Health Benefits of Maca Root

Maca root powder in bowl and spoon

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Maca root comes from the maca plant. Also known as Peruvian ginseng and its scientific name Lepidium meyenii, maca is commonly grown in the mountains of Peru. Comparable to the radish, maca and its root has long been used by Peruvians for its nutritional and medicinal properties.

More recently, maca root has gained popularity as a health supplement. Some research suggests the plant may help improve sexual function along with cognitive and mental well-being. However, more evidence is needed to understand maca root’s full health benefits as well as the safest and most effective ways to consume it as a dietary supplement.

Like many plant-based food sources, maca root is rich in beneficial nutrients, including amino acids, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, and potassium. Some research has suggested consuming maca root may have certain health benefits.

May Promote Fertility

It’s possible that maca root can improve fertility in adult men

One study suggests that taking maca root could improve sperm concentration, or the number of sperm in each milliliter of semen. Another review of studies found evidence suggesting maca root may improve overall sperm quality, including sperm mobility, or sperm’s ability to move to an egg.

However, current evidence is based on small studies, so more research is needed to determine how maca can impact fertility.

May Improve Libido

One of the more popular uses of maca root is to improve libido, or the desire to have sex. 

A review of past studies determined that high doses of maca root powder can improve sexual function in people who take antidepressants, which may interfere with libido. 

The review noted that more research is needed to understand the full effect of maca root on libido. 

May Manage Menopause Symptoms

Menopause, the time when a person’s menstrual cycle stops and estrogen levels start to decrease, can cause several unpleasant symptoms. Many of these symptoms, such as hot flashes, are due to the drop of estrogen in the body. 

There is some evidence showing maca extracts can mimic estrogen activity and may influence female hormone levels. Some research has examined this property of maca for its use in treating menopause symptoms.

A review of studies, however, notes there’s not enough evidence to understand whether maca root is an effective way to reduce menopause symptoms.

May Boost Cognitive Function 

Some animal studies suggest maca root can help with cognitive function, or the brain’s ability to think, learn, and remember. 

For example, one study found maca root was effective in slowing down cognitive decline in aging mice.

Since these effects have only been seen on animals, more human-based research is needed to determine how maca affects cognition and brain health. 

May Protect Skin Against Cell Damage

Research shows maca has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help fight against free radicals, which are molecules that can cause cell damage. These molecules can be formed from exposure to things like pollution, smoke, and UV rays from the sun. 

Due to its antioxidant properties, maca may be able to counteract damage to skin cells that free radicals cause. 

How to Take Maca Root

In traditional Peruvian culture, maca root is dried, boiled, and consumed as a drink. You can also find maca in powder form, which you can add to a food or drink. Some maca supplements are available in gelcap form, with the powder inside. 


There’s currently no established dosage for maca root. Taking maca in doses of 3 grams (g) or less daily for up to four months is generally seen as safe. 

Taking larger doses of maca on a short-term basis may be safe, but more research is needed.

If you want to take maca root powder to help with a specific symptom, speak to a healthcare provider. They can help determine the best dose for you. 

Is Maca Root Safe?

Maca root is generally considered safe when it’s eaten in food and when taken as recommended in supplement form.

However, people with certain medical conditions should use caution before taking maca root. Maca extracts have been shown to mimic estrogen in the body, which means the supplement may not be safe for people with hormone-sensitive conditions, including: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Endometriosis (when tissue similar to that of the uterine lining grows outside the uterus)
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus)

People with thyroid conditions should speak to a healthcare provider before taking maca root. Maca contains goitrogens, which are substances that could interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. 

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with a healthcare provider before taking maca. There’s not enough research to know whether taking a maca supplement is safe in either case. 

Potential Drug Interactions

Some medications and supplements interact negatively. It’s unknown whether maca root interacts with any other drugs. To ensure safety, talk to your healthcare provider about your medications before consuming maca root. 

What to Look For in a Maca Supplement

Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA). When purchasing a maca root supplement, check to see if the product has been third-party tested. 

Some organizations that offer third-party testing are, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia. They will ensure that the product has everything it says it does in the dietary label and nothing more.

Can You Take Too Much Maca Root?

Maca root is generally considered safe when consumed as a food or taken as a supplement. However, there is not yet enough research to understand the limit of how much maca is safe and effective to take. 

Side Effects of Maca Root

Maca root does not typically have negative side effects. In clinical trials, maca root has been described as safe and generally well-tolerated by those who ingested the plant. 

Although uncommon, some side effects might include mild gastrointestinal symptoms or headaches.

A Quick Review

Maca root is derived from the maca plant, which is native to the mountains of Peru. Maca root is available as a supplement in powder or capsule form and is thought to benefit fertility, sexual desire, and postmenopausal symptoms, among other things. However, more research is needed to understand how maca may  help with specific conditions or symptoms. 

Maca root is generally considered safe and to cause minimal side effects. However, it may not be safe for people with certain conditions related to hormones. Speak to your healthcare provider to determine if taking maca root is safe for you. 

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