You may not have heard of maca before but it grows in the Andes Mountains as a Peruvian plant. It is similar to broccoli, kale, and cabbage because it is a cruciferous vegetable.
Many Peruvian recipes will use maca as an ingredient. It helps to provide an earthy flavor to the dishes but it can also be ground up to use in smoothies or with any meal.
Aside from the fact that it is used for culinary purposes it may also have benefits to your health. The following 10 possible health benefits of maca root can introduce you to this unique vegetable.
One of the primary reasons why people use maca root is because it may increase libido. There are even some scientific studies to back up this claim.
In 2002, a study1 found that men taking anywhere from 1.5 to 3 g of maca had an increased libido compared to those who took a placebo.
A number of studies on maca and sexual functioning were reviewed
In 2015, a study3 was done that showed how maca root may help to reduce sexual issues in women who have already gone through menopause and who were also taking an antidepressant.
2. Helping with Erectile Dysfunction
If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, a 2009 study4 shows that maca root could help. Although it was a small study, it looked into taking 2.4 g of maca root every day for 12 weeks.
The study showed that participants with mild ED had an increased benefit of sexual well-being compared to those taking a placebo.
3. More Energy and Endurance
It is not out of the ordinary for bodybuilders or athletes to use maca root as a supplement for increasing performance and energy.
In 2009, a pilot study5 showed that using maca extract for two weeks improved performance for male cyclists. A 40 km time trial was used to measure the performance. Interestingly, the group taking the placebo experienced similar benefits.
The same study also looked into how maca extract would improve libido. Since the sample size was small, additional research is necessary.
4. Increased Fertility
Maca root may also benefit men by increasing fertility. This was backed up in a 2016 review. The results of the review showed an increase in the quality of semen in men who were both fertile and infertile.
5. Boost Mood
The flavonoids found in maca may help to reduce anxiety and improve overall mood. 14 postmenopausal women were involved in the study6 that showed how maca may help with feelings of depression and anxiety.
Another study6 in 2015 involving Chinese postmenopausal women showed a decrease in depression.
6. Helping with Blood Pressure
The 2015 study7 on Chinese postmenopausal women, also found the benefit of lower blood pressure. Those women took 3.3 g of maca every day for 12 weeks and lowered their blood pressure.
7. A Reduction in Sun Damage
In 2011, a study8 was conducted on animals that found maca leaves extract could help prevent sunburn cell formation. This was further evidence associated with an older study9 on animals.
8. Fighting Free Radicals
Since maca root promotes the existence of natural antioxidants including superoxide dismutase and glutathione, it could help lower free-radical development.
Antioxidants fight free radicals that would otherwise damage the cellular structure of the body. Some people feel that using antioxidants can provide overall health benefits and some specific benefits, such as cancer development and heart disease.
9. Reducing Menopause Symptoms
It is believed by some that using maca root could balance estrogen levels. When a woman is in preimenopause before they go into menopause, fluctuations in estrogen levels is common.
When a study10 was done on postmenopausal women taking to daily tablets of maca, they had reduced symptoms including night sweats and hot flashes.
10. Improving Learning and Memory
In 2011, a study11 showed that using maca may help to improve learning and memory.
A review12 from 2014 suggests that maca may benefit the performance in both learning and memory. Researchers feel that the same benefits may help individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
6. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women., 2015 Feb;18(1):69-78. doi:10.3109/13697137.2014.929649. Epub 2014 Aug 7
7. Photoprotection against the UVB-induced oxidative stress and epidermal damage in mice using leaves of three different varieties of Lepidium meyenii (maca)., 2011 Aug;50(8):928-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04793.x.
8. Hypocotyls of Lepidium meyenii (maca), a plant of the Peruvian highlands, prevent ultraviolet A-, B-, and C-induced skin damage in rats., 2008 Feb;24(1):24-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0781.2008.00330.x.
9. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study, 2006 Dec; 2(4): 375–394