Surprisingly, the Maca Root goes by many names, including maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, and ayak willku. Not forgetting, it’s also called Peruvian ginseng, which can be misleading because maca is a vegetable and ginseng is an herb. But basically, both have a reputation for giving big boosts of energy. Although more research is needed to back this up.
Mainly, the Maca Root is obtained from a Peruvian plant grown in the Andes mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in this area for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine. And since it’s a cruciferous vegetable, it means that it is related to broccoli, cabbage, and kale.
It looks like the love child of potato and white radish. Notably, the plant grows wild in the frigid ground of the Andes mountains thousands of feet above sea level in Peru. And it has a nutty, slightly butterscotchy taste. Maca root, which comes from the mustard plant family, is a nutritional powerhouse.
What are the Benefits of Maca Root?
People take maca root supplements by mouth for “tired blood” (anemia), improving fertility, sexual dysfunction, and other conditions. In foods, maca is eaten baked or roasted, prepared as a soup, and used for making a fermented drink called maca chicha.
Maca root plant can be ground up into a powder and added to meals or smoothies. It contains many chemicals, including fatty acids and amino acids. In agriculture, it is used to increase fertility in livestock.
If a person is interested in trying maca root, they can find supplements in some natural food stores or online. Aside from its culinary uses, maca may also have several health benefits.
Reducing erectile dysfunction
Maca root could also have benefits for people with erectile dysfunction (ED). A small study in 2009 looked at the effect of consuming 2.4g of maca root per day for 12 weeks on participants’ perception of their general and sexual well-being.
The study participants were males with mild ED. Those taking maca root experienced a more significant increase in sexual well-being than those taking a placebo.
The most well-known benefit of maca root is its potential to increase libido. There is some 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 experienced increased libido compared to those who received a placebo.
A 2010 review of studies on maca and sexual functioning found some evidence to suggest maca could improve libido, but the authors cautioned that more research is required. Then again, a 2015 study found that maca root may help reduce sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women who were taking an antidepressant.
Increasing fertility and reducing menopause symptoms
Another widespread use of maca root is to increase fertility, particularly in men. A 2016 review found some evidence that maca root may increase semen quality in both fertile and infertile men. However, more research needs to be done.
Some proponents of maca root believe it may help balance levels of the hormone estrogen. During perimenopause, the stage before a woman reaches menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate and cause a variety of symptoms.
One study found that postmenopausal women who took two daily tablets containing maca experienced reduced symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Boosting energy and endurance
Some athletes and bodybuilders use maca root as a supplement to increase energy and performance. Some evidence exists to support this. A pilot study in 2009 found that using maca extract for 14 days improved performance for male cyclists in a 40-kilometer time trial.
The same study found that maca extract improved libido in the participants who used it. However, the sample size of this study was very small, so more research is needed to confirm the results.
Improving mood and learning memory
Also, a 2015 study found that maca could reduce symptoms of depression in Chinese postmenopausal women. There is some evidence to suggest that maca can improve learning and memory. For example, a 2011 study found that maca could improve memory in mice.
A 2014 review of the literature suggested that maca may have benefits for learning and memory performance. Researchers suggested that it could be helpful in treating conditions that affect these processes, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
However, only research on animal models is currently available, so it is unclear whether maca will have the same benefits in humans.
Reducing blood pressure and sun damage
It is possible that maca root can also help to improve blood pressure. The same 2015 study also found that 3.3g of maca per day for 12 weeks lowered blood pressure in Chinese postmenopausal women.
An older study in an animal model found that maca might help protect the skin from UV rays. Another animal study in 2011 found that extracts from maca leaves might help prevent the formation of sunburn cells.
Fighting free radicals
Maca root also promotes natural antioxidants in the body, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
Are there Risks of consuming Maca Root?
Maca has a range of potential health benefits, particularly for sexual health. However, the evidence behind these health benefits is weak, as many studies used small sample sizes or animal models. Researchers need to carry out more large-scale studies in humans to determine if maca is effective.
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