Herb Profile: Maca

Uses and Benefits of Maca Herb Profile: Maca

What is Maca?

Maca is actually a tuber that is also called “Peruvian Ginseng.” According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Natives of this area ate it raw, cooked or boiled leading to its implementation as an everyday staple. The rough terrain of this region made it difficult to cultivate food so most of the communities diet was dependent upon wild gathered material. Maca resembles a radish and is actually a close relative. The growing conditions are very specific and it will only thrive in the glaciated slopes of the Andes with a prime elevation of 12,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level.”

Benefits of Maca

Maca has gained a reputation for helping balance hormones and reverse hypothyroidism. It is an endocrine adaptogen, meaning that it does not contain any hormones, but rather it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production.

Maca has also been used as a way to increase fertility (and I can vouch for this personally!). It is naturally “high in minerals (calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc), sterols (6 found), up to 20 essential fatty acids, lipids, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids.”

Maca is often recommended to those with adrenal fatigue as it nourishes them and reduces stress hormones. It’s especially known for its benefit in balancing hormones. According to this article:

Maca root helps balance our hormones and due to an over abundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.

Maca root has been shown to be beneficial for all sorts of hormonal problems including PMS, menopause, and hot flashes. Maca’s also a fertility enhancer and is best known for improving libido and sexual function, especially in men. For this reason, it’s earned the nickname “nature’s Viagra.””

I have personally seen many cases of couples adding Maca to their daily regimen and conceiving easily, even after struggling with infertility. (Note: It should not be consumed during pregnancy!)

Here is more information about the ways Maca is used to promote fertility and this post talks about its role in balancing hormones.

How to Take Maca

As Maca is a root vegetable in the Radish family, it can safely be taken in small amounts daily. It is available in powder form (least expensive option) or in capsules.

The powder can be mixed in to smoothies or coffee, or capsules can be easily consumed.

Have you ever taken Maca? Did you notice a difference? Share below!

Reader Comments

  1. says

    I haven’t used Maca yet but I purchased the Nutribullet last week and they recommend using it in their smoothies. I had no idea it boosted fertility though which is always good to know. Thanks for this post!

  2. Sarah Jane says

    Hi — I am addicted to your website! I have really enjoyed a lot of your recipes and suggestions for optimum health. I am desperately trying to balance my hormones as I have been having issues for almost 10 years. I have already implemented the most of the suggestions you outline in your hormone balancing article, but I have never tried maca for hormone balance; is it safe to use while breastfeeding? Have you used it while breastfeeding? I welcome any further info you can give me on maca and/or hormone balancing!

  3. says

    I would love to know how to better mask the taste of Maca. It’s really strong in tea/coffee and I don’t regularly consume smoothies. (I also have a bunch of the powder, so would like to use it before giving up and moving on to capsules!)

      • says

        Why shouldn’t maca be consumed during pregnancy? I keep finding very contradictory information on the internet and blogs (scientists saying NO and lots of women swearing that’s the reason they carried full term, etc).

        • says

          I’ve seen research on both sides too… in general, most of the sources I have say it is safer not to take during pregnancy, but I’d personally consider it if I needed to… Like everything, I’d definitely suggest doing your own research on it and weighing the risks and benefits for you personally…

  4. TashaOrlovsky says

    I think it’s important to warn people who do NOT have thyroid issues that this could be bad for them. I took Maca Root, hoping it would help with low libido, and it made my joints ache BADLY. That only happens to me when I eat too much PUFAs! I have had better luck balancing my hormones after getting a blood test (confirming low progesterone) and supplementing Vitex aka. chasteberry extract.

      • TashaOrlovsky says

        I don’t know of any online resources that discuss it. My (holistic) doctor recommended it to me.

        I feel like it’s worth noting that arthritis runs in the family so I may be more inclined to inflammation. I don’t know why Maca caused that for me, though.

        • Gabby says

          From what i have read it sounds like maca has a high starch content which is probably why it affects your arthritis. I have quite a few friends who are affected by autoimmune arthritis or autoimmune skin complaints that are linked to starch in their diet. Watch out for veges/fruit that wouldn’t normally contain starches that have been cold store ripened cause they often still have starch.

        • says

          I take vitex daily in my water. It has helped tremendously with regulating me, helping with PMS and also ovulating regularly. I have it on subscribe from Amazon so I always have it available. Accupuncture, Vitex and Raspberry Leaf Tea has helped me in regulating my periods/ovulating etc. due to PCOS without the use of prescription drugs. I just started on Red Maca which is the one recommended for women, and I too am having a hard time with the taste, the first day I used it just in water and it tasted to me like tobacco, so I had to hold my nose to drink it, today I mixed it with some fruits in a smoothie but I could still taste it, its a strong taste, I am going to have to play around with different combos until I find the right one to mask the flavor.

