Native to the rugged terrain of the Andes mountains (and often referred to as Peruvian ginseng), maca root’s role as a health-boosting food dates back thousands of years. Today, maca root is typically dried and ground into a powder that has a naturally nutty, earthy, slightly sweet flavor, making it a delicious addition to Ka’Chava’s superfood ingredient lineup.
Maca root’s popularity for everything from improving energy to enhancing libido spans centuries—and a growing population swear by its benefits today. The best part: Research on maca root, while preliminary, is starting to support many of its anecdotal perks.
Here’s a look at some of the most exciting potential health benefits of maca root (and its various nutritional compounds).
5 health benefits supported by maca root.
1 Increased Energy + stamina.
Taking their inspiration from Incan warriors, some athletes claim maca root helps boost performance. Admittedly, more research is needed in this arena, but one small 2009 study found that male cyclists who consumed maca for two weeks experienced improvements in their 40-kilometer cycling time. Still, the mechanism responsible for this remains a mystery. As an added bonus, the cyclists in this study also experienced a boost in libido—more on that later!
2 Enhanced Learning + memory.
Maca root has traditionally been used by native populations of the Peruvian Andes to improve children’s school performance, and several preliminary studies support its potential to improve learning and memory.
Case in point: A 2011 study found that maca root helped counter the effects of alcohol-induced memory problems in mice, possibly due to maca’s polyphenolic compounds; and in a 2014 research review, researchers found that maca was able to reduce activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Reducing AChE activity is important, as this enzyme breaks down acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter that’s essential for learning and processing memories.
3 Reduced stress + balanced mood.
Many adaptogenic plants are known for their mood-stabilizing, stress-reducing properties—and maca is no exception. In a 2015 study on postmenopausal women, participants who consumed maca daily for 6 weeks experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms (as well as blood pressure).
More research is needed to see if these results might extend to other groups, but research on mice suggests that maca may contribute to an antidepressant effect by increasing dopamine levels and combating oxidative stress in the brain.
4 Improved libido.
One of maca root’s most popularly touted perks is its ability to get your engine revving—so to speak. While some research on this front has proven inconclusive, a number of studies suggest at least some improvement in sexual function and desire in both men and women after consuming maca regularly.
In a study from 2002, taking maca improved self-reported levels of sexual desire in men without having an impact on sex hormones like testosterone; and a 2015 study found that maca helped improve sexual desire and arousal among women taking SSRI antidepressants, which are commonly associated with significantly decreased libido.
5 Balanced hormones.
Some research on women suggests maca may have a minor hormone-balancing/enhancing effect. A 2006 study found that women who took daily doses of maca experienced a significant reduction in menopausal symptoms including night sweats and hot flashes, which are commonly caused by fluctuating levels of estrogen. These women also experienced a noticeable increase in bone density markers, which tend to decrease with age and declining levels of sex hormones.
Why maca root is considered a superfood.
While some claims about maca’s vast health benefits need to be validated with further research, this root’s potent concentration of vitamins and minerals certainly support its categorization as a nutrient-dense “superfood.”
Maca root powder not only contains a good mix of protein and fiber, but a decent amount of vitamin C, copper, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, manganese, niacin, calcium, and riboflavin. It’s also part of the cruciferous vegetable family (with the likes of kale and broccoli) and contains health-promoting compounds common to this group, including glucosinolates and polyphenols.
Bottom line on maca root.
While the existing body of research on maca root is still a bit preliminary, this powerful adaptogen has stood the test of time, is rich in vitamins and minerals, and shows great promise for enhancing energy, memory, mood, and more.