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There's a high chance you've heard of (or even tried) a handful of adaptogenic herbs, which are plant extracts that help the body cope with external stress. Examples include ashwagandha, reishi mushroom, and holy basil. Adaptogenic herbs are frequently taken as a powder, tincture, or capsule, and some well-known food and beverage companies even incorporate them into their finished goods.

Maca root is a new adaptogenic herb that is gaining popularity. Some people use maca, like other adaptogenic herbs, to help them manage their stress. But, maca root also stands out due to its unique characteristics. Knowing exactly what the research says and the best ways to utilize the plant will help you decide whether maca can actually help you.


What Is Maca?

Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable, similar to turnips and radishes, but "it's unlikely that you'll find it in the produce section of your local supermarket" says Pooja Amy Shah, M.D., a New York-based integrative and functional medicine doctor and assistant professor at Columbia University. Although it is frequently referred to as Peruvian ginseng, the plant is entirely unrelated to Asian or American ginseng. She says that maca root is often grown in Peru and comes in a range of hues, including red, black, yellow, and brown.

According to integrative medicine specialist Karen Koffler, M.D., of Coral Gables, Florida, "it looks like a huge radish and is a robust plant that can flourish in harsh, extreme environments." "You must value a plant that can resist challenging circumstances—it shows how it will benefit us when consumed."

Dr. Koffler notes that maca is traditionally consumed in meals and as a tea in Peru. Yet it's more likely to be available as a powder, pill, or tincture here in the United States. Your body can gain advantages from maca use in a variety of ways.

7 Science-Backed Benefits of Maca Root

1. Helps the Body Manage Stress

According to Dr. Shah, maca as an adaptogenic herb can assist the body in coping with external stress. Although having a long history of usage in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, adaptogens are currently enjoying a revival in the West.

Dr. Shah claims that adaptogens, including maca, may increase the body's stress defense mechanism by regulating the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. The central nervous system and hormone systems' reactions to stress are controlled by the HPA axis. Cortisol levels rise while we are under stress. Research on rats indicate that taking maca can help prevent an increase in cortisol levels.

2. Helps With Depression

A 2014 mouse study discovered a connection between six weeks of maca use and elevated dopamine levels, which reduced depressive symptoms. Licensed naturopathic physician Cassie Wilder, N.D., says this association is most likely caused by maca's adaptogenic properties. "People's moods improve when they are more resilient to stress and are better equipped to handle daily stressors," the author claims. Hence, if you frequently feel "on edge," routinely ingesting maca may be able to help. However, more studies on humans are required to validate the link between maca and mood.

3. Leads to Increased Energy

For a caffeine-free energy boost, maca is frequently consumed. While scientific research hasn't been able to pinpoint exactly how maca increases bodily energy, it does appear to have effects on some individuals.

A short study of 175 subjects suggests a link between maca and energy. In the study, participants who took 3 grams of maca daily for 12 weeks reported feeling more energized than those who didn't. Because of this reaction, it is advisable to take maca earlier in the day if you are sensitive to herbs. EVery person's reaction is different since there are numerous things that are tied to how energized we feel.

4. Helps With Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause

Dr. Wilder advises women going through menopause or perimenopause to take maca. The body is supported by maca throughout this time of life without modifying estrogen levels.

Studies indicate menopausal women who took maca had less hot flashes and night sweats than they did when they didn't ingest it.

5. Benefits The Bones

Participants' bone density increased after taking maca, according to the same study that linked maca with fewer menopause symptoms. Another investigation, conducted on rats, discovered a link between maca and strong bones. That is most likely because maca contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, a substance crucial for bone health, according to the study's authors.

Dr. Wilder says that this property of maca is especially notable because women lose bone density as they age. "Maca helps build bones tougher," she adds. This is not to argue that calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health, can be substituted with maca, but there is still a relationship.

6. Can Boost Libido

According to all four specialists, one of maca's most well-known effects is increasing libido, a relationship that has been proven by several studies. According to Dr. Wilder, "maca has been believed to have aphrodisiac properties and, again, this is without affecting hormone levels." She adds that this reaction may be due to maca's association with reducing stress, promoting mood, and providing a subtly energizing boost.

7. May Help With Male Fertility

Men can benefit from maca in the following ways: According to Dr. Koffler, eating maca is related to having more sperm produced. Males constantly produce new sperm, thus this is especially significant in terms of fertility. The fact that male infertility issues are just as common as female infertility issues contributes to the importance of this topic.

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