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What is maca root and what are the benefits?

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What is maca?

Maca is derived from a Peruvian plant that has been cultivated for more than 2000 years. Maca has been used for centuries for nutritional purposes and it’s also thought to enhance fertility (in both animals and humans). There are different types of maca that can be characterised by their colour, each one carrying a slightly different benefit. Traditionally, after they have been harvested, maca is dried so that it can be preserved for a number of years.

According to this academic review, maca may help improve overall health, particularly sexual function, when taken alongside a balanced, healthy diet and active lifestyle.

What are the benefits of maca?

Maca is widely used as a food supplement and has been touted for its medicinal benefits. There are a number of suggested health benefits of maca:

Maca root is nutritious and healthy

Maca root is a natural and rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrate, protein and fibre. It’s low in fat and also contains amino acids and bioactive compounds. Maca root has potential as an adaptogen, meaning it may help raise the body’s ability to resist poor health through physiological improvements, although evidence is limited.

Maca root may benefit your mood

Maca root was first cited in the 17th century as being an energiser and mood enhancer. Some studies have been conducted where participants were asked to rate their anxiety and depression levels before and after taking maca root. In such studies, it was found that scores improved after taking maca root. However, if you’re experiencing low moods and anxiety you should speak to your GP before trying Maca or other herbal remedies.

The nutritional composition of Maca may support healthy energy levels and brain chemistry, so it’s not surprising that maca root has also been suggested to benefit your mood. Some studies have been conducted on mice that indicate maca root can help increase dopamine levels. Another study on post-menopausal women found that daily macaroot supplements helped to reduce blood pressure and depression.

Please bear in mind that you should consult a healthcare practitioner before trying maca root to treat any of the conditions mentioned and to continue to take any prescribed medication.

Maca root may increase your libido

Maca root has energising properties and studies in both animals and humans do appear to suggest an increase in sexual desire after daily consumption of maca root, particularly in self-rated assessments. A review in 2010 collated the results of multiple studies involving maca root. Two of these studies showed a significant positive change in sexual desire in menopausal women and healthy adult men, whereas others suggested a link but failed to draw conclusive evidence.

Maca root may increase fertility in men

Clinical trials have been carried out that appear to suggest a link between daily maca root consumption and increased fertility in men. These studies appear to show that maca root can positively act on the following:

  • Libido – sex drive
  • Sperm count – concentration of sperm cells
  • Sperm motility – quality of sperm cells

In these studies, yellow maca and black maca were cited as being particularly beneficial towards increased fertility in men.

If you’re looking for other ways to increase your fertility, we have a range of fertility products at LloydsPharmacy, as well as advice and support that could help you.

Maca root may boost sports performance and energy

Due to its nutritional content, maca root has also been cited as a good recovery source for athletes during and after workouts. For some it may act as a natural energiser. A study conducted on cyclists over a 14 day period showed that maca root improved overall time performance over a 40km distance. We recommend supporting your daily exercise with a variety of foods and drinks to keep you hydrated and your energy levels ups. Read our exercise guide for tips and advice.

Maca root may reduce menopause symptoms

The menopause happens to women over a certain age and it refers to the time when your periods stops.

Symptoms of menopause include:

  • Low mood and anxiety
  • Loss of libido
  • Low energy

Read our menopause symptoms guide to find out more about possible symptoms.

Studies conducted on post-menopausal women have suggested an overall reduction in some symptoms after daily consumption of maca root. These studies suggest that Maca root appears to have a balancing hormonal effect, although such studies are not conclusive and only suggest a possible link.

If you’re experiencing menopause, you should speak to your GP about possible treatments and support. You can also visit our menopause collection to a find out more about products that may help you with your symptoms.

Side effects of Maca root

As maca root is derived from a natural plant, side effects are rarely documented. However, studies have suggested a link between maca and hormone production, therefore those with hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis or uterine cancer should consult with a GP before taking this supplement. Please note that food supplements shouldn’t be taken to replace a varied, balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Maca root for weight gain

For those looking to increase the number of calories in their diet, they may choose to add maca powder to their meals or shakes. The nutritional composition of maca powder may help support the cells and muscles in your body. There are also a range of protein powders and snacks that can help you to gain weight, as well as foods and drinks that could be added to your diet to support your goals.

References

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420
www.themacateam.com/maca-nutrition-facts
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928177
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4569766
www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19781622
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614576
www.drugs.com/npp/maca.html
www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24931003 
www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-and-drinks-for-sport
www.pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/fo/c9fo02732g#!divAbstract