There’s a lot of hype out there about maca root in terms of its effects on the human body. Similar to ginseng and ashwagandha, maca contains saponins that have a variety of effects on bodily systems, such as the sex hormones.
This is of interest to many men because this can benefit their physical condition and sex drive. I needed to investigate maca’s purported benefits for myself.
What can maca do for you?
Maca, a cruciferous root vegetable grown in the high Andes of Peru as a food crop, is most famous as an aphrodisiac.
It does not affect any hormone systems directly, however.
Every shred of scientific data on maca suggests that it does nothing to the hormones like testosterone and estrogen. However, it seems to have a strong influence on libido all across the board.
Since it doesn’t affect hormones, my wild imagination suggests that the active components in maca may interact directly with the relevant hormone receptors that affect sexual function, perhaps by upregulating all the right ones. I’ve found no evidence of this regarding maca, but if it’s like other herbs and plants, this may be how it functions.
Here’s what maca is able to do based on a handful of studies:
- Increase sex drive in both men and women
- Improves mood and general well-being
- Increase erection frequency in men
- Increase sperm count in men, protective action on testicles
- Reduce symptoms of menopause and post-menopause effects in women
An enhancement of physical performance has yet to be proven, but it has been suggested by individual anecdote that it boosts energy, although not quite in the way that ginseng does.
The mechanism of action seems to be the way that the magic in maca seems to interact with how the bodily systems use mineral nutrients, at least based on some evidence. One rat study on Examine’s page for maca root suggests that it keeps zinc from being taken into the prostate gland, where zinc is found to convert testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
One last thing worth noting is that maca can inhibit the uptake of iodine due to the glucosinolates it contains. It’s related to cruciferous vegetables like radishes, brussels sprouts and broccoli which are known to be mildly goitrogenic especially to people who are iodine deficient. If you have hypothyroidism or enlargement of the thyroid related to goiter, you may want to pass on raw maca root.
Otherwise, eat some more seaweed or get a source of iodine such as that available through a trace mineral supplement. As I mention below, gelatinized maca is a viable alternative for people who may have digestive or thyroid issues with maca root.
What else is maca used for?
Others’ anecdotes suggest that maca is used for:
- Supporting adrenal and thyroid health
- Improving muscle tone and physical performance
- Reducing PMS symptoms in women
- Regulating the menstrual cycle in women
- Increasing the size of the bust and/or hips in women
- Weight loss or weight gain
Many of these outcomes have not been found in any studies yet and the majority of these tend to be anecdotal reports. Based on the sheer numbers of people reporting similar effects, it’s difficult to discount them on that basis.
Note that maca is associated with an increase in acne. Acne in any case can be eliminated with a good B Complex vitamin, or at the very least, a dietary source of vitamin B5.
My experience with Maca root
About a week ago I purchased a large bag of maca root powder by Navitas Naturals. I started by taking 1 teaspoon of the powder in water twice a day. It has a tendency to clump up and is hard to dissolve, so this is a minor nuisance.
The flavor of the maca root powder is not very popular with people. To me it smells sweet and earthy, but it becomes a very strong, rich earthy flavor once you get down to drinking it. If you have a hard time with strong flavors, you don’t really have to worry since you can take the capsules or the tincture, or mix it up into a smoothie or food.
Anyway, I took maca for about a week. Here’s what I can verify so far:
- Increase in erection frequency
- Increase in testicle size (seriously)
- A tendency to fall asleep earlier in the day and wake up earlier
- General increase in energy (note that I have paused taking ginseng)
No-fappers may be interested to know that taking maca greatly reduced the urge to fap. You’d think this would be contradictory because of its effects on libido, but in my case it’s made it so much easier to stay fap-free.
My libido however is unchanged, and is still fairly high, so this is a double-plus.
Taking maca root
I’ve been taking 1 teaspoon 2 times per day of the Navitas Naturals Maca Root Powder.
- You can also get gelatinized maca root powder from Powder City – 125 grams for $8.25
This is about 10 grams per day, which is a bare minimum suggested dose according to Examine’s page on maca:
- 10.9-24g of the maca vegetable for a 150lb person
- 14.5-32g of the maca vegetable for a 200lb person
- 18.1-40g of the maca vegetable for a 250lb person
It has been recommended to ramp up the dosage of maca root so as not to give your system an abrupt shock with the changes that maca can induce. Start with 1 tsp, then slightly more until you go up to 2 tsp or more.
You can purchase the raw root powder or the gelatinized form. I’ve seen it online at iHerb, Amazon and in health food stores.
The process that gelatinized maca undergoes is supposed to destroy some of the more nasty digestive side effects that some report from consuming the raw root powder. It also eliminates the goitrogenic substances too, which is good if you have thyroid issues.
Gelatinized Maca Root:
If you know you won’t be able to stomach the powerful earthy flavor of maca, there are tinctures and capsules available.
- Navitas Naturals Gelatinized Maca in Capsules
- Navitas Naturals Raw Maca Powder in Capsules
- NOW Foods Maca Capsules
- Herb Pharm Maca Root Tincture, 1 oz.
- California Xtracts Maca, 1 oz. ($6.18 right now)
- Maca Magic Express Extract, 4 oz.
Note that the tincture may contain the same active components as whole maca, however you may be losing some of the nutritional elements. The capsules tend to give you less maca for the price compared to the whole root powder, but for some it may beat dealing with the flavor.
- Examine.com – Maca