Superfoods have been one of the hottest trends in the wellness world in the last few years and with good reason. They provide tons of health benefits. Maca root is one superfood in particular that has created a lot of buzz and has quickly become a pantry staple for health-conscious folks. Curious to learn more about the cult-favorite adaptogen, we did a little research to answer all of our maca-related questions, including whether or not it really does boost your sex drive.
What is maca and where does it come from?
“Maca is a root of a cruciferous vegetable that grows in South America,” says Los Angeles-based registered dietitian Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN. “It prefers high altitudes and is commonly found in the Andes (Peru).” Maca is similar to a turnip or a radish and its scent is reminiscent to that of butterscotch.
What are the benefits of maca?
Maca has a nutritious profile. It’s high in carbohydrates and fiber which gives you energy and keeps you full, Davis says. Maca also has amino acids, vitamin C, and iron, and is also low in fat.
Maca is also said to help improve cognitive function. It was traditionally given to children in Peru to help them increase their academic performance in school.
Other benefits include increased energy, improved mood, reduced anxiety and depression due to the flavonoids it contains, and lowered blood pressure. It may even help balance hormone levels and reduce menopause symptoms.
Maca is even good for your skin when applied topically. It’s believed to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays, which cause wrinkles and may lead to skin cancer. It also promotes natural antioxidants that help fight free radicals. But even so, you should still apply your SPF when spending time in the sun.
All that said, not a lot of research has been done to confirm these claims. Early animal studies do show a lot of promise but more human trials need to be conducted to confirm the effects of maca, Davis says. The same goes for side effects. We can’t know for sure until more research is done, but generally, maca isn’t known to cause any risks or side effects.
Increased male and female fertility is another one of its believed benefits. “Some evidence suggests it might increase sperm count and help with erectile dysfunction,” Davis says.
Does it really boost your sex drive?
One of the most touted benefits of maca is an increased libido, but is this really true? “Results of research are mixed,” Davis says. “Some studies suggest a boost in sex drive, however the mechanisms are not well studied. Maca contains some phytosterols or phytoestrogens which have been linked to increased fertility in animal studies. The potential bioactive ingredients in maca include macaridine, macamides, macaene, glucosinolates, maca alkaloid, and maca nutrients, but their precise function in humans is not yet established.”
What is the best way to take maca?
With the maca craze in full swing, it’s pretty easy to find the superfood in most health food stores and even online. It’s usually ground up and sold as a powder, but it is also available in capsules and liquid extract.
“Generally, three types of maca are available on the market: red, yellow, and black,” Davis says. “The most commonly sold is yellow maca. They all have similar properties but differ in taste slightly.”
If you’ve never had maca before, its strong taste might be hard to get behind at first. It has an intense earthy, nutty flavor. That’s why Davis recommends putting it in your smoothie or mixing it in with your oatmeal.
The possibilities, however, are endless. Some people love putting it in their coffee and baked goods or sprinkling it into their soups. Feel free to get creative. If the taste is too much for you, start with a small dosage and work your way up until you get accustomed to the flavor.
How much Maca Root Should You take?
Speaking of dosage, Davis recommends checking the label of the maca you purchase for its recommended amount to take. “The strength, quantity, and quality may differ depending on the source,” she says. “It’s also important to note that supplements don’t have a lot of regulation and oversight, and it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or dietitian before starting something new.”
The appropriate dose of maca depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for maca (for children or adults).
If you struggle with thyroid issues, it’s especially recommended that you check with your doctor before incorporating maca into your diet. Maca contains goitrogens which may disrupt your thyroid gland.
Should You Try Maca Root?
To sum it up, maca is said to provide lots of amazing health benefits, including a boosted sex drive, but more research needs to be done to confirm those claims. The best way to know if maca will work for you is to try it out yourself from a reputable supplement supplier. Also if you have any medical concerns, be sure to check with your doctor first.