí, často relativně rychle poté, co jej začali používat. Navíc, maca může pomoci zvýšit energii, aniž by vám způsobila „chvění“ nebo pocit třesu, jako může vysoká hladina kofeinu.
Clinical studies have shown that maca can positively affect energy and stamina. Maintaining positive energy levels can also help improve mood, and some earlier studies have even found that maca can reduce symptoms of depression. (link to study)
It remains unclear exactly how maca boosts energy levels, but it is believed to help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes and maintain adrenal health, which regulates mood and energy throughout the day. Maintaining energy levels can also help prevent weight gain.
Several studies have also found that maca root benefits memory and concentration. An animal study in 2011 found that black maca was able to improve memory impairment in mice, likely due to its high antioxidant content. (link to study)
3. Improves female sexual health
Many studies have confirmed that maca benefits female sexual health through several different mechanisms. Maca root may be able to improve sexual dysfunction and increase sexual desire in women. One study looked at the effects of maca root on postmenopausal women with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant use. Compared to placebo, maca root was able to significantly improve sexual function;reference and study) Another study had similar findings, suggesting that maca was well tolerated and able to improve libido and sexual function.
A 2008 study also found that maca root benefits both psychological symptoms and sexual function in postmenopausal women. In fact, maca was able to reduce depression and anxiety related to menopause after six weeks of treatment. (link to study)
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Maca is also capable of balancing female sex hormones and has even been shown to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. Balancing hormone levels is essential for many aspects of reproductive health and can help reduce symptoms such as infertility, weight gain and bloating;
4. Balances estrogen levels
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. An imbalance of this vital hormone can cause a range of symptoms from bloating to irregular menstruation and mood changes. Too high or low levels of estrogen can also make it difficult for a woman to ovulate and become pregnant;
Maca root can help balance hormone levels and control the amount of estrogen in the body. One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science (study reference) gave 34 early postmenopausal women a tablet containing either maca or a placebo twice daily for four months. Not only has maca helped balance hormone levels, but it has also alleviated menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes, and even increased bone density;
In addition to reducing menopausal symptoms, regulating estrogen levels can also help improve reproductive health and fertility and reduce symptoms associated with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, such as excessive hair growth, weight gain and acne;
5. Increases male fertility
So how about maca root for men? While studies do not support the claim that maca increases testosterone levels, they do show that maca powder benefits male sexual health and fertility;
One study from Peru found that maca supplementation for eight weeks increased sexual desire in men. (link to study) Meanwhile, another 2001 study found that maca helps improve sperm quality and motility, two important factors when it comes to male infertility. (link to study)
Maca can also benefit sexual dysfunction. A 2010 review summarized the results of four clinical trials evaluating the effects of maca on libido and reported that two of the studies showed improvements in sexual dysfunction and sexual desire in both men and women. However, the other two trials did not find a positive result, so more research is still needed. (link to the study)
Maca root powder is an excellent source of protein, fiber and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, copper and iron. It also contains more than 20 amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids, and many health-promoting phytonutrients. It also contains many beneficial plant compounds, including glucosinolates and polyphenols, and is a popular choice for a vegan diet;
2 tablespoons of maca root powder contains:
- 91 calories
- 20 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- 2 grams of fiber
- 79.8 milligrams of vitamin C (133 percent of the DDD)
- 1.7 milligrams of copper (84 percent DDD)
- 4.1 milligrams of iron (23 percent DDD)
- 560 milligrams of potassium (16 percent DDD)
- 0.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 (16 percent DDD)
- 0.2 milligrams of manganese (11 percent DDD)
- 1.6 milligrams of niacin (8 percent DDD)
- 70 milligrams of calcium (7 percent DDD)
- 0.1 milligram of riboflavin (6 percent DDD)
Buying maca and dosing
This health supplement found in capsule, liquid, powder or extract form. All forms are considered equally beneficial, however, it is best to buy 100% pure maca root powder. Due to its growing popularity, maca is widely available in health stores, pharmacies and even online stores. It is advisable to rely only on quality products, which is why you will find quality gelatin capsule with 100% matzo powder.
In addition, maca is categorised by the colour of its roots and is most commonly yellow, black or red. All colors of maca have similar benefits, although specific types and colors of maca are believed to be more beneficial for certain health conditions. Red maca is the most common form of the supplement.
Maca has an earthy, slightly nutty taste with a hint of buttery harvest that works particularly well when added to oatmeal or cereal. The flavour can also vary depending on the type of maca, with black maca being slightly more bitter and cream-coloured roots having an even sweeter taste. Maca powder can easily be added to smoothies and drinks or mixed into recipes.
Keep in mind that most people prefer not to microwave or heat maca powder to high temperatures, as the heating process can reduce some nutrients;
In the Andean mountains where maca is grown, locals can consume up to half a kilo of dried or fresh maca root a day. Most people take anything between one gram and 20 grams a day in powdered form. Although there is no official recommended dosage of maca powder, it’s best to start with about one tablespoon (in powder form) per day and work your way up to two to three tablespoons spread throughout the day. Since maca is known for increasing energy and endurance, many people like to take it before exercise to get an extra burst of energy.
The use of maca root can be traced back more than 3,000 years. Historically, this root vegetable was used by ancient Peruvians as a form of currency for trade and was also prized for its medicinal properties. It was used to treat a number of ailments such as menstrual problems, menopause, stomach cancer, fatigue, stress and anemia. It is even said that Incan warriors fed on maca root before going into battle to increase their stamina and strength.
During the period when the Inca civilization flourished in the Andean region, maca was considered incredibly valuable. In fact, its use was even restricted and reserved for royalty only. It was later imported to Spain and used by the Spanish royal family to boost energy levels and provide additional nutrients;
Today, maca is mainly consumed in powder or capsule form. Traditionally, however, the fresh root was boiled and then eaten, as Peruvians believed that eating raw maca could cause digestive and thyroid problems;
Potential side effects of maca root and safety risks
Maca is safe for most people and can be consumed with minimal risk of side effects. That being said, there are some people who should exercise caution.
If you have any thyroid problems, you should consume maca in moderation and avoid eating the root raw. This is because it contains goitrogens, which are substances that can impair thyroid function, especially in those with thyroid problems. If you have hypothyroidism or a history of thyroid problems, consult your doctor before taking maca.
Because of maca’s effects on hormone levels, doctors believe that maca should not be consumed by people who rely on hormone changes to treat diseases such as breast or prostate cancer, or for other serious conditions. People who have high blood pressure are also advised not to consume maca to avoid unwanted side effects.
Finally, there is limited research on the safety of maca for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Until it is confirmed to be safe, it is best for these women to avoid maca;