  5. says

    I love Maca! I’ve been using it for a couple of months now to balance my hormones and I read somewhere that it shouldn’t be taken raw because it has ill-effects for some and it’s a very strong herb so it’s better to ease into it. The traditional way to consume it is by cooking it in breads,etc. I personally toast it in my toaster oven and sprinkle it in my tea/mix it together.

  6. Ryanne Dunlap says

    I’ve heard good things about maca from other sources…how much would you recommend taking? I was thinking of getting some capsules for myself and my husband since we are TTC and seem to be having some trouble.

  7. says

    I currently take meds for my thyroid and my hormones as I have a hypo thyroid and have had a hysterectomy, would this help for me to get off these meds and has anyone grown this at home?

    • lori says

      i am a thyroid cancer survivor. i’ve used this in conjunction w/ my (name-brand) thyroid replacement medication. the only way to know is to: a) discuss with your physician. b) get blood tested (TSH etc) before taking – then again in 12+ weeks and see if it helps. i would like to say that for me, this hasnt helped me with respect to taking my meds/dosage etc., i feel it assists me in feeling well, and i’ve noticed my hair and skin aren’t as dry this winter. i use the tincture, and lately only when i remember! – a few x per week

  8. Audra says

    Could this be used for Post Partum Depression? I had it with my son & now I’m pregnant with my 2nd baby & wondered if this could be helpful in that situation.

  9. Rose says

    I’m wondering, since maca is related to radish, are some of the benefits of maca also present in radish? In other words, can we eat radish instead of searching out maca? On a side note, I’ve also heard that beets are very good for you, and beets seem similar to radish.

  10. lori says

    there is also a tincture you can purchase. i bought a bottle at my local health food store and use 10-15 drops in water a few times a week.

  11. Helen Hall says

    A co-worker recommended it to my partner at the same time I found it from reading online. The co-worker said he was about divorce his wife of twenty plus years because of her mood swings (menopause) and he heard about it, ordered it online and they both take it and he said it revolutionized his marriage (in the bedroom too I suppose). We both started taking it and it has helped tremendously. My thyroid yo-yo life has caused my heart to beat at resting rate at 122 bpm’s. Since Maca and quitting teaching and learning about wonderful Wellnsss Mama advice on healthier living, it has all caused my heart rate to drop to 80 bpm’s at resting. We order it from Peruvian Naturals once a month from Amazon and it’s economical. The first brand I ordered seemed weak by comparison. Overall, it has given both of us mental clarity and more energy. I don’t know about the libido yet (sheesh!). I do have six children, so fertility is not an issue for me.

  12. Kate Toholka says

    I started using Maca and my skin broke out like crazy – to the point my face actually hurt! Anyone else get that response? I cut it out and my skin settled again (ps I’ve always had acne-prone skin) but I still get acne along the ‘hormonal areas’, i.e. chin and neck. Has anyone experienced any good or bad responses to maca in relation to their skin?

  13. says

    I do take it in capsule form but haven’t been taking it long enough to notice any changes…I noticed Jody below mentioned buying it in a different form. May I ask where it can be purchased that way? Thanks for a great site!

  14. susana arellano says

    im new at this but if my progesterone levels are ok, will taking MACA at all help me be able to conceive?

    • says

      It does for some people. I’ve also seen people have great success with a natural progesterone cream used in the second half of the cycle and during early pregnancy…

  15. says

    I bought some powdered maca after reading this post but when I first tried to drink it (mixed into a herbal tea) the smell and taste absolutely repulsed me. I tried to just gulp it down but couldn’t. The directions say for one scoop daily and I wondered if I could just consume much smaller portions throughout the day to accumulate that one scoop. Does it matter if I don’t take it all at once? Is that a stupid question?

  16. Panda Lovesu says

    Would Maca be okay to take you have a hormone problem like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)?

    • Kate says

      I was wondering the same thing. I have PCOS and have been ttc for 2 years! Also why not take vitex and maca at the same time? I just want to be a mommy…

      • says

        They are similar enough that there is no need to take them both. Maca is ok with PCOS but personally I’d also use natural progesterone cream to help even out the estrogen dominance..

  17. Gabi says

    I love maca! I heat up a cup of milk, add a bit of honey, some vanilla extract and a tablespoon of maca powder and whisk very well. Makes a very tasty evening drink!

