People have been using medicinal plants since prehistoric times.
Between 4000-2000 BC, Peruvians living in the great Andes Mountains discovered this precious plant in the high mountain: the Maca.
Since then, Maca has been domesticated and adapted to other countries.
Today, Maca has become one of the most renowned medicinal plants.
It is now a highly sought-after herb in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Japan, and the Netherlands.
So, what can maca root do for women? Keep reading to find out.
What is maca root?
Maca, scientifically called Lepidium meyenii Walpers or Lepidium peruvianum, is a cruciferous plant, which means Maca is a relative of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and radish.
In fact, Maca is a sibling of radish and turnip. They are all root plants and look very similar.
Maca root comes in various colors (black, purple, red, claret, orange, yellow, cream, and white) and shapes (spherical, oval, spherical, oval, and spindle-shaped). The different colors of maca roots carry different health benefits!
The whole maca plant is edible, but people usually consume only the root and the lower part of the stem (hypocotyl).
The maca root is the main chunk of the plant. It can reach around 20 cm in circumference and 10-20 cm in length, with a weight range from 1 to 5 kg.
Maca root has a distinct aroma, unlike other vegetables in the same family. Some people describe it as butterscotch or toffee-like, and surprisingly, it is spicy.
Maca root supplements are easily found in the market and packaged in various formulations, including maca root powder (in pill or capsule), flour, liquid extract, liquor, tonic drink, and even mayonnaise and chocolate.
Benefits of maca root for women
1. Increase sexual desire and fertility
Researchers have been searching for concrete evidence of Maca’s fertility-enhancing properties over the years.
Regarding fertility issues, experiments performed on female mice at reproductive age showed Maca increases the number and size of offspring.
Another study in 2019 among 189 women showed a promising result. A blended formula containing Maca, vitex, and folate increases the number of women with ovulation by 32.9%.
The researchers suggest the formula may help regulate the menstrual cycle, stimulate ovulation, and improve pregnancy chances.
2. Relieve menopause symptoms
Menopause symptoms can be a pain in the neck for many women. Women generally start entering menopause in their 40s to 50s.
During this phase, the estrogen hormone drops significantly, causing a range of unpleasant symptoms such as insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood fluctuations, and irritability.
In general, most women taking maca root experience some improvement in terms of menopause symptoms relieved.
Research studies reported two months of 2 g maca daily soothes menopause discomfort symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) and psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, and irritability.
However, the effect of Maca root on menopause symptoms control remains disputable. The evidence is all from survey-based studies prone to subjective opinions. There was also a high placebo effect reported.
3. Prevent brittle bones (osteoporosis)
Our bone density decreases as we age. Osteoporosis happens when our bones lose so much bone material that there are too many hollow spaces inside the bones, making them easily broken. This complication is called an osteoporotic fracture.
Findings from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2017-2018 reported that women are at a 4.5 times higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men (19.6% vs 4.4%).
Furthermore, bone loss accelerates when women enter menopause due to a drop in the bone-protective hormone (estrogen) level.
Studies revealed a promising prospect of using maca root to protect the bones. Laboratory and clinical human studies showed increased bone density, even after removing ovaries (the primary source of estrogen hormone).
Interestingly, the bone-protecting effect is especially prominent in red and black maca roots.
4. Improve mood, energy, and general health
Studies suggest maca root boosts your energy and mood. In 2016, a randomized controlled trial involving 175 participants demonstrated improved mood and energy scores after taking 3 g of red or black Maca daily for a total duration of 12 weeks.
This mood-lifting effect of maca root was endorsed by another smaller-size study in 2015. After taking 3.3 g of Maca daily for 6 weeks, participants reported a reduction in depression symptoms, plus a decrease in their diastolic blood pressure too!
Maca roots contain a high amount of glucosinolates and macamides. They are substances proven effective in preventing cancers in in-vitro and animal experiments.
Cancer cells that were proven inhibited by Maca include breast cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, and lung cancer.
It is undeniable that medicinal plants, including maca root, benefit our health. Nevertheless, concrete scientific evidence from human studies is still lacking, and there is no clear guideline on consuming maca roots.
Therefore, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before start taking maca root supplements on a regular basis.