What is Maca Powder?
Maca powder is derived from the maca plant – it’s the root, to be more specific. The plant is indigenous to the Andes Mountains in Peru and is a cruciferous vegetable that is commonly used in many Peruvian dishes.
Maca root is also utilized as a traditional medicine, and it’s only recently that scientific interest in its health benefits has been explored. Read on to learn more about maca powder.
The Maca Plant
The maca plant is also known as Peruvian ginseng, with its root as the main edible part. The vegetable is related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, and is an important part of traditional Peruvian cuisine and medicine.
Maca root is usually consumed as a ground powder, added to meals, smoothies, and sweet treats; it’s also available as a liquid extract and capsules. The health benefits of maca powder have only been recently made a subject of several studies involving animals, with most of these studies sponsored by companies that promote maca powder.
Benefits of Maca Powder
Rich in Nutrients
One ounce of maca powder contains:
- 91 calories
- 20g carbs
- 4g protein
- 2g fiber
- 1g fat
- 133% RDI of vitamin C
- 85% RDI of copper
- 23% RDI of iron
- 16% RDI of potassium
- 15% RDI of vitamin B6
- 10% RDI of manganese
- Glucosinolates, polyphenols, and other plant compounds
May Improve Brain Function
As a medicinal plant that has long been used by Peruvian natives, maca is typically given to children to help improve their school performance. Animal studies have been performed to look into the potential cognitive benefit of the black maca plant, in particular, and results have revealed improved learning and memory in mice that suffer from memory impairment.
The flavonoids in maca may provide positive psychological benefits, particularly as a mood enhancer. Studies have found that the Peruvian root can reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression.
May Reduce Blood Pressure
One study involving postmenopausal Chinese women found that taking 3.3g of maca daily for 12 weeks resulted in lowered blood pressure.
Provide Relief from Menopause Symptoms
A review of four studies involving menopausal women revealed that taking maca can alleviate hot flashes, interrupted sleep, and other menopause symptoms. Maca may also have the potential to protect bone health, with findings from some animal studies supporting this benefit.
May Boost Athletic Performance
Some studies involving animals have shown that maca can enhance endurance during intense physical activity. Another small human study involving eight male cyclists has revealed improved performance time after taking maca extract for 14 days.
May Increase Male Fertility
Small-scale studies have found that consuming maca may have fertility benefits for men. One study revealed improved volume, count and motility of sperm among men who took maca continuously for four months. Another finding showed that sperm quality was improved in both infertile and healthy men.
May Benefit Prostate Health
Enlargement of the prostate gland is an age-related problem in men and which can lead to a host of symptoms, including difficulty passing urine. The high levels of glucosinolates in red maca may be responsible for the reduction in prostate size observed in rodents. Glucosinolates are also known to reduce prostate cancer risk.
May Increase Libido
There are countless supplements that supposedly increase libido and improve a couple’s sex life. Maca powder’s potential in improving sex drive is among those that have been backed research. One such study found sexual desire was improved among participants who took maca powder for at least six weeks.
May Provide UV Protection
When applied topically to the skin for a prolonged period, the glucosinolates and polyphenols in maca extract may prevent skin damage from UV exposure. This is supported by one study involving rats. The same benefit cannot be derived from consuming maca.
How Can You Benefit from Maca Powder?
Just as native Peruvians have been taking maca powder for centuries, you can also add it to your diet by mixing in the powder with your meals and beverages. Or you can enjoy its benefits by taking maca powder capsules or liquid extract.
Studies are still lacking as to how much is the optimal dose for medicinal purposes of maca powder, but in most studies of the plant’s root’s benefits, the amounts used ranged between 1.5 grams and 5 grams per day.
Maca powder, capsules, and liquid extract are available in health food stores, some supermarkets, Amazon, and other online retailers. Maca root sold in various markets in all its forms typically come from the yellow maca plant.
Maca is generally safe to consume, but Peruvian natives recommend always boiling the root first and avoiding consuming it fresh. Maca contains goitrogens, which may interfere with the thyroid gland’s normal function and, therefore, should be avoided by people with thyroid problems. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek the advice of their doctor before adding maca to their diet.
Maca Powder – Final Thoughts
Studies looking into the benefits of maca powder have discovered that some of this plant’s root’s medicinal properties may have merit. It’s important to note, however, that most of these studies were small in scale and involved animal subjects. Needless to say, further research is needed to better understand and establish the health benefits of maca powder.