Many have heard the word, yet still wonder: What is maca? How can maca powder be of help?
Maca powder is flour crafted from maca, a root native to the Andes of Peru. Maca is sometimes called Peruvian ginseng. It was domesticated and consumed by pre-Inca peoples, and researchers have found evidence of maca being consumed as far back as 1600 B.C.
Ancient, tribal peoples of the Americas were highly invested in consuming maca root likely due to its adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are herbs or supplements that help the body adapt to stress. They include various types of ginseng, berries, medicinal mushrooms, herbs, and yes, maca root.
Maca root remains a staple crop today among indigenous groups of the Andes; maca contains the highest nutritional value out of any other crop grown in the area.
In more recent years, health enthusiasts abroad have started purchasing maca powder from Peru and taking it as a supplement. Maca supplements have led to increasing interest in this root’s purported health benefits.
Maca Health Benefits
Indeed, science is catching up and proving what the ancients knew long ago: maca root is a beneficial food to consume. Here we’ll explore some proven claims surrounding the benefits of maca.
It Seems to Increase Sexual Function
In a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, researchers observed an increase in well-being and sexual performance in patients with mild erectile dysfunction.
The scientists state: “Our data support a small but significant effect of Maca supplementation on subjective perception of general and sexual well-being in adult patients with mild ED.”
And the boost to sexual function doesn’t end there:
Maca Probably Increases Libido
Beth M. Ley, Ph.D., nutritionist, and author, wrote the book MACA: Adaptogen and Hormonal Regulator (Native Food & Medicine of Peru). In it, she describes how the Inca conquered the Pumpush, a fierce warrior tribe who domesticated maca in vast quantities. Eventually, the Inca conquered the Pumpush’s lands fertile for maca harvesting.
Legend has it that the Inca began consuming maca before entering battle to heighten their warriorhood. After conquering a city, however, they were prohibited from consuming maca in order to protect the women from their excessive lust.
The story that Dr. Ley relates is a testament to one of the more well-known maca benefits: its capacity to increase libido. A randomized, placebo cross-over design study found that “14 days ME [maca extract] supplementation improved 40 km cycling time trial performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists.”
It Increases Energy Levels
Increased energy levels were (and likely still are) a boon to the hardworking people living at 13,000 feet or higher in the Andes.
One study found that consuming both the red and black varieties of maca showed an “improvement in mood, energy, and health status.”
Its ability to decrease fatigue and increase energy has made maca powder a premier choice for athletes alongside other supplements such as creatine and caffeine.
Rich in vitamins and minerals
Maca is rich in vitamins and minerals that support healthy immune and nervous systems. It’s more potassium than a banana and has B vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and copper. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision and skin, Vitamin C helps us fight colds and flu, Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and iron helps transport oxygen around our bodies.
May support hormonal health
Maca root is thought to support hormonal health, and studies show that maca may help balance hormones in women and men. Maca may also help support a healthy libido and improve fertility in men and women.
May aid mental focus and mood
When we feel blue or stressed, our bodies produce an excess serotonin hormone. Maca may help naturally increase serotonin levels, which can give us better mental focus and mood and a better night’s sleep. Maca root has also been shown to help support healthy blood flow to the brain.
It May have anti-inflammatory properties
In addition to its impressive nutritional profile, maca root has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s thought that maca may help lower inflammatory markers related to arthritis and chronic inflammatory diseases.
How to Use maca in your diet
From capsules to baking, maca can be consumed in various forms. Many people like the taste and prefer maca in their smoothies. Others simply can’t hack the flavor and gulp down pills to get their daily maca in.
Here are some suggestions for consuming maca.
Try blending maca powder with banana, avocado, blueberries, cacao, and baby spinach. This blend will partially mask the taste of your maca powder while allowing some sweeter tones to remain noticeable.
To get your daily dose of maca in, try adding it to your favorite latte. A good stack of ingredients includes full-fat coconut milk, maca, cinnamon, cacao, turmeric, black pepper, honey, almond milk, and vanilla extract.
To make this latte, simply place hot milk in a blender with all of the ingredients. Blend and pour into a large-sized mug.
Be sure to play with proportions of ingredients to get the taste and benefits you most desire!
If consuming maca in a recipe isn’t on your agenda, try taking maca in supplement form.
Whether you’re “eating” maca or taking it as a supplement, we suggest purchasing a high-potency maca powder that is gelatinized for digestion and, if possible, contains red, yellow, and black maca all in combination.