Teach Me

Maca Magic: Everything to Know About Maca Root

Maca root traces its roots (literally!) back thousands of years ago, but it has just recently gained some attention on social media, especially in health and wellness communities. 

People often share their experiences with maca and its potential health benefits, ranging from increased energy, mood and memory. But is there any truth to these claims? 

Read on as Tiffone Powers-Parker, a dietitian and nutritionist with Banner Health, helps us uncover the truth behind maca root’s popularity and important things to know about its use.

What is maca root?

Maca root is a natural plant native to the Andes Mountains of Peru, an area well above 13,000 feet known for its harsh, extreme conditions. 

Maca is an important medicinal plant and staple food of Peruvians. It has one of the highest nutritional values of any crop grown in the region. “Maca root is a good source of potassium, calcium, amino acids, vitamins and minerals,” Powers-Parker said.

Many people also call maca Peruvian ginseng, even though it isn’t related to ginseng at all. Maca root is technically a cruciferous root vegetable. It is related to radishes, but it has a much sweeter taste. It has a nutty butterscotch or caramel flavor.

What are the benefits of maca root?

Maca root is a nutritional powerhouse and superfood, but what about all the other hype? It is believed to offer many health benefits, but scientific evidence is limited. More research on human subjects is still needed.

Here are some potential health benefits of maca:

1. It may help with stress

Maca root is considered an adaptogen, a substance believed to help the body adapt and cope with stress. It's believed to balance hormones and support the adrenal glands, which play a role in the body's stress response. By supporting the body’s stress response, maca could indirectly increase energy, stamina and resilience to stress.

2. It may boost your sex drive (libido)

Traditionally, maca has been used as an aphrodisiac in many cultures. While scientific evidence in this is limited, some people report increased sexual desire and satisfaction after adding maca to their routine.

3. It may help improve mood

Maca’s apoptogenic qualities might be helpful for depression and anxiety. People who use maca report a mood and energy boost. One study found maca could reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women.

4. It may help with male fertility

One study noted that maca helped improve sperm quality and motility, two important factors in male fertility. 

5. It may help relieve symptoms of perimenopause and menopause

A small study found menopausal people who consumed maca had fewer hot flashes and night sweats than they did when they weren’t taking it. Some people have claimed it also helps decrease other menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, sleep issues and fatigue.

Other possible benefits include:

Are there any side effects of maca?

Maca root is generally safe for most people, but there is a potential for side effects. 

“Maca might cause headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia or cause you to feel jittery,” Powers-Parker said.

Talk to your health care provider first before consuming maca, especially if you fall under one of these categories:

How do I use maca root?

In Peru, maca root is consumed in food and tea. In the U.S., you’ll more likely find it as a powder, capsule, gelatinized supplement or tincture than the whole root in the produce section of your local grocer. 

“The edible part of maca comes from the root and consists of three color types: yellow, red and black,” Powers-Parker said. “Each color will have benefits but will vary in its intensity.”

  • Yellow maca is the most common and cheapest. It is milder than the other colors and is a better maca color for beginners.
  • Red maca is a rare form of maca and a little pricier than yellow maca. It is more stimulating than yellow maca and contains higher levels of phytonutrients.
  • Black maca is the rarest form of maca and the most expensive. It is the most intense of the three and is said to affect muscle building, fertility and bone density.

To get the most out of your maca, don’t bake with it or add it to hot foods or drinks. “You can use it in some raw foods, smoothies, no-bake energy treats or on top of cooked foods like oatmeal,” Powers-Parker said.

If you want to try maca root, find a reputable supplier or brand to ensure the quality and purity of the maca product. Look for organic options that use third-party testing, such as USP and NSF, for purity and quality.

How much maca root should I take?

Always speak with your health care provider before taking any supplement so they can ensure the supplement is safe and the dosage is appropriate for your needs. 

The dosage of maca can vary from person to person and how it is manufactured. “Research has found it is safe in amounts up to three grams per day when used and for no longer than four months,” Powers-Parker noted.

As a rule of thumb, never take more than the manufacturer’s recommended dosage. Start slow, taking the lowest dosage and gradually build up.


As we delve into the world of maca root, it’s clear that this Peruvian gem might have a lot to offer. Whether you are aiming for increased energy or to rev up your sex drive, maca root could be a valuable addition to your health routine. 

If you are considering adding maca root to your wellness routine, talk to your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist first and read up on possible side effects and interactions. 

Related articles:

Nutrition Sexual Health Wellness