What Is Maca Powder?
Grown exclusively in the Central Andes of Peru, maca is an ancient Peruvian plant that has been cultivated for at least two millennia. Used as both a food and therapeutic remedy, maca grows between an altitude of 4000 and 4500m, a harsh environment that kills most other plants.1
In the Peruvian highlands, 13 colors of maca have been identified. Results from recent studies on maca health benefits demonstrate that the various colors, such as black maca powder or red maca powder may have different biological effects.1 Thanks to increasing popularity as a superfood, some of the most researched varieties, such as red, black and yellow maca root powder are now available in stores.
What is maca root good for? – Traditionally maca was used to promote fertility and increase energy. Thanks to growing scientific research, increasing evidence suggests that the traditional benefits of maca may include fertility-enhancing properties, as well as positive nutritional and energizing effects.1
In this article, Better Health Organization will examine the latest maca powder scientific research and what makes the maca powder properties so beneficial. We’ll also provide some suggestions on how to take maca powder and where to buy maca in stores and online.
The top maca powder benefits include:
- Natural Acne Remedy
- Reduce Symptoms of Depression
- Promote Fertility
- Support Healthy Estrogen Levels
- Improve Symptoms of Menopause
- Enhance Sperm Count and Libido
- Boost Energy
- Nootropic Activity
- Support Prostate Health
- Alleviate Osteoarthritis Symptoms
- Reduce Blood Pressure
Historically, both men and women have experienced maca root benefits, with applications ranging from menopause and fertility to prostate health and sexual libido. Emerging studies suggest that maca may improve sexual dysfunctions, memory and learning, osteoporosis, and more.1 Below is a list of several key maca health claims, with supporting evidence drawn from the most recent maca powder research.
Natural Acne Remedy
As maca has been used as a remedy to help balance the hormones, it’s believed that using maca root powder for acne may be an effective alternative treatment. In a 2006 study, maca was shown to provide essential plant sterols which are important for healthy pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, hypothalamus, and pineal gland function.5 Although the mechanism behind the hormone-balancing effect of maca is not completely understood, maintaining hormonal balance may improve symptoms.
Reduce Symptoms of Depression
With maca, depression and anxiety symptoms may be naturally reduced. In two separate studies, maca has been shown to lower both depression and anxiety scores, as well as cortisol levels.5,6
Maca has also been studied for its effect on complications arising from depression. For example, one study found that maca alleviated antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction (AISD) in women who were taking anti-depressant medication.6
Traditionally, maca has been considered a fertility-enhancing plant. Preliminary studies suggest that maca powder fertility claims may be supported by the notable levels of phytoestrogens in the plant.2
Support Healthy Estrogen Levels
While there are no known studies that have examined the proposed maca powder estrogen relationship, researchers have suggested that maca promotes the healthy functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Both glands contribute to overall hormone production.5
Improve Symptoms of Menopause
A 2008 study found that using maca for menopause symptoms produced a positive effect and enhanced self-reported sexual desire.1
Another study conducted in 2008, observed that both short and long-term maca supplementation led to a significant reduction in menopause symptoms such as night sweats, headaches, and fatigue in menopausal women.7
Enhance Sperm Count
Maca has long been used in traditional medicine to enhance male sexual function. In addition to animal studies that have observed the spermatogenesis properties of maca, a 2001 study demonstrated that using maca powder for sperm count may increase both motility and count in men aged 22-44.2,3
Scientific evidence suggests that maca powder for energy may have a positive effect. In a 2006 study that compared a maca supplement with a placebo, participants taking maca reported higher energy levels than the control group.1
Taking maca powder for memory enhancement has become increasingly popular. Traditionally taken by Peruvian children to improve school performance, black maca powder has significantly improved memory and learning in animal studies. Researchers also noted decreased brain malondialdehyde levels (a marker of oxidative stress) which may help explain the nootropic maca results.1
Maca Powder for Prostate Health
Of the maca powder benefits for men, its effect on prostate health is one of the more well-studied benefits. In one study, researchers found that consumption of red maca may affect prostate size and may be an alternative treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate).1
Alleviate Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Of the many benefits of maca root, reducing symptoms of degenerative joint diseases may be one of the lesser known applications. In a 2007 study, researchers instructed patients to take either glucosamine or a supplement containing maca for osteoarthritis relief. Patients who took the maca supplement noted significant improvement in joint stiffness, pain and function after 8 weeks of treatment.4
Reduce Blood Pressure Levels
Maca contains high levels of potassium, a nutrient known to decrease hypertension. Ongoing research has noted that maca may reduce blood pressure for those with metabolic conditions.1
Maca Powder Side Effects
Most studies conducted on maca have not reported any serious adverse maca root powder side effects. However, anecdotal evidence shows that people who have consumed a large amount of maca have experienced several negative side effects of maca powder, including hot flashes, fatigue, cramping, headaches, and acne.
