Vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet and shouldn’t be ignored, we all know that. But did you know there are several roots out there you really shouldn’t ignore either?
The maca plant is one such example and is only grown in central Peru in the plateaus of the Andes Mountains. It has tremendous health benefits, especially for men. Find out all about maca powder benefits and, more specifically, the maca benefits for men. Find out why you need to add this root to your diet!
- What is maca root?
- Maca health benefits for men
- Maca side effects
- How to take maca
- Ways to increase maca benefits
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and is also known as “Peruvian ginseng,” even though it’s not even remotely related to ginger. In fact, it’s more closely related to radish, broccoli, kale and cauliflower.
The only part of this vegetable that’s edible is the root. The root resembles a cross between radish and parsnip and is usually consumed in a grounded powder form.
The Peruvian herb boasts a number of health benefits and its use dates back to the ancient Incan culture. The Incans consumed Maca on a regular basis and believed it had the power to boost sexual drive, energy and mental clarity.
Nowadays, it’s exported around the world and it’s usually baked, roasted, or prepared as a soup. Its earthy and nutty flavor is highly distinct. Peruvians use maca powder as an ingredient in soup, oatmeal, and in their local fermented beverage; “maca chicha”.
Maca root is packed with nutrients including fatty acids and amino acids. Maca powder is also an excellent source of iron, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium and calcium. It’s also rich in copper, with one teaspoon (5g) containing almost 20% of the recommended daily amount for adults.
Its high nutritional value and reputation for increasing libido have led to its use in increasing livestock fertility. But there’s even more to the root than that; let’s have a look at all the maca powder benefits. To get you started, here’s a little video where some of the benefits are explained, before going into the benefits in more detail below.
The indigenous people of Peru have consumed maca root for more than 2000 years. According to their folk literature, the maca root brings about tremendous health benefits and is regarded as a legendary plant with unparalleled healing powers.
Today, maca root supplements are available in capsule and liquid form. Let’s put aside the anecdotal evidence and analyze the scientific literature to see if the legendary maca root lives up to its reputation.
- Increases Sexual Function and Libido
The maca root is popular for remediating decreased sexual drive in both men and women. The scientific research is available to back this claim.
In one study conducted in 2002, researchers placed two randomized groups of men under a double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial. Men between the ages of 15 to 56 years were given doses of either 1,500 or 3,000 mg of maca supplements. The control group was provided with a placebo.
Even though serum testosterone and estrogen levels remained constant, a significant improvement in sexual desire and performance was noted in the group dosed with maca supplements. The effect was noticeable after 8 weeks of treatment.
The research on sexual desire and performance among females dosed with maca supplements is still rudimentary and it’s too early to draw a conclusion. However, one conclusion is clear and valid. Maca increases libido among men.
- Increases Fertility among Men
Even though the research on sexual drive and maca supplements is in its early stages, the studies indicate a clear correlation between maca supplementation and improved male fertility. Fertility is basically the quality and quantity of sperm. The higher the fertility, the better the chances of conception during sex.
A recent study conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled experiment to observe the impact of maca supplements on male fertility. After 6 weeks of maca administration, the semen samples of both groups were compared.
The research concluded that sperm concentration and motility were higher in the participants who received maca supplements. Again, the hormone levels remained consistent in this study as well.
- Improves Sports Performance
Bodybuilders and athletes are always looking for natural and healthy ways to boost their athletic performance. Among the many supplements they use, maca root powder is one of their favorites.
Even according to the Incan folk stories, consuming maca provided them with increased levels of energy and physical power.
Research on the effects of maca powder on sports performance is limited. Only a few studies have been conducted with limited sample sizes. However, the research studies that have been conducted have identified a strong link between the two variables.
One study researched the effects on eight male cyclists after they were given maca extract supplements for 14 days. The athletes completed their usual 40 km cycling track in less time than before. Some animal studies have also reached similar conclusions.
- May Protect Your Skin against Sunlight
Ultraviolet (UV) rays may damage skin and increase your risk of contracting skin cancer. Applying maca extract has shown to protect the skin against the harmful UV radiations. Maca’s protective properties can be attributed to the polyphenol antioxidants and glucosinolates present in maca.
- Reduces Prostate Size
The prostate gland is only found in males and is responsible for the secretion of prostate fluid, which is a key component of semen. With increasing age, the prostate gland in men may enlarge and result in a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Although noncancerous, it can block the flow of urine and cause a host of kidney and bladder problems. It’s a fairly common condition that affects almost 50% of the male population.
A lot of men have turned to maca supplements to improve their condition and stand by its positive impact. Maca powder is touted as a natural ingredient that reduces the size of the prostate without any side effects. The research is still in its early stages.
Various animal studies have been conducted that confirmed this theory. Red maca is more effective in treatment than other varieties. Scientists are of the opinion that the effects of red maca on prostate size are due to the presence of glucosinolates. Glucosinolates have also been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Helps Learning and Memory Function
The natives of Peru used maca to improve children’s academic performance in schools. Each type of maca has different constituents that bring about different health benefits.
