Peruvian Maca is an ancient herb which was authenticated by the nature-loving members of the Inca tribe. Maca is considered a powerful vitalizer and has many other health related benefits. This article covers the facts and myths associated with the herb maca.
What is Maca?
The herb Maca is botanically known as Lepidium meyenii and it belongs to the raddish family. Other common names by which Maca is known include the following – Peruvian Maca, Maca Péruvien, Ayak Chichira, Peruvian Ginseng, Ayuk Willku, maca maca etc. Maca usually prefers to grow at high altitudes (14000 – 15000 feet) and therefore is often seen in mountain ranges. Maca can be seen in the mountain ranges of Andes near the Peruvian and Bolivian areas.
Predominantly found in Peru, Maca is often cultivated as a vegetable in this area. The herb was used by the ancient people of Peru more than 3000 years ago. During the period of Spanish colonization, Maca was used as a currency by the Spanish settlers of Peru. Even before, the herb was used by the Incas as an energy boosting solution.
The root of the herb when mashed often gives out a butter-scotch-like aroma, and is often sprinkled on food for its flavor. The herb is used to make a type of beer known as chichi de maca. It is also boiled and mashed to make atunca which is another favorite food of the people of Peru. In the market, even maca flour is available to meet the ever growing demand of this herb. Only the roots of the herb are used in medicinal preparations.
How does it work?
Maca has the following contents – iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iodine, fiber, natural sugar and protein. The herb is often referred as a superfood by herbalists. Maca has the following important properties associated with it – energy booster, fertility booster and aphrodisiac.
Health benefits of Maca
Maca offers the following health related benefits:
Maca was used by the people of Peru thousands of years ago to increase the male libido. The herb is particularly helpful for men with the following problems – low sex drive, impotency, and low sperm count etc.
According to the Inca tribe, the roots of maca are considered helpful in enhancing stamina and also in increasing the feeling of sexual desire in men. Only a small amount of the herb is necessary to boost the libido and increase the sexual activity.
Fertility in Men
Apart from boosting the potency of the male libido, the herb is also effective in solving fertility problems in men. It is generally believed that maca root extracts can improve the quality and count of sperms in men who have fertility issues. It also helps in treating erectile dysfunction.
Today, Maca is used by amateur and professional athletes to increase their stamina and endurance. The herb is the most natural way of increasing the energy levels in sportsmen. Some say it also helps in increasing the levels of testosterone in athletes giving them more strength to exercise.
Even though Maca has been predominantly used to increase energy levels and to solve fertility problems in men, the herb also plays some positive roles for the female health as well. Due to its stamina boosting capabilities, maca is often used by menopausal women to solve issues of fatigue and to reduce other related symptoms such as hot flashes.
Additionally, it is also claimed that the herb balances the hormonal levels in women during the menopausal phase. In young and menstruating women, the herb helps in solving issues of menstrual cramps and PMS. Some also say that the herb helps in reducing irregular periods in women.
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Since maca can be used to balance the hormonal levels in the body, the herb has been used to solve acne due to hormonal imbalance.
‘Tired blood’ Anemia
Maca is also associated with the treatment of anemia also known as ‘tired blood’ among some ancient users. The herb helps in removing the feeling of tiredness in the body by bringing more vitality and energy.
Maca is also used by some to relieve the symptoms of mild depression without getting the side effects associated with commercial anti-depressants. The herb is also used to solve chronic fatigue syndrome. Maca is also associated with the following conditions – osteoporosis, leukemia and stomach cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS due to its ability to strengthen the immune system.
Typically, taking 500 mg of Maca two times per day is considered an ideal dose. Maca extracts are available in capsule and tablets forms in the market. Some herbalists also claim that taking a dose of 1500 mg per day offers the same benefits as that of taking a dose of 3000 mg per day.
With maca, herbalists usually prefer starting with a low and divided dose as the herb is highly potent. For improving sexual and fertility problems in men, a dosage level between 1500 and 3000 mg is often recommended three times per day.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
It is essential that the exact dosage of maca is followed to get the maximum benefits. Some of the common side effects associated with the herb include – sweating, palpitation, hot flashes, extreme anxiety, gas, diarrhea, dehydration etc. Maca also increases the potassium levels in the body. When Maca is taken along with a low iodine diet, it may cause goiter in some.
Maca supplements must be avoided by those suffering from any form of thyroid dysfunction. Pregnant women and lactating mothers should also avoid this herb.
Maca is a safe herb when it is taken in normal food amounts. Even as a health supplement, maca is regarded safe when the dose is less than 3 grams per day. The herb gives out all the above mentioned side effects only when the recommended dosage levels are not followed. The availability of this herb is not regulated in the world market, except in Norway where it is a prescribed herbal supplement.
Maca interacts with thyroid medications and also with antibiotics.