When coffee and tea or other caffeinated drinks make you jittery, give you headaches, or affect your ability to sleep, it may be time to consider Maca Root as an alternative.
Maca is a coveted plant in the high Andes mountains in Peru. Its tuberous root has been used for centuries to help improve the health, strength, fertility, and endurance of Peruvian natives living 13,000 feet or more above sea level.* Since the 1990s, its popularity has grown exponentially as the rest of the world discovers its benefits.
If Maca can energize a population living in extreme altitudes, can it put a little extra spring in your step? This article looks at the differences between coffee and Maca, the nutrients in Maca, how it promotes good vitality and health without caffeine, and how you can enjoy it in your everyday life.
Maca Versus Coffee
It’s common knowledge that coffee keeps you pumped because it contains caffeine, a stimulant that boosts your energy short term. Caffeine works by disrupting adenosine, a compound that naturally builds up in your brain throughout the day, leading to feelings of fatigue by evening. When caffeine attaches to those same receptors in the brain, it prevents adenosine from having any effect. That disruption causes increased alertness for several hours, if not longer. While coffee is not associated with health risks, consuming too much of it can raise your heart rate, make you irritable and anxious, and cause insomnia.
Maca contains no caffeine. It is a nutrient-rich plant that is an adaptogen — a plant that gives you more energy and stamina by helping your body adapt to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.*REF#929 Since Maca helps your body adapt to stressors over time, the energy boost you get from it is constant and sustainable, so you don’t get the crashes, jitters, or anxiety related to caffeine and artificial stimulants.*
How Adaptogens Work
Studies indicate that rather than disrupting mental function, adaptogens resist the stress response in the body and keep the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands in a stable balance.* When consumed over time, an adaptogen’s ability to protect the central nervous system against injury results in an increase in attention and endurance and a decrease in stress and fatigue.*REF#930
Maca is a Nutrient-Rich Food, Not a Stimulant
As a tuberous root, Maca is food, not an herb. When dried and consumed in powder form, it provides many of the nutrients your body needs to function. It contains 10 to 14 percent protein and 8.5 percent fiber. It packs 19 essential acids and the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, and D.
Maca also offers many minerals you need for good health, including iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, and zinc. It has glucosinolates, which are biologically active compounds that may help regulate inflammation, stress response, and phase I metabolism, and have antioxidant properties.*
Maca also has unique compounds called macamides, which have been shown to inhibit fatigue in studies with mice and help increase libido.*REF#931 REF#932
Give Maca Time to Show Results
When you start taking Maca, you won’t feel immediate results. Just as it takes time to notice a flatter stomach or more toned arms when you improve your diet or start a new exercise routine, it may take up to a month (or more) of consistent use before you’ll begin to benefit from Maca’s adaptogenic properties. Every person reacts differently, and your results and the amount of time it takes to experience them depend on your current health, stress level, diet, and lifestyle.
After several months of noticing improvement in your energy levels, focus, and vitality, we recommend you stop using Maca for a short time so you can experience the difference without it. With your body back in balance, you may not need to continue taking Maca (or any stimulant or adaptogen) for some time, especially if you have been working on improving your wellness through a healthy diet and good sleep hygiene.
Start Your Day with Maca
Maca has a relatively sweet, creamy taste, with hints of butterscotch and nuts that is pleasing on its own while complementing different foods. Some people do report a little bitterness.
Traditionally, the Maca tuber is dried and ground into a powder, which dissolves easily in drinks and food. To make it a part of your daily routine, you can take it as a supplement or mix the powder into any part of your daily breakfast, including your:
- Hot chocolate or other warm beverage
- Homemade energy or granola bars
- Oatmeal or other hot grain cereal
- Chia pudding
Since Maca doesn’t have a short-term stimulant effect, you can take it any time during the day, mixing it into soup, afternoon tea, or even your salad dressing. The key is to create a routine so you don’t forget to take it daily.
How to Purchase Maca Root
Maca is native to Peru and was not commercialized until 2000, when China began to cultivate it for the world market. In an effort to protect its native product, Peru banned the export of whole roots or seeds of Maca in 2002.
While China now has a larger market in Maca than Peru, Peruvian-grown Maca is considered far superior, retaining all of its nutrients and phytochemicals. None of the Peruvian Maca has been genetically modified and all of it meets all global quality standards.
The Chinese product, in contrast, may be grown with pesticides in soils with high levels of heavy metals. Some of it has been genetically modified. Based on research, it lacks the same properties as Peruvian Maca.
To ensure you are getting 100 percent Maca without fillers, we recommend buying Peruvian Maca that is third-party certified. When buying Maca, look for the country of origin on the label. Also look for the date it was packaged, since Maca has a three-year shelf life. It should be in a darkened, air-tight container to retain its potency.
Gaia Herbs offers Maca Powder in its natural flavor as well as a Maca Boost Cacao Ginger, which makes a great morning drink when added to a cup of warm milk. The recommended dosage is one teaspoon daily.
Maca is generally sold as a powder, pulverized from dried Maca Root. You can also purchase gelatinized Maca powder, made from dried roots that have been boiled and pressurized to make it more digestible.
- 1. Gustavo F. Gonzales, "Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands", Hindawi, October 2, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/?tool=pubmed#B3 1 1. Gustavo F. Gonzales, "Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands", Hindawi, October 2, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/?tool=pubmed#B3
- 2. Panossian A, Wikman G., "Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity", Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan 19;3(1):188-224. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188. PMID: 27713248; PMCID: PMC3991026.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/ 2 2. Panossian A, Wikman G., "Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity", Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan 19;3(1):188-224. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188. PMID: 27713248; PMCID: PMC3991026.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/
- 3. Hongkang Zhu et al, "The macamide relieves fatigue by acting as inhibitor of inflammatory response in exercising mice: From central to peripheral", European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 917, 15 February 2022, 174758. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001429992200019X 3 3. Hongkang Zhu et al, "The macamide relieves fatigue by acting as inhibitor of inflammatory response in exercising mice: From central to peripheral", European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 917, 15 February 2022, 174758. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001429992200019X
- 4. Qin Yang, "Effects of macamides on endurance capacity and anti-fatigue property in prolonged swimming mice", PubMed, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26453017/ 4 4. Qin Yang, "Effects of macamides on endurance capacity and anti-fatigue property in prolonged swimming mice", PubMed, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26453017/