In this case, black maca is considered the most effective. Some animal studies have shown promise. Rodents supplemented with maca had improved learning and memory after a few weeks.
- May Improve Mood
Maca contains numerous flavonoids. Flavonoids are the antioxidants found in plants and are known for their anti-cancerous properties. Flavonoids have also been linked to improved mood in patients suffering from depression and anxiety.
The research is limited but many men have tried maca supplements and have testified to its effectiveness in improving their mood. Further research is required to conclude if their claims are valid or not.
Due to the limited research on the long-term use of maca there’s little to be said about its side-effects. As it’s a natural food, it’s generally considered safe and there have been no adverse reactions reported from its persistent use.
However, as with any other ingredient, it should be taken in moderation. Due to the chemicals present in maca, it can be dangerous to consume for some people.
Liver and Kidney Damage
As maca is nutritionally dense, it contains a lot of minerals and vitamins in a small amount and can be easy to exceed to safe dosage. High doses of maca can overload the body with iron.
In fact, only 100mg of maca powder contains around 400% of the recommended daily amount for copper in adults over the age of 50. Copper is processed in the body by the liver and kidney. Too much of copper in the diet can lead to these organs functioning overtime and cause serious damage.
May Interfere with Thyroid Function
The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the amount of thyroid hormones and maintaining vital bodily functions such as metabolism and growth.
The gland releases a steady amount of hormones into the bloodstream and even slight changes in thyroid hormones can lead to hyper or hypothyroidism. Both conditions are detrimental to your health and may be difficult to diagnose as the effects are gradual.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, maca powder is also rich in goitrogens. Goitrogens may interfere with normal thyroid function. If you have a thyroid condition, it’s best to consult with your doctor before consuming maca powder.
Maca is also densely packed with iron. If you’re consuming 100mg of maca powder you’re also taking in 200% of the recommended daily amount of iron. In high quantities iron can cause stomach pain and constipation.
Even if you’re moderately dosing on maca supplements, your diet may already contain sufficient iron and excess iron may cause stomach pain and constipation.
May Interfere with Hormone Levels
Although maca hasn’t been proven to alter hormone levels in humans, the research is still limited. And various animal studies have reported increased levels of certain hormones such as testosterone and progesterone with maca supplementation.
If you suffer from a hormonal condition like uterine cancer or endometriosis it’s best to consult with your doctor regarding the safety and efficacy of consuming maca powder.
Those taking other medication and pregnant women should take caution before taking maca powder. While there have been no studies that indicate a harmful effect on pregnant women or interference with other medications it’s better to be safe and avoid maca plant.
As maca is available in many forms, it can be very easy to incorporate into your diet. The root can be grounded into powder, mashed, or consumed as it is. The Peruvians claim that maca’s nutritional value is best derived when it’s boiled. Although there’s no scientific evidence to support that, it’s usually how it’s processed.
The powder form can be added to smoothies, juices, oatmeal, energy bars and even baked brownies. Various retailers also stock maca supplements in the form of capsules and liquid extracts. It’s important to remember that there are different varieties of the maca plant including red, black and yellow maca. Each type has different nutritional properties.
There hasn’t been enough research to determine an optimal dose of maca. Natives of the Andes Mountains have been reported to consume around half a pound of maca daily without any noticeable side-effects. And most studies have used maca root powder with dosages ranging from 1.5 to 5 grams.
If you’re currently using other supplements to meet your nutritional requirements you should use maca supplements after thorough research into its nutritional value to avoid overdosing on some nutrients.
Other supplements can be taken in combination with maca root powder to potentiate its effect.
Horny Goat Weed with Maca
Horny goat weed is a herb used in Chinese medicine for centuries. There are around 15 horny goat weed species, each with different physical characteristics. Maca supplements are usually combined with horny goat weed extract to increase the overall effectiveness.
Horny goat weed increases blood flow and helps increase the rate of absorption of maca. Horny goat weed is also used to treat patients suffering from erectile dysfunction. So combined with maca it provides similar benefits.
However, unlike maca, horny goat weed has been reported to interact with certain medications such as cortisone, prednisone and aromatase inhibitors. If you’re using other medications you should consult your doctor before using horny goat weed as a supplement.
Get your Vitamin C Levels Checked
Maca contains a high proportion of iron and for its effective absorption into the bloodstream it requires vitamin c. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables and strawberries.
If you’re unable to realize the benefits of maca powder it may be due to a vitamin C deficiency.
Maca powder is packed with various nutrients that are essential in many bodily functions. Among the many health benefits of maca are increased libido, increased fertility in men, improved athletic performance and reduction of prostate size.
It can be consumed in the form of supplements or added into your favorite smoothie. However, caution must be practiced as it can have potential side-effects.