  18. Cody says

    Ive been using it and noticed a huge difference after only the first day in my skin. My skin looks a hundred times better after taking it once in the morning then before bed. When I wake up my skin is almost entirely oil free and blemishes are eliminated entirely. It really is amazing. Also I just sprinkle it in my oatmeal with ceylon cinnamon(true cinnamon), and stevia.

  19. True Happiness Is Love says

    Would this benefit hormonal imbalance such as for high progesterone? my hormonal imbalance is causing my acne. I am working on my healthier eating habits and i exercise regularly and i was wondering would Maca help with acne by stabilizing my hormones?

    • Steph says

      I have found a big improvement in my acne since using Maca powder and I have been suffering for 10 years now. Also wheatgrass and lemon juice every morning helps too! I use the powder but you can juice fresh wheatgrass too.

  20. Aubrey says

    I am wondering about dosage. I plan on taking maca to help balance my hormones and help my endometriosis. How much should I be taking each day?

  21. Elizabeth says

    Katie,
    While looking to purchase maca, I came across this review posted on Amazon. I think that it carries some important information that users should be aware. It’s rather lengthy. I had seen a similar warning about maca on Amazon from another reviewer. It was posted at Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Maca Powder, 16-Ounce Pouches

    “Maca powder = maca flour. I have cooked with maca flour ten years, as a baking and cooking ingredient/flavoring. In Peru, maca flour, or “harina de maca” is a relatively cheap regional culinary flour. Raw Reform is a great specimen of this culinary flour; ideal for cooking, an excellent nutty flavor, it’s bitterness subsiding with heat. A decade ago I could buy ‘harina de maca’ for $8/kg (and in Peru, it’s a mere $2-4/kg) – now I see this same inexpensive Peruvian cooking flour sold as a “raw superfood” at an inflated price. It’s very odd to have witnessed this metamorphosis.

    The reason I gave this ONE star is simple – this company (among several others) suggests that you to eat this flour raw. Like other cruciferous roots, maca can be particularly difficult to digest when raw. Not only is it fiber-dense, it contains lots of goitrogenic compounds (a term which means ‘thyroid-interfering,’ not “goiter causing”) – that’s why the raw root and it’s flour is so bitter – it’s no wonder people have digestive issues and occasional hormonal (thyroid) complaints with raw maca. The one time I ate it raw, I experienced the stomachache too. Maca is dense in fiber and thyroid inhibiting/goitrogenic compounds (glucosinolates and isothyocyanates), both of which are lessened greatly or deactivated by heat. Among the people who grow it, maca is not considered healthy unless cooked. It is therefore a great paradox that the “raw food” crowd has gotten hold of this vegetable that has always been, and by all accounts always should be cooked. This supplement is being backed by people whose basic food philosophy avoids the plant’s very identity in human use. It would be like eating turnip flour, raw (except maca can even more bitter than this, in fact most of the lepidiums are). Back into antiquity, maca has had to be cooked in order to be gentle on digestion, on metabolism, and it has been cooked traditionally for this purpose.

    I have used the raw maca flour in cooking since 2002 where I first read about it in Chris Kilham’s book “Tales from the Medicine Trail” and began following an interest in this ancient food. I do use raw maca flour for cooking, baking, in pancakes, confections, etc. Where you can get it inexpensively, it is excellent for such uses. For therapeutic effects and everyday drink mix usage, presently I employ a ‘black gelatinized’ maca – it seems to be the strongest type energetically and for sexual effects, and ‘black root’ is my personal preference. ‘Gelatinized’ means that it’s soluble fibers have been neutralized (broken down), and it’s goitrogens denatured – it is a little more concentrated over the powder / flour. Naturally, it is less bitter than any uncooked flour product. The gelatinized processing was developed specifically to address the digestion/goitrogen issue inherent with the root. That’s the process’ entire purpose – that’s why it even exists. Several different companies employ a starch gelatinization processing method for maca.

    The trend in “health food” circles says to eat maca raw, in order to glean the mood, stamina, and sexual benefits which Andean people have known for thousands of years. These merchants never mention how the plant has always been prepared – cooked – perhaps the most crucial aspect of it’s identity. Why argue from antiquity about all the health benefits, while ignoring the food’s ethnobotany? It’s a mix of mistaken understanding, and because there’s profit in re-selling a highly marked up culinary flour. I see $20.00 – $25.00 a pound slapped on maca flour in health food stores — on a product which can be found $2-4 a kilogram in Peru ($1.36 – $1.81/lb!). This is precisely why some regional foods / surpluses suddenly become “superfoods.” In maca’s case there is a genuine positive effect being felt… so, like the mood boost one feels with coffee, maca is an easy sell.

    Pay a price of $20/lb only for the gelatinized product, which has actually been processed for immediate consumption. Do not pay this for a re-packed culinary flour.

    • Kim says

      Elizabeth,
      Thank you so much for your very informative review on Maca and the different forms. I had been researching for the last few days on the different types and also if red or black was better. As always, I am lead right back to Wellness Mama’s sight for good and useful information. Just as I found her site to heal my teeth, I now find the info I need for Maca. You peeps are awesome!

  22. gabby says

    Hi, i just bought maca powder and Raspberry leaf tea, but a have a question, can i take both at the same time?? , or should i take just one? Thank you

  23. Alison says

    Great post. And I loved reading the comments. I have had a couple of misscarriages and came across Maca on another site a follow, which led me to a Google search and your site. :) Can you speak to more about it helping your fertility? Or maybe direct me to folks that have discussed it helping them carry to term?

    Also, the site I originally read about maca on says that it is good for breastfeeding and that it in facts helps with lactation (I saw the comment above asking about this).

  24. Emili says

    Not sure if this has been addressed or not, but I use maca powder in my oatmeal every morning. My 2 1/2 yr old son LOVES to eat my breakfast and always ends up eating more than a few bites of it. Is this something to be concerned about with the maca in there? I use about a tsp of powder in 1/2 a cup of oatmeal with cocoa oil and almond butter and other yummy stuff…

  25. Julie-Anne says

    I bumped into maca root powder accidentally & decided to try it – as a food source. Tried it with all the healthy goodies I add to my salads. Is best in the creamy ones as it tends to soak up all the liquid. I like it added to my boiled mashed breakfast egg along with avocado & mild curry powder – ok I admit I have strange taste buds! Maca root powder reminds me a bit of corn starch with a light sweet flavour. I especially like to add it to my homemade chocolate treats – it helps prevent the coconut oil from separating from the cocoa & other goodies as I’m making it.

  26. Lori says

    I’m so confused. Is it safe to drink raw maca powder? Do we need the one that has been heated? If I have the raw maca powder should I be cooking it??

  27. Cindy says

    I have been using raw maca powder for the past 6 weeks or so- usually in my morning yogurt or oatmeal-only a teaspoon or so. About 2 weeks ago, I started with (what I thought was) a stomach virus–pain in stomach, nauseous and frequent trips to the bathroom. It has been non-stop ever since and I am now being tested for various ailments, including celiac and crohns. In reading these posts, I am wondering if it could be a side effect of taking maca? My husband has been using it also–with no problems. Has anyone else experienced this issue while taking maca?

  28. Nicole says

    I recently purchased Navitas Naturals gelatinised Maca and have been struggling with how to take it. Based on a couple of Amazon reviews I have found that mixing a tsp with a tsp raw cocoa in about 1/2 cup milk – with a few drops stevia or maple syrup – makes quite a nice chocolatey, malty drink with no overt ‘maca’ taste. Just thought I’d comment in case this helps someone with their Maca consumption – I have found lots of useful tips on this site.

  29. Taryn says

    Hi, Mama!
    Just an FYI, you copied much of your info from a Natural News article, which is fine. But, you must state your sources. Otherwise, you could get in trouble for plagiarism. From one Mama to another.
    Nice site :)

  30. kelly says

    Cindy , YES !!! i was taking raw maca in capsule form and after 3 weeks or so i was getting curl up in fetal position all night waves of stomach cramps. i didnt connect it to the maca at first- i thought i had a stomach bug. it was another 2 weeks maybe before i made the connection. i read amazon reviews from other people whod had the same stomach cramping from RAW maca. i stopped it and the cramping stopped. i just bought gelatinized maca ….. hoping its gentler.

  31. Jessica says

    So, just to clarify everyone’s confusion – if we purchased Raw Maca Powder – the reap the benefits fully, it should be cooked/baked/ toasted prior to ingestion. Otherwise, purchasing a processed gelatinized form of Maca, ready for ingestion, is recommended for the same benefits?

  32. Rainydaydream says

    Hi Katie! Quick question. I bought maca a few days ago and tried my first dose before realizing that it says on the bottle “Warning: This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.” I’m taking it right now to help my hormonal acne (too much progesterone, I think). Any recommendations about this? I looked it up and it seems they’re referring to the maca being grown in an area where there’s lead in the soil. Does every maca product have this warning/ issue attached to it? I’m kind of nervous now, because I know California is more dedicated to reporting these findings, so perhaps products made in other states are simply under-reporting this info. What do you think about taking it? Did you take it to conceive and have a positive pregnancy/healthy baby? Love your website, btw! Thanks, Katie.

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