Maca Effectiveness and Side Effects

Maca is one of the hottest herbs to hit the natural health scene, and for good reason. It’s a so-called adaptogen, a class of plants and herbs that help the body cope with stressors and improve mood, hormone balance, energy levels and physical endurance.

Unlike many herbal supplements, which are often sold with shaky scientific evidence, maca has been studied extensively in both animal and human studies. Research suggests that it has a host of benefits and may aid in boosting libido, fertility and sexual function, balancing hormones, improving energy and mood, and reducing menstrual cramps and hot flashes.

A review of clinical trials found that maca is generally well-tolerated and has no significant side effects when consumed in doses up to 20 grams a day in powder form. The herb is typically taken as a dietary supplement and mixed into foods like yogurt, ice cream, smoothies or teas. In the Andes Mountains where maca is grown, native people often consume as much as a pound of dried maca root or a gram of maca extract per day.

Some people use maca to increase their energy and stamina, especially before exercising. It contains B vitamins that boost energy without the crash and jitters associated with caffeinated drinks. It also has a low-glycemic index, meaning that it can reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Another benefit of maca is its ability to combat fatigue. A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology showed that mice who took a high-dose maca supplement were able to swim for significantly longer than mice in the control group. The researchers theorized that the maca might have helped the animals regulate their hormones and improve their exercise performance.

Maca is also known to help treat infertility in both women and men. Several small studies have found that maca can help men with erectile dysfunction and increase sperm count, volume and quality. Those studies are promising, but larger and more powerful human trials will be needed to confirm this finding.

Other research suggests that maca might help alleviate the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and depression. It is believed that the plant helps the body adjust to hormonal changes that occur during menopause by increasing progesterone and estrogen levels.

Some people also report that maca can help with anxiety and depression. The research on this is limited, and more large-scale clinical trials will be needed to determine whether maca has an effect on anxiety and depression.

When choosing a maca supplement, make sure that it is pure and doesn’t contain fillers or additives. Some brands of maca are gelatinized, which means that the powder is processed to become a tablet or capsule, but this can remove important phytonutrients. Ideally, you should look for a product that says “maca root” on the ingredient list. Also, it is better to take a loose powder than a gelatinized capsule, because that might be gentler on the digestive system.