education

Why We Love Maca: Top Benefits of this Amazing Adaptogenic Herb

Plants are powerful sources of nutrients. They provide essential nourishment to your body and can support specific functions.* Maca root is one such plant.* 

This superfood has been grown and used in some parts of the world for centuries and is slowly gaining popularity all over.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the origins of Maca root, some of its benefits, and suggest a few ways (and interesting recipes) to make Maca root part of your diet.

What is Maca Root?

As a caffeine-free, plant-based superfood, it's hard not to love Maca. Not only can Maca root contribute to overall well-being, but it is also believed to balance hormone levels, maintain energy, and support a healthy libido.*

This versatile adaptogenic herb helps the body adapt and deal with different stressors so you can live a well-balanced life.* And it's safe and easy to add to your everyday routine.

illustration showing where maca root comes from

Maca, Lepidium meyenii, is an indigenous Andean vegetable that has been grown and cultivated as a root crop for at least 2,000 years.

Used both nutritionally and medicinally, Maca grows wild in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, but has primarily been cultivated in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes.

Even though Maca has become quite popular in the last decade — and deservedly so — it has been used as an important food since the days of the Inca warriors in Peru.* Maca looks similar to radishes or turnips and the roots can be various colors such as yellow, purple, or black.

Defining Adaptogenic Herbs

Maca root

We mentioned above that Maca is an adaptogenic herb, but before we move on, we’d like to explain just what that means.

Jennifer Pottruff, DBM, DNM, DO, says that adaptogenic herbs (or adaptogens) are “defined as agents that support the body’s ability to accommodate varying physical and emotional stresses.”1

It could also be said that these are plants with a nonspecific action that “exert a normalizing influence on the body.”2

Adaptogenic herbs have traditionally been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and are still used to support energy levels and the stress response system.*1

In addition to Maca root, there are other popular adaptogenic herbs, and even mushrooms, including:

  • American Ginseng
  • Reishi mushroom
  • Eleuthero
  • Schisandra
  • Holy Basil
  • Ashwagandha

American Ginseng is an herb that has a history of use among Native Americans, while Reishi and Eleuthero are adaptogens used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Finally, Schisandra berries, Holy Basil, and Ashwagandha are other popular adaptogens that many around the world turn to help them deal with stress.*

At Gaia Herbs, we’ve combined a blend of six beneficial adaptogenic herbs in our Everyday Adaptogen™ formula — and left out added fillers, flavors, and sweeteners. Simply add one teaspoon, once a day, to your beverage of choice to maintain peak performance.*

Now let’s get back to Maca root, the adaptogen at hand, and the many benefits it has to offer.

Benefits of Maca Root

Illustration of maca root

Maca Root May Support Energy and Mood*

Maca root has been shown to provide sustained energy throughout the day without the jittery crash of caffeine, which can help you feel more awake so you're able to focus on the things that matter.*

Maca has also been shown to help athletes maintain their energy. In one study, benefits were seen in a 40 kilometer cycling time trial after two weeks of Maca extract supplementation.3

What does Maca root have to do with mood? By maintaining positive energy levels throughout the day, Maca may also help improve mood.*

Maca Root May Support a Healthy Libido*

Couple holding hands

Known as a prized aphrodisiac, Maca root supports men's health and optimizes healthy performance.*

Maca has been shown in clinical studies to support men's reproductive health, including healthy sexual libido and function as well as normal prostate function throughout many ages and stages of life.*

But it’s not just beneficial for men. In fact, an article by Harvard Health Publishing notes:

“At MGH [Massachusetts General Hospital], we have conducted two preliminary studies that suggest Maca root extracts may boost libido, particularly in postmenopausal women.”5

Maca Root May Support Sperm Function

Regarding male reproductive health, Maca root has another potential benefit — in one study, it showed improved sperm function.*

In this study performed on rats, black and yellow Maca were found to increase sperm count and movement. The same results were found in a study with nine human male participants.4

Although this needs to be studied further for conclusive results, this was an exciting early finding for men’s reproductive health.*

Maca Root Has a Long History of Use for Supporting Women's Reproductive Function

Illustration of maca root

As we alluded to earlier, the benefits Maca root provides in the bedroom aren’t reserved only for men.* This herb is also believed to tonify the female reproductive system, support arousal and sexual desire, and may also help with fertility.*

Because of this, we turned to Maca root, along with other herbs, to formulate Gaia Herbs Women’s Libido, which supports a healthy drive to help women maintain their spark.*

These vegan Liquid Phyto-Caps® also contain Horny Goat Weed and Gaia-grown® Oats, which are extracted fresh immediately after harvest to preserve full spectrum compounds for optimal potency.*

If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “full-spectrum,” Jeremy Stewart, Gaia Herbs Chief Scientist and Vice President of Scientific Affairs, describes it this way:

“Our full spectrum processing allows us to guarantee certain levels of constituents while simultaneously capturing all of the other naturally occurring compounds in the plant. Since our beginning over thirty years ago, our philosophy has been to use full spectrum extracts, representing the whole plant as Nature intended, versus other companies that choose to use single, chemically isolated compounds in their products.*”

Maca root provides other benefits for women in every life stage, as well. First, it has been shown to help support hormonal issues, including PMS, menopause, and hot flashes.*

It has also been studied clinically to support a balanced transition through menopause, and it does so without particularly influencing sex hormone levels.* Studies have shown that Maca may also support psychological health and sexual function in postmenopausal women.*

Maca Root May Help Balance Hormone Levels

Many people think only of the reproductive organs when they think of “hormones.” But the truth is that hormones come from endocrine glands all over your body.

Hormones constantly play a part in many processes including metabolism, cognitive function, mood, and regulation of hunger and thirst.6

By nourishing the adrenal glands, Maca Root can help maintain balanced hormone levels.* As an adaptogenic herb, Maca supports normal hormone production and supports the body's natural liver detoxification.*

Maca Root is a Superfood

Illustration showing vitamins and minerals of maca root

Maca root is a nutritional powerhouse, providing key macro and micronutrients, and unique plant compounds to support an active human body.

When it comes to macronutrients, dry Maca is 59% carbohydrates, 10.2% proteins, 8.5% fiber, and 2.2% lipids.7

As far as micronutrients go, Maca root is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, copper, and zinc. And, compared to white potatoes, Maca root boasts higher levels of iron and calcium.7 It contains all eight essential amino acids and plenty of phytonutrients, too.

How to Make Maca Root Part of Your Diet

As we’ve seen, Maca root is loaded with nutrients and provides many benefits.

The good news is that you don’t have to move to the Andes to make this plant a part of your diet. There are a few easy ways to incorporate Maca root into your life.

Take a Maca Root Supplement

The simplest way to add Maca root to your diet is to take it in supplement form.

Gaia Herbs Maca Root is pure Maca root in a vegan capsule. Our organic Maca roots are slowly sun-dried according to traditional methods, which promotes an optimal amount of final bioactive compounds.*

Bottle of Maca Root from Gaiga Herbs

And, unlike raw Maca powder, Gaia Herbs Maca powder has undergone gelatinization, which is a steam and pressure extraction method that transforms the active constituents. This process results in Maca Powder that is more easily digestible.*

Gaia's gelatinization methods are aligned with the way this root has been traditionally consumed by the indigenous people of the Andes, where it has always been cooked before eating. Our process does not involve the use of gelatin, making this product 100% vegan.

To support healthy energy, stamina, and peak performance, simply take one capsule two times daily between meals.*

Add Maca Root Powder to Your Drinks

Smoothies

Woman blending smoothie with fresh fruit

If you’re a smoothie fan, add ethically harvested Peruvian Maca root to your drink with Gaia Herbs Maca Powder. Blend in one teaspoon daily or mix the powder easily into juice or milk.

To get all the benefits of Maca root with the flavor (and benefits) of Cacao and Ginger, choose Gaia Herbs Maca Boost® Cacao Ginger. Made with organic Maca, raw Cacao, Ginger, and Rhodiola without added sugar or flavorings, it's a delicious addition to your superfood smoothie.

One of our favorites is a Raspberry-Triple Chocolate Protein Shake.

Raspberry-Triple Chocolate Protein Shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup of chocolate almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 serving of Maca Boost Cacao Ginger
  • 1 serving of protein powder (any variety)

    To prepare your smoothie, blend all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth, and then sip and enjoy!

    Hot and Cold Beverages

    For a different twist on a Maca root beverage, we love experimenting with everything from hot lattes to cool drinks and mocktails.

    Try your hand at a warm drink with Maca Matcha Latte with Maca Powder. All you need is Maca Powder, matcha powder, water, milk, and a bit of sugar if you want.

    And if you’re craving something cold, this tasty Berry Mint Lemonade is sure to satisfy. Or go for the Maca Colada — our twist on a favorite cocktail.

    Maca Colada mocktail

    Cook with Maca Powder

    Adding Maca Powder to your drinks isn’t the only way to incorporate it into your diet. You can get creative cooking with it as well.

    We love these hearty granola bars for a delicious breakfast-on-the-go or an energy-filled snack any time of day.

    No-Bake Chewy Maca Granola Bars

    Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup of chopped nuts
    • 1/4 cup of nut butter
    • 1 1/2 cups of rolled old-fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup of dried fruit
    • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon of Maca Powder
    Preparation:
    1. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all ingredients, and stir well to combine.
    2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is warmed through and thoroughly combined.
    3. Line a loaf pan with parchment. Transfer the oats mixture to the loaf pan, and pat down firmly with a wet spatula.
    4. Allow to cool completely or refrigerate for 2 hours before slicing.

    No bake chewy maca granola bars

    We also like to get a dose of Maca root with our Acai Bowl Recipe. Or spice it up with our Macamole Recipe, a Maca root version of everyone’s favorite avocado dip. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

    Make Room for Maca

    With an impressive list of benefits, Maca root can help complement a healthy lifestyle. It can help maintain a positive mood, energy levels, and a healthy libido, and this superfood is easy to add to your daily life.*

    Enjoy the benefits by simply taking Gaia Herbs Maca Root, or use Maca Powder in everything from guacamole and granola bars to smoothies and cocktails. Cheers to you and the energized life you love to live!

    REFERENCES:

    1 What are adaptogenic herbs? Chiro.org. https://www.integrativepro.com/Resources/Integrative-Blog/2016/What-are-Adaptogens-or-Adaptogenic-Herbs

    2 Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature’s Solution To Stress. Chiro.org. https://chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Adaptogenic_Herbs.shtml

    3 A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. PubMed.gov.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19781622/

    4 Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/#:~:text=Maca%20has%20been%20used%20for,these%20potentials%20is%20of%20interest.

    5 Natural supplements for mental health. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/natural-supplements-for-mental-health#:~:text=In%20folk%20medicine%2C%20maca%20root,libido%2C%20particularly%20in%20postmenopausal%20women.

    6 What are Hormones? New Medical Life Sciences. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Hormones.aspx

    7 Andean Roots and Tubers: Ahipa, Arracacha, Maca and Yacon. https://books.google.es/books?hl=en&lr=&id=O_QfhwpEajoC&oi=fnd&pg=PA16&ots=__J9jd4JJt&sig=UfuXXB_kwx0S8YEY_kuKYyqw9cc&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false