By Revital Aranbaev
Maca is most commonly known for improving energy and stamina, increasing libido and treating infertility. It is used as a performance enhancer and aphrodisiac. Maca is known as the “Peruvian ginseng” because the two herbs have similar traditional uses in herbal medicine. It is also hailed as “nature’s viagra” for both men and women.
Maca has been used as a food and medicine in the Peruvian Andes for over 2,000 years but has only recently grown popularity in the United States. Legend has it that during the height of the Incan empire, warriors would consume maca before entering into battle to increase strength and stamina. However, after battle they were prohibited from eating it — to protect the conquered women from their powerful sexual impulses.
Maca is a root vegetable that is part of the mustard family and is similar to radishes and turnips. It is the world’s highest growing food crop. There are different types of maca, including yellow, black, and red maca. Maca can be used in powder form- added into shakes or smoothies, or as a nutritional supplement in liquid extract or pill form.
Let’s look for proof of the claims that maca is in fact a superfood:
There have been some studies done on maca and its effect on fertility. One small study done on nine men concluded that treatment with maca resulted in increased semen volume, sperm count, and sperm motility.[i] In another study, black maca increased sperm count in one day![ii]
Though there is no study that necessarily proves this, it is said that maca may help women become more fertile as well. According to "Good Medicine Magazine" from Australia, Peruvian women who eat maca by the age of 3 are much more fertile later in life and have more egg follicle development.[iii]
In addition to fertility, maca is known for helping women with postmenopausal symptoms. A study done on postmenopausal women in 2008 showed that maca helped them reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve sexual function.[iv]
Maca is especially revered for increasing sex drive for both men and women, hence terming it “nature’s viagra.” There is no study based evidence for this, but there have been individual accounts for this. Comment on this blog and let us know your experience with it.
No safety studies have been done with maca, so be careful. If you are deficient in iodine and take too much of the herb, you could develop goiter.[v]
In addition, while many people take maca for thyroid issues, maca can actually worsen thyroid conditions. Some herbalists recommend maca if you have hypothyroid, which has been shown to be effective. But if you have hyperthyroid, which is an overactive thyroid, you would want to avoid maca because maca can actually stimulate that gland.[vi]