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The Truth about Maca Powder: Benefits and Side Effects

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.

Side Effects-

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]

[i] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/maca.htm

[ii] http://www.livestrong.com/article/350433-benefits-of-maca-root-on-fertility/

[iii] http://www.livestrong.com/article/350433-benefits-of-maca-root-on-fertility/#ixzz1nWewWZ86

[iv] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/maca.htm

[v] http://www.livestrong.com/article/164516-maca-herb-and-fertility/

[vi] http://www.livestrong.com/article/520012-maca-root-and-hyperthyroid/

21 Comment(s)

  1. This article says maca can cause goiter if one is deficient in iodine.  Also says its's good for underactive thyroid, not overactrive.

    Jay | Mar 6, 2012 | Reply

  2. Please read

    Jay | Mar 6, 2012 | Reply

  3. I'm interested in taking this BUt I don't want anymore children! Worried about that part. One question though: is this safe for breastfeeding?

    Kelly | Mar 6, 2012 | Reply

  4. I heard a lecture a few years ago that indicated that maca could be a problem for women who have had breast cancer. Do you know anything about this possible problem?

    Phyllis Kreuttner | Mar 7, 2012 | Reply

  5. I have not actually noticed any difference health-wise from consuming maca powder in my smoothies, but I love the flavor. I expect the raw fresh root is more powerful than the dry-powder form.

    Raederle | Mar 8, 2012 | Reply

  6. Phyllis, good question. Women who have had breast cancer shouldn’t use maca because it could raise estrogen levels.

    admin | Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

  7. Kelly, there aren’t enough studies to conclude its safety, so for the most part people will recommend not taking maca root while breastfeeding.

    admin | Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

  8. My doctor recommended I take macca powder to address hormone imbalance. 
    The research indicates that red macca is the variety I should use, but I am having trouble finding a reputable brand that indicates it is from red macca. Nutrition supplements are not well regulated, so I want to be sure to buy from someone who is trustworthy (a CRN member).
    Do you have a list of red macca products from reputable brands?

    heddy | Aug 5, 2012 | Reply

  9. Maca is good for many conditions, it helps the body to re balance. There aren't so many safety studies, but if you don't exaggerate with the dosage, maca will only do you good.

    Alisa | Sep 17, 2012 | Reply

  10. Recently I started taking Maca for energy reasons but nobody seems to know how much should be taken in a smoothie or whatever.  I'm taking a tsp in my tea or oatmeal.  Is that not enough?

    Josie Castro | Oct 5, 2012 | Reply

  11. Josie, I read no more than 3 teaspoons per day. 

    Monica | Nov 19, 2012 | Reply

  12. What's exactly in it? I bought it in local herbs shop and the box says it's an energy booster, further it says nothing about fertility stuff. I'm particularly interested to find out what kind of vitamins and minerals are in it?

    lex | Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

  13. Hi Im breastfeeding, I take macca and milk supply is great, and also have seen no side effects on baby nor myself.  It actually has helped me stay on high energy levels while breastfeeding on demand:)

    Rawnest Living | Dec 18, 2012 | Reply

  14. You can find it at http://www.nuts.com :-)  They are awesome

    Sheri | Jan 17, 2013 | Reply

  15. I had my complete thyroid removed over 8 yrs ago. I take synthroid now. I am postmenopausal and decided to start taking one pill of maca each day. I just had blood work done and they said my thyroid level is a tiny bid high and they are going to reduce my amount of synthroid I am taking. I have not actually seen the doctor yet, will in a week. However, I would think as long as they can decrease the meds, that is not a problem. Am I correct?
     

    crystal Darrow | Jan 18, 2013 | Reply

  16. I am on synthroid for hypo thyroid. I want to begin maca due to issues caused by synthroid, hair ,skin etc. The health store I frequen started me on hawthorn for one month before starting maca. Will this be safe for me to take? 

    pam | Feb 6, 2013 | Reply

  17. I bought my maca powder from Sprouts and it says to start with 1/3 of a tablespoon then work up to 1/2 a  tablespoon . I took 1/3 of a tablespoon and I felt wired up. 

    Norma | Feb 8, 2013 | Reply

  18. Macca Root makes you horny! It also helps with depression and i feel great so will continue to add it to my yoghurts, smoothies etc!

    Sandra | May 11, 2013 | Reply

  19. hi, i know you posted this awhile back. i was wondering have you had any side effects for you and/or your baby since?? thanks for your help, am nursing and considering trying macca root powder, my baby is 7 months

    sharon | Jul 18, 2013 | Reply

  20. I am 41 years old have infertility problem now I want anather child I hahve minimum problem of goiter it will safe to start maca for me

    pinki | Jul 20, 2013 | Reply

  21. While breast feeding, how much powder do you take a day?

    Al | Sep 8, 2013 | Reply

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