While many are just starting to uncover the magic that is the superfood known as maca root, this supplement has been long lauded as a therapeutic plant to Peruvians for over 3,000 years. Back then, natives used the root to alleviate symptoms associated with what we now know as:
- Stomach Cancer
Prior to engaging in battle, Incas would gnaw on the root to boost their stamina levels. Civilians at the time held maca root in such high regard, they even began using it as a form of currency. While we no longer need maca to wage in war or pay for items, people today use this Peruvian secret for a myriad of health benefits.
What are the Benefits of Maca Root?
1. It is an Adaptogen
Maca root is classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it helps the body respond to, as well as adapt to, stressors introduced to the system. These stressors may range from anything such a lack of sleep, to a stressful job, to a breakup. All of these factors weigh heavily on the hormones on the body and cause cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to overtake the system.
Part of what gives maca root its adaptogen qualities lies within the nutrients present in the root. Maca root contains:
- Over 20 amino acids that serve as the building block for protein. Many amino acids, including tyrosine (which is prevalent in maca), can lower stress levels.
- A sizable amount of fiber that can help escort out cortisol-enticing inflammations from within the gut.
- Numerous antioxidants (that we will get to in a bit).
2. A Natural Energy Booster
While we don’t want to get into fights like the Incas, we sure wouldn’t mind the stamina of someone who is fighting for their life. Maca helps fight off the peaks and valleys of blood sugar, in turn lowering our blood pressure.
When our blood sugar levels are out of whack, it drains the adrenal glands of the body, resulting in adrenal fatigue and daytime slumps.
The adrenal glands are in charge of regulating energy levels. So removing stress from weighing on the adrenal glands results in a natural energy boost without all the jitters, addictive behavior, and nasty comedowns that derive from drinking coffee.
3. Regulates Mood
The adrenal glands are also in charge of memory and focus. Studies with rats have found that over a 28 day period, supplementing with maca root helps improve brain function.
That’s because maca works as an AcHE inhibitor. AcHE inhibitors’ primary function is to keep the neurotransmitters in the brain from breaking down. Neurotransmitters are essential for almost every move and thought your brain tells your body to do. This includes your mood.
4. Boosts the Immune System
Just two tablespoons of maca root contain 133% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C. Countless studies have shown that Vitamin C is essential to boosting your immune system. When your immune system is in working order, it helps your body with numerous functions including:
- Fighting off illnesses
- Balancing out hormones
- Absorbing other vitamins and minerals
On top of its high Vitamin C levels, maca contains a number of antioxidants. These help oxygenate the blood cells within the system. When this happens, rejuvenated red blood cells help fight off free radicals that serve as precursors to a myriad of illnesses, inflammations, and cancers.
5. Improves Male Reproductive System
Maca addresses two important functions of the male reproductive system. This root:
- Increases Libido
- Makes More Potent Sperm
First and foremost, much like maca amps up energy and focus, it also boosts libido. While studies do not show a rise in testosterone levels with maca supplementation, they did find that after eight weeks, self-perceived sexual desire rose in men as compared to those who received the placebo.
Furthermore, studies have shown that on top of sexual desire, male fertility levels also increase. Studies confirm that the sperm collected from people being treated with maca saw improvements such as:
- Increased Seminal Volume
- Sperm Count Per Ejaculum
- Motile Sperm Count
- Sperm Motility
6. Cuts Down on Estrogen Levels
One of the main reasons a man may have a lower libido, decreased sperm count, or erectile dysfunction is due to high levels of estrogen. When under intense stress, levels of the hormone, cortisol, overwhelm the system. In turn, that impedes the production of testosterone. When testosterone isn’t being made, estrogen takes over instead..
7. Improves Skin Health
This multi-purpose root may also help protect the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun’s powerful rays can do a number on your unprotected skin such as causing severe burns and with time, developing cancerous cells that turn into melanoma.
Luckily, studies suggest that a concentrated form of maca extract can help protect the skin from UV radiation. This is most likely due to the high number of antioxidants present in maca root. Polyphenols such as glucosinolates help fight off free radicals from forming underneath the skin’s surface. While maca root is helpful in preventing burns and the growth of cancerous cells, it is not a suitable replacement for applying sunscreen.
8. Can Assist in Weight Loss
Maca Root is a great source of nutrients including amino acids, unsaturated fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are essential in the manufacture of enzymes (in particular B6, B2 and B12) and enzymes encourage a high metabolism. A speedy metabolism can, in turn, help to promote weight loss.
Maca contains flavonoids which are believed to have psychological benefits -helping to improve your disposition and outlook. If you’re feeling upbeat, you are more likely to feel inclined to be active. Depression can be debilitating and low mood can leave you feeling lethargic and prone to comfort eating.
Remember that it cuts down Estrogen levels in men. Well, as estrogen levels increase, men are more susceptible to gain weight. So it helps to regulate weight loss in men.
9. Maca Root Helps With Weight Gain
How can a supplement that is claimed to help you lose weight also be attributed to weight gain? Let’s begin by stating that Maca Root itself doesn’t make you put on the pounds (there are only around 12 calories in a teaspoon of it).
What Maca does do is help you to develop muscle (it is anabolic and therefore stimulates the growth muscles). More muscle will increase weight.
It is also believed that Maca Root can induce hunger and taking in more calories is not conducive when you are trying to diet. However, if you are trying to gain weight and change your shape, then you might be in luck. It is thought that Maca Root can increase the size of your boobs, hips and bum – so if you’re looking for added curves and a shapely hourglass figure, this could be the supplement for you.
Maca Root Side Effects
The good news is that Maca Root has very few side effects reported, though it must be noted that there have been few scientific studies into the effects of the root as a while and the FDA has yet to approve the effects of Maca Root (positive or negative). As it’s a food source that has been used for a long time, the effects are minimal, but there are a couple of things you need to be careful of.
Maca contains Goitrogens, which are a substance that affects the production of thyroid hormones. So anyone with thyroid conditions should avoid this supplement. It also acts like estrogen in the body, so people who have hormone imbalances or are on prescription hormones also need to be careful with this product.
Some websites have also claimed that higher doses of Maca Root may increase blood pressure but there is no evidence to support this and no medical websites state that as a side effect and there no clinical studies that state this either.
Of course, you can always check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new supplement. Even if you’re not, you can be sure you’re still getting everything you need and maybe a little more.