Because it appears to have an effect on the body’s hormones, it is common for potential users to ask, “does maca powder make you gain weight?”. No studies have specifically examined the relationship between maca and body weight, and it appears that taking maca can either help users maintain their body weight cause users to gain weight, based on stories from people who have used maca. While it’s unclear why maca may cause weight gain in some users, it is known to affect thyroid function (a gland responsible for mechanisms related to body weight).1
In summary, is maca powder good for you? It could be, but for some users it may cause undesired side effects. Modern science still lacks an understanding of how maca works and how it may interact with medications. There are several cases in which you should talk to a physician before taking maca powder: pregnancy, thyroid conditions, and hormone-sensitive conditions (like breast cancer or uterine fibroids) are a few examples of conditions that could be affected by the potential hormone-altering effects of maca.
How To Use Maca Powder
While there are numerous maca powder uses, how you take maca depends on what form you prefer. One of the most popular is maca root powder capsules, which can be conveniently taken with a glass of water each day.
If you opt for maca powder, users have the option to make a simple drink by dissolving a small scoop of gelatinized maca powder into a glass of water or juice. Although some people prefer raw maca powder, it’s generally thought that gelatinized maca powder is easier on the body’s digestive system, as most of the starch has already been broken down.
As some people don’t like the maca powder taste – which is often described as earthy, nutty, and slightly bitter – they prefer to make recipes with maca powder. Some of the most common uses include making maca powder smoothies for a nutritious breakfast or adding maca powder into homemade baked goods, such as cookies or protein bars.
For those with more time, decadent maca acai bowls can be made and enjoyed as a refreshing snack. Users that enjoy the taste of maca note it makes a great addition to cereals or oatmeal. As it does have a bold flavor, start with 1-2 Tsp.
For individuals on the go, adding maca to homemade lattes, mochas or regular coffee is a simple way to incorporate some of maca’s health benefits.
Maca Powder Nutrition
While there are dozens of maca products available, in this section we provide a breakdown of general maca root powder nutritional information. While the maca powder dosage will vary between manufacturers, (from approximately 1 Tsp.-2 Tbsp.) below is information for a 1 Tsp. maca powder serving.
- Calories in maca powder: 13 kcal
- Maca powder protein: 1 g
- Maca powder carbohydrates: 2.5 g
- Maca powder fat: 0 g
Where To Buy Maca Powder
Today, several large retailers sell maca powder: Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and GNC being some of the most notable. Readers may also find organic maca root powder at natural pharmacies or health stores. For a wide selection of maca powder brands and products, users can also conveniently buy maca online from retailers such as Amazon.
Best Maca Powder
The best maca powder is dependent on individual preference, taste and price point. Some of the most popular maca brands include:
- Gaia Herbs
- Pure Mountain Botanicals
- Imlak’esh Organics
- Navitas Naturals
- Sunfood Superfoods
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Gonzales, G. F. (2012). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2012, 193496. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/193496
- Shin, B.-C., Lee, M. S., Yang, E. J., Lim, H.-S., & Ernst, E. (2010). Maca ( meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10, 44. http://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-10-44
- Gonzales GF1, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. (2001). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl, 3(4):301-3. Retrieved from http://www.asiaandro.com/archive/1008-682X/3/301.htm
- Mehta, K., Gala, J., Bhasale, S., Naik, S., Modak, M., Thakur, H., … Miller, M. J. (2007). Comparison of glucosamine sulfate and a polyherbal supplement for the relief of osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN25438351]. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7, 34. http://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-7-34
- Meissner, H. O., Mrozikiewicz, P., Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T., Mscisz, A., Kedzia, B., Lowicka, A., … Barchia, I. (2006). Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. International Journal of Biomedical Science : IJBS, 2(3), 260–272. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614604/
- Dording, C. M., Schettler, P. J., Dalton, E. D., Parkin, S. R., Walker, R. S. W., Fehling, K. B., … Mischoulon, D. (2015). A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2015, 949036. http://doi.org/10.1155/2015/949036
- Meissner, H. O., Kapczynski, W., Mscisz, A., & Lutomski, J. (2005). Use of Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum) in Early Postmenopausal Women. International Journal of Biomedical Science : IJBS, 1(1), 33–45. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614576/