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Ingredient Spotlight: Your Quick Guide to Maca Root

One of the adaptogens featured in our 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend is a root you'll find in one of the hardest-to-reach locations: the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains. (1) The root’s ability to survive in such unlivable circumstances is a good indicator of what this plant is capable of!

Maca has recently skyrocketed into mainstream western popularity - especially due to its potential sexual health and wellness benefits. These could include boosting fertility, managing sexual dysfunctions, easing menopausal symptoms, and boosting sexual desire or libido. But it’s also known as a natural energy enhancer and could support better memory and learning.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in with this quick guide to maca root. 

Wondering what the heck an adaptogen is? