Like many other herbs and supplements that have become popular in recent decades, maca has its roots in health and medical practices dating back thousands of years.
Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng, per selfhacked.com, has been used by Peru-based traditional cultures for thousands of years, mostly as an aphrodisiac but also as a health-related aid for dealing with tough living conditions in the harsh mountainous climate of this South American country.
What Is Maca?
Maca is a cruciferous vegetable (meaning it belongs to the cabbage family) that is native to the Andes mountains of Peru, especially the region in proximity to Lake Junin, per organicfacts.net. It is used there as both a staple in diets as well as a medical herb that offers a variety of health benefits. Maca resembles a radish or turnip, which makes it understandable why its root is the main edible part of this plant, with the root growing underground.
As a popular ingredient for the recipes popularized in Peruvian cooking, per medicalnewstoday.com, maca is known for giving dishes an earthy taste, in that it can be ground into a powder to be added to meals or mixed in with smoothies. Maca is typically grown organically, without pesticides or unnatural fertilizers involved, per organicfacts.net, because the plant is rarely assaulted by predators, insects, or disease.
Maca’s Health Benefits
It’s interesting to note that the pear-shaped maca plant comes in a variety of types – the number of variations has been put at 13, per self-hacked.com. Each gets a different name depending on the color of their roots, which include cream, gold, red, black, purple, blue, and green, per organicfacts.net. It is believed that each color type of the maca plant has its own health benefits.
Maca’s most beneficial part in terms of health is the fleshly-like hypocotyl. By including maca in your diet, you are tapping into a great resource a variety of vitamins that include B12, B1, B2, C, and E, per organicfacts.net. It is also rich in protein and contains a power-packed lineup of the trace elements iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. That combination of proteins and key nutrients has been linked to increases in energy, clearer thinking, bolstered sexual libido and other related benefits, 10 of which are summarized below:
- Enhanced sperm count and motility. Maca has been called by some as “nature’s Viagra,” per organicfacts.net, for how it has been shown to ramp up sexual libido, showing increases in sexual stamina and drive for both men and women. That has been accompanied by measured increases in sperm counts for men and enhanced sperm motility, boosting chances of reproductive success.
- Reduce erectile dysfunction (ED). Maca root could be beneficial in this respect, per medicalnewstoday.com, as one study with males beset with mild ED saw a pronounced increase in sexual well-being vs. participants given a placebo.
- Improve bone density. As a rich source of calcium, maca added to your eating regimen can improve bone density and strength to help thwart the onslaught of osteoporosis.
- Reduce blood pressure. Six weeks of maca supplementation administered in a study involving 29 postmenopausal women showed a healthy reduction in blood pressure, per selfhacked.com.
- Anti-depressant. Per organicfacts.net, it can prevent sexual dysfunction brought on by the use of anti-depressants.
- Immune system. Thanks to its superior level of protein – estimated at five times that of a serving of potatoes, for instance – maca can not only boost your immune system, it can also improve tissue repair and energy levels.
- Alleviate menopause symptoms. Menopausal symptoms such as irritability, hot flashes, and night sweating, were reduced in a study of more than 120 postmenopausal women, per selfhacked.com.
- Decrease blood sugar levels. Per selfhacked.com, black maca reduced blood glucose in a study of nearly 200 adults.
- Bolster energy. This is why maca is a popular herb with bodybuilders and other athletes. A 2009 pilot study, cited by medicalnewstoday.com, revealed that a maca extract administered for 14 days enhanced performance for male cyclists in a 40-kilometer time trial.
- Fight free radicals. Maca root stimulates the body’s natural antioxidants, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which work to fend off free radicals that can damage cells within your body, per medicalnewstoday.com.