Maca is a Gift from a Lost Civilization
Maca (Lepidium meyenni), also called Peruvian Ginseng, has been a popular herbal supplement in the West for years now. It has reached such a wide audience that many people now recognize its name.
This can be illustrated by the fact that the second most looked for item in our search bar on this site has been for Maca. That fact alone is why we started looking for a prime source of the stuff to put on offer.
What is Maca?
Maca has been used for thousands of years by the peoples of the Andes as a staple food. Its ability to grow at elevations between 4,000 m (13,123 ft) and 4,500 m (14,764 ft) are what makes this plant so special. It thrives there because the extreme environment (freezing temperatures, hard sunlight, constant high winds) favors those plants that reside mostly underground, hence maca and papas (commonly known as potatoes).
It was ‘found’ by the Spaniards probably sometime before 1553 when the first account of it was recorded. A hundred years later, a priest referred to, “the use of the root for fertility and as a stimulant.”*
The maca found in supplements is the root of the plant. It looks similar to a potato and comes in just as many colors. There is generally considered three colors that have slightly differing effects in people. These are:
- White Maca (sometimes Yellow in color)
- Red Maca (sometimes more Pink in color)
- Black Maca (sometimes Purple in color)
Maca is actually part of the mustard family. This is where it probably gets the name of Pepper Grass and Pepper Weed. It is not related to the potato as many would assume but more closely related to things like turnups (obvious) and cabbage (not so obvious).
Maca has been researched quite extensively and much of the effects it is claimed to possess have been validated. Much is, however, still a mystery.
The two main things Maca is known for in the West is for its ability to promote healthy sexual function and as a nutritional powerhouse.* We shall review both of these in turn.
Maca Supports Healthy Sexual Function*
Perhaps the greatest mystery is how exactly it assists the body in promoting healthy sexual function.* Multiple studies have shown that it is not through the normal pathways like increasing testosterone or estrogen or lowering anxiety or depression levels. [3,4]
One of these studies found, “that compared with placebo Maca had no effect on any of the hormones studied nor did the hormones show any changes over time,” yet it promoted healthy sexual function and desire in the group it was administered too. *
Thoughts are that maybe it is the macamides, which are a lipid compound in maca. A lipid extract of Maca has been found to produce these effects.*
Traditionally, maca has been used as a food source. Being one of the few plants that grows so high in elevation while also being so nourishing for the body, it makes sense that this was eaten in multiple dishes and ways throughout the day.
It contains an abnormally high nutrient profile for being a edible tuber. These three data sets are from the 1960’s but are still valid.
Unlike carrots, turnips and potatoes which have a low-density of nutrients, dried maca is more akin to seeds and cereals such as maize and rice.
It contains more amino acids then carrots and potatoes and is higher in healthy fats then most roots.
The minerals are high for a root.  Click here to see our full mineral test of the Maca we carry.
Maca’s Other Benefits
Chinese Medicine views this as a warm food. It’s applications are nourishing, building and have a tonifying effect on the body.*
Maca has also been traditionally used and found to be helpful in the following areas:
- Increase endurance/stamina*
- Helps the body build muscle*
- Adaptogenic Effects [7,8,9]*
- Promotes healthy bone density *
- Memory stabilization and neuroprotective effects [11,12]*
Recently, maca has been enjoying a resurgence of one of its traditional uses which is that of a stimulant. There are now a few companies that promote it as a coffee substitute.
There is no associated “crash” like may occur with caffeine and it has been shown to help stimulate and modulate the stress-response.[7,8,9]*
If the idea of giving up the ritual of your morning coffee is too much though, throwing some maca into it gives it an excellent flavor and can help mitigate the effects of crashing later in the day by working on the adrenals. This effect is similar to how adding mushrooms like reishi to coffee helps mitigate coffee’s overstimulating aspects.
This is the type of Maca we are currently selling. It is Certified Organic, 100% pure raw root powder.
This type has been found to be the best at increasing energy levels.*
It also is especially good for men’s sexual support.* The variant of Black Maca appears to be the most effective at protecting the genitals of all the maca colors.*
We do not want to ignore the ladies though and are looking into obtaining Red Maca which seems to be better for them as well as for male prostate health in general.
That being said, woman will certainly benefit from consuming black maca, especially in regards to sustaining their energy levels as well as the other effects mentioned above for all the colors.
The Differences Between Gelatinized and Raw?
Gelatinized maca is just lightly roasted. Unfortunately, this process can degrade the amino acids so nutritionally, it is not as good as that of the raw.
However, some people have gastrointestinal difficulties ingesting raw maca because of all the starches. This is where the gelatinized variety comes in handy as it is easier for the digestion to process.
We offer both versions so if you know or learn from trying raw maca that you cannot handle it (and it’s just biology so there is no shame in that), then we recommend trying our high quality gelatinized black maca.
Alternatively, you could also replicate the gelatinization process by spreading the raw powder on a cooking sheet and baking it in the oven for a few minutes. Click here for more details.
Recommended dosage is 10 to 30 grams per day meaning each bag will last you 1 to 3 weeks. This is approximately 1 to 3 Tbsp per day. This stuff is dense.
Studies have found that dosages as small as 1 tsp can have an effect on people so you can certainly experiment with smaller then the minimum dose. Some people appear to be very sensitive with maca and can get the benefits on a lower dose.
We, however, wish for it to be used as it is traditionally used, that of a supplemental food source. And because of its raw form, more is needed then would be the case with an extract. As always, experiment and find what works for you.
As far as can be discerned so far, their is no know contraindications when consuming Maca. More scientific testing is of course needed to make sure this is so.
The only drug interaction we found was in a study done, “…with sexual dysfunction resulting from use of SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors: citalopram, duloxetine, excitalopram, fluoxamine, sertraline, peroxetine, or venlafaxine) to treat depression…The 16 in both dosing groups combined showed an increase in scores for libido (14).”
* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.