Maca is a plant found exclusively in Peru and has been cultivated there for more than 2,000 years. There are different types of maca, including yellow, red and black maca. It's taken as a nutritional supplement in powder form and traditionally has been used as medicine. Research shows that maca powder has many health benefits both for healthy people and for those living with various conditions, ailments and diseases.
Maca powder can boost energy levels and even enhance athletic performance. This has been measured in a study on cyclists published in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology." Eight healthy cyclists were timed while completing a 40-kilometer bike ride before and after 14 days of taking maca. The study found that maca supplementation significantly improved the athletes' cycling time, pointing to maca's energizing effects. Self-perception surveys have also shown that people feel more energetic after consuming maca, according to an article in "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine."
A 2006 study published in the "International Journal of Biomedical Science" also found maca to have an antidepressant effect on rats. It also slightly sedated the rats without affecting their cognitive function. The scientists attributed these results to the balancing effect maca had on sex hormone levels. They found that rats given maca had decreased levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress-inducing hormones. They conclude that maca is useful in correcting physiological symptoms of menopause in women.
Favors Mental Health
In a 2006 study published in "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine," researchers looked at the effects of yellow, red and black maca on depression and cognitive function in rats. They gave rats various tests that indicated cognitive activities and found that all types of maca reduced depression, while black maca in particular improved learning and cognitive function. Though more research is required to determine pharmacological applications, research suggests that maca may have benefits for your brain and mental health.
Lowers Blood Pressure
In populations where maca is traditionally consumed, people tend to have lower blood pressure than those in populations where maca is not used. It's rich in potassium, which prevents high blood pressure. A 2010 study published in "Bioresource Technology" found that maca has the ability to lower blood pressure, since its phenolic compounds inhibited the enzyme relevant to hypertension during cultured experiments. This suggests maca may possibly be useful in the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca), a Plant From the Peruvian Highlands
- International Journal of Biomedical Science: Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca Using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology: A Pilot Investigation Into the Effect of Maca Supplementation on Physical Activity and Sexual Desire in Sportsmen
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Effect of Three Different Cultivars of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) on Learning and Depression in Ovariectomized Mice
- Bioresource Technology: Phenolic Compounds, Antioxidant Activity and In Vitro Inhibitory Potential Against Key Enzymes Relevant for Hyperglycemia and Hypertension of Commonly Used Medicinal Plants, Herbs and Spices in Latin America
Karen McCarthy is a health enthusiast with expertise in nutrition, yoga and meditation. She currently studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has been writing about nutrition since 2012. She is most passionate about veganism and vegetarianism and loves to promote the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.