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Maca: What Does the Science Say About It?

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Maca is a Peruvian root vegetable that has been traditionally used to enhance energy, stamina, strength, and fertility. It is sometimes referred to as "Peruvian ginseng." Maca is available in powder, capsule, and liquid extract forms.

The science on maca is limited, but some studies suggest that it may have health benefits. For example, one study found that maca may improve sexual function in men, and another study found that maca may enhance learning and memory in rats.

Maca is generally considered safe, but some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, and dizziness. Here is everything you need to know about Maca!

What is Maca?

Maca is a root vegetable, a calciferous plant that grows in the Andean mountain region of Peru, where native Peruvians have cultivated it since pre-Incan times as a source of nutrition as well as medicine. Its many supposed uses include fertility, energy, hormone health, libido, and strength. Maca comes in various colors: red, purple, yellow/cream, and black. All colors are edible and can be used interchangeably or blended to make powder.

As you might guess from the fact that it only grows in the Andean mountain region, Maca grows best in harsh climates at high altitudes (14,700-17,000 ft above sea level) where there are extreme fluctuations between day and night temperatures. The unique climate that Maca grows in creates the highest concentration of active ingredients that have been shown to have beneficial effects on the body.

Health Benefits

One of the most common benefits of maca is that it helps to balance hormones. This is because maca contains compounds that can help regulate the production of various hormones in the body, including sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.

Here are some of the most discussed benefits associated with maca:

  • Improves energy levels and stamina
  • Increases libido
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Increases fertility
  • Regulates hormone levels
  • Reduces menopausal symptoms
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Boosts the immune system

There is some scientific evidence to support these claims, but more research is needed. Before taking maca or any other supplement, you should always discuss any potential risks and benefits with your doctor. Maca may not be suitable for everyone, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.

Maca is one of those vegetables known as a “superfood” due to its extremely high nutritional content and reputation for increasing energy and stamina. It contains over 20 amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins B1 and B2, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and a lot of protein. It is also an adaptogen, which means it helps your body adapt to stressful situations. Its supposed benefits, where fertility is concerned, are often attributed to the many vitamins and minerals it contains, especially vitamin C, copper, and iron.

So what exactly does the science say about Maca? Well, some studies have shown that Maca does has a positive effect on libido and hormonal balance. Still, it is important to note that these are primarily focused on its benefits for symptoms of menopause and athletic performance. This is primarily thought to be due to its status as an adaptogenic root.

Maca has been used to enhance fertility and sexual function in both men and women. It’s thought that the unique combination of concentrated nutrition includes fatty acids, amino acids (protein), vitamins B1, B2, C & E and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc and iron, and phytonutrients contribute to its effectiveness.

Maca is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body cope with mental and physical stress by normalizing physiological functions. The hormone-balancing effects of maca are notable for their ability to promote healthy energy levels in men and women through increased testosterone levels in men and progesterone levels in women. In addition, studies have found that it may help increase sperm count and motility while reducing premenstrual symptoms such as cramping and mood swings.

Maca has been used medicinally by natives in the Andes Mountains for centuries. It is a good source of carbohydrates and protein, but it also contains many other nutrients including fatty acids and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. The root has high levels of glucosinolates, which help the body fight against cancer. Maca is often used as a general tonic or aphrodisiac and has been shown to increase fertility in animals.

Some studies have found benefits from using maca in treating menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings due to its ability to balance hormone levels. It can also be used to boost energy and improve memory and concentration. The most common way to ingest maca is mixed into juice or smoothies in powder form.

How to Ingest Maca

Raw maca root is typically not palatable, but it's best to consume it fresh if you can get past the taste. Drying and cooking maca root reduces its perhaps most powerful benefit: enzymes.

The traditional way of consuming maca was to dry and pulverize the root before mixing it with water or another liquid. This is still a common method for ingestion, though you can also find maca in powder form readily available online, and in health food stores. Maca comes in different colors, so the powder will vary in color from tan to brown to dark purple. If you choose to use powdered maca, start slow with one teaspoon and increase as desired.

Maca is also available in capsules and tincture form.

The most common way of ingesting Maca is in powder form. You can buy it in a powder or capsule form in your local health food store or online.

While you are advised to take Maca on an empty stomach, some people find that it doesn't agree with them that way and prefer to take it after meals.

As with any supplement, you should always follow the recommended dosage on the label unless otherwise directed by your physician. If you're using Maca for hormone balancing purposes, your doctor should tell you how much to take based on your health.

Side effects are very rare with Maca use, but if you experience any unusual symptoms when taking it (headaches, nausea, or vomiting), then stop taking it and consult your physician.

Maca is also available as a liquid extract and tincture which you can drop into water or juice and drink up!

Potential Risks

A number of studies have indicated that Maca reduces prostate size, but the mechanism is still unclear.

Potential risk of consuming Maca for women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer:

Maca contains high amounts of glucosinolates, many of which are converted to biologically active isothiocyanates after ingestion. One such isothiocyanate, benzyl isothiocyanate, has been shown to activate estrogen receptor α (ERα) in vitro and in vivo in ERα-positive breast cancer cells. Therefore, Maca may not be safe for women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

There are no known side effects to Maca consumption. However, for those who may show sensitivity to certain members of the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), there could be a chance that they could also show an allergy to Maca. Generally speaking, however, our database shows that all these people were able to consume Maca after some time (weeks or months) of adapting their digestive system to this nutrient-dense food.

Some researchers believe that Maca may have negative effects on the reproductive system and that it may disrupt hormone levels. Maca may also interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medications.

It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking Maca to ensure it is safe.

Conclusion

Maca is a root vegetable that is native to the Andes Mountains in Peru. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and menopause symptoms. It's a supplement that is considered safe for most people, with few side effects. However, it may not be effective for all people. It is important to speak with your doctor before taking maca to make sure it is safe for you.

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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