What is maca and what are its benefits?

Maca ( Lepidium meyenii) or also known as Peruvian ginseng (although it has nothing to do with ginseng) is a plant that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which grows in the central Andes of Peru, above 4,000 meters of altitude. They have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years and up to thirteen varieties have been described, the most studied being the black and the red .

Its shape is small and flattened, its tuberculous root (it is the edible part) looks like a radish and its color is yellow, purple or yellow with purple bands.

Maca is credited with endless beneficial properties for health, which has earned it the nickname of “superfood”, but let’s know what the scientific evidence indicates.

Nutritional composition

It is important to highlight that there are notable differences in terms of its nutritional content depending on the author of the analysis and the variety itself, as well as depending on the particularities of the cultivation soil.

Maca is very energetic, since its main component is carbohydrates . Its content in potassium, calcium, sodium and iron stands out. And, among the vitamins , those of group B and vitamin C stand out . Its contribution of essential fatty acids, alkaloids and sterols give it magnificent properties, including antioxidants and cardioprotective .

100g of Maca ( variety Lepidium Meyenii )
Energy 292 Kcal
total protein 3,7 g
total fat 0,9 g
carbohydrates 72 g
Fiber 2,58 g
Soccer 300 mg
Sodium 35 mg
Hierro 90 mg
Potassium 500 mg

Featured Nutrients


This vegetable-specific mineral stands out especially in bananas . It is essential for the transmission and generation of the nerve impulse , it participates in muscle contraction , as well as in water balance , both inside and outside the cell. One of the consequences of electrolyte loss due to dehydration can be cramps, so a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts will help you get enough to prevent cramps.


Its intake helps prevent decalcification and osteoporosis . Calcium is responsible for many structural functions of the body’s hard and soft tissues, as well as the regulation of neuromuscular transmission of chemical and electrical stimuli, cell secretion, and blood coagulation.


Iron is a necessary mineral for the growth and development of the organism, it participates in the elaboration of hormones and connective tissue , as well as in the manufacture of hemoglobin, among the most outstanding functions.

B vitamins

Maca contains significant amounts of complex B , such as B 1 and B 2 , which benefit the nervous and immune systems.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals that are produced in the body for different reasons, harmful to the body. In addition, it is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues, forming proteins that make up the skin, tendons, ligaments… It helps in wound healing and participates in the absorption of iron.

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital nutritional components, since they are necessary to carry out numerous functions, such as reducing the accumulation of lipids in the arteries (lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL) and promoting the synthesis of hemoglobin . They are also components of cell membranes and have a vasodilator action that helps lower blood pressure. They also have an anti-inflammatory and protective action on different types of cancer, especially breast cancer. As their name suggests, they are essential nutrients, because our body cannot synthesize them, so it is important to ingest them with our diet.

Health benefits

  • Maca as an antioxidant: there are several studies that show that maca has antioxidant power, it helps to neutralize free radicals (which cause, among other things, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes) present in the blood. (Zhaa et al., 2014; Yao et al., 2012).
  • Maca and fertility: one of the greatest attributions made to maca is that it improves fertility. Studies have shown that this food contains compounds with functions similar to those of testosterone on biological activities (Eddouks et al., 2005; Gonzales et al., 2002). In 2001, the first report was obtained that showed the benefit of maca to improve spermatogenesis in male rats. Other later studies indicated similar results, but despite the fact that there are data that relate sexual desire, fertility and spermatogenesis with the consumption of maca , there is not enough scientific evidence.
  • Maca and sexual desire: In recent years, several researchers have been interested in the benefits of foods for the treatment of erectile dysfunction , which is the inability to maintain an erection firm enough to achieve satisfactory sexual intercourse. A study (Gonzales et al., 2002) was done in 56 healthy men (21-56 years of age) in which they subjectively self-assessed for 12 weeks with a maca treatment; subsequently, the result showed an increase in sexual desire up to 42.2%, which was significantly different from the experiment applied with placebo. This was confirmed by another study (Kamohara et al. 2014) as they reached the same result when experimenting with 14 men.
  • Maca and menopause: Maca has been used since ancient times to counteract anemia, infertility problems and hormonal imbalance in the female body (Hudson, 2008; Lee et al., 2011). But so far its benefits during menopause have not been concluded since previous studies with positive results are not reliable as the type of maca that has been used is not known, nor the dose that would be needed to confirm that maca helps counteract the symptoms of menopause (Lee et al., 2011).
  • Maca as an energizer:  for two weeks, a study was carried out on 8 experienced and trained male cyclists, who were given a supplement of 2,000 mg/day of maca extract. The aim was to investigate the effect of this supplement on endurance performance and sexual desire, which was demonstrated (Spector et al., 1996; Stone et al., 2009).

 How to consume it

It is always better to consume the food in its natural form. Due to its high fiber content, it is recommended to boil it in order to digest it . It can be used as an ingredient to add to soups, broths and stews, although it is also possible to take maca extract capsules.

How much maca can be taken per day?

If it is the food in its natural form there is no known contraindication, in the case of taking it in extract form (capsules or powders) the recommended dose is 1.5 to 3.5 grams orally between 6 and 16 weeks , in the main meals. It is important not to exceed the amount indicated by the provider to avoid adverse effects.

Contraindications and adverse effects

Among the contraindications of taking maca is the possibility that some of its ingredients affect people with problems of:

  • Thyroid: the goitrogens contained in maca can cause abnormal functioning of the thyroid gland, making it dangerous for people with problems.
  • Hypertension:  its sodium content can cause an increase in blood pressure, so it is not recommended for hypertensive people.

As adverse effects it can cause digestive problems: gas, diarrhea or inflammation of the abdomen.


In recent years, various investigations have been carried out focused mainly on the benefits of maca against some hormonal disorders, although it is true that the research reviewed ensures that maca is a good antioxidant, an excellent energizer and that it improves sexual desire. , there is not enough scientific evidence to show that it improves fertility and menopausal symptoms.

It is important to remember that a single food does not provide good health, but a healthy diet is necessary, rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, healthy fats… in addition to leading an active lifestyle to stay healthy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts