5 Little-Known Benefits of Maca Ranging From Mood to Fertility
What is Maca?
Maca is a botanical plant has been used by indigenous cultures in Peru for thousands of years as a traditional medicine as well as for food.
It has some surprising health benefits that have only recently become more well-known and scientifically researched, some of which have been intuitively harnessed by traditional communities for countless generations.
For example, maca root has now been scientifically proven to help both men and women improve their sex drive and fertility which can be especially helpful to couples who are having difficulty conceiving.
Maca is a sacred root vegetable in the Brassicaceae family that traditionally grows at 4000m above sea level in parts of the Peruvian Andes. The ancient Incan culture called maca the “food of the brain” and it was one of their most important medicinal plants which could bring balance back to the body during times of stress.
What are the different colours of Maca and which one should I use?
There are three different types or colours of maca, each of which has different qualities.
Yellow maca - this is the most common variety of maca root, which typically comprises around 70% of the annual harvest. Traditionally, this type of maca is used daily to maintain general health and mood. Scientific studies have shown that this type of maca has the least (though still significant) effect on improving fertility and mood compared to red and black maca. This may be explained by the fact that some of the bioactive components of the root called macamides are associated with the dark coloured pigment of the root, therefore red and black maca generally contain more of the bioactive components.
Red maca - this colour is much less common and typically only comprises around 20% of the annual yield of maca from traditional cultivation areas. Red maca has been proven to have the most potent mood and energy boosting properties (which is why we chose to use this type of maca root in our premium non-alcoholic cocktail range). Red maca also improves sexual libido, sperm quality and overall fertility more than yellow maca does.
Black maca - this colour maca is the least common of the three types and is generally only around 10% of the harvest in traditional areas. Black maca is traditionally known as the most potent type of maca for increasing sexual libido and improving couples' sex lives. Scientifically, black maca has been shown to have the strongest beneficial effects on sperm production compared to red and yellow maca.
What are the health benefits of Maca?
1) Maca improves your mood and your energy
A study from 2016 of 175 people showed that taking three grams per day of red or black maca for twelve weeks significantly improved mood and energy scores compared with a placebo. There are several other studies from the past decade which also corroborate these results, which have already been known anecdotally for thousands of years.
Personally, I found that after a week of taking red maca every day, I felt a noticeable increase in my mood and I just seemed to view everything more positively, the effects of which I still have now as I continue to take it daily.
2) Maca increases your libido or sexual drive
Traditionally, maca (especially the black and red varieties) has been used to help partners have children since it increases both men and women's libido and desire to be intimate with one another. It is especially effective for people with low libido.
This benefit has been scientifically studied - one example being a 2015 study in which 45 women who were suffering from sexual dysfunction due to their antidepressant medication found that taking 3 grams of maca root per day for 12 weeks significantly improved their sexual libido and function compared to taking a placebo. A 2010 review of several studies also concluded that consuming maca regularly improved sexual libido after 6 weeks.
3) Maca improves your fertility
There have been several scientific studies in the past two decades which have shown that consuming maca, particularly red and black maca, increases the fertility of men. How it does this is by increasing the production of sperm as well as sperm motility (the ability of sperm to move towards the egg). It has also been shown to improve erectile dysfunction in men.
Traditionally it has also been used to increase the fertility of women to increase their chances of getting pregnant. There are currently no studies that confirm this, except for a study of mice that were fed maca root which increased the number of offspring they had. No doubt there will be studies performed on female fertility in the near future due to the significant increase in popularity of maca as alternative medicine in recent years.
4) Maca may help improve memory and learning ability
In the past decade, scientists have found promising evidence (at least in mice) that maca has the ability to help improve memory and learning ability. It has also been found to slow the cognitive decline that is associated with growing old.
In 2011, a study on mice found that black maca significantly improved their memory, which was at least partially due to the strong anti-oxidant action of maca.
The ability of maca to slow cognitive decline in the brain due to old age was examined in a 2014 study of mice. This study found that maca improved cognitive function, motor coordination, and endurance capacity in middle-aged mice. This was due to maca stimulating brain cell repair processes and improving the function of the mitochondria in brain cells (which are the powerhouses of your cells). The researchers suggested that maca might therefore be helpful in treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, but research in human studies is needed to determine this.
5) Maca reduces some symptoms of menopause
In a study from 2008, 14 post-menopausal women were given 3.5 grams of maca per day for a 6 week period. Compared to the placebo, their anxiety and depression levels were significantly reduced while consuming maca and they also reported less sexual dysfunction.
More studies need to be completed on larger groups of women, however, the research aligns with what traditional healers in Peru have known for countless generations - that daily maca consumption helps improve women's health, both pre and post menopausal.
How safe is maca?
Yellow, red and black maca have been consumed daily by indigenous communities in Peru for thousands of years and in more recent years by millions of people around the world.
Globally, health departments such as the USA's Food and Drug Administration have concluded that maca is safe to eat regularly, based on both its long-term frequent use by south american communities as well as scientific studies that have concluded that it is safe for consumption and it only has beneficial effects on humans' health and lifespans.
As you now know, maca root has several proven health benefits ranging from reproductive health to mood to learning and memory. It was first identified as a sacred healing plant thousands of years ago by ancient civilisations in Peru and in the past few decades, it has begun to be recognised by the scientific community as an important plant for its medicinal properties.
This super-food has been recognised as safe to consume on a daily basis and is now used by millions of people around the world, with its popularity ever increasing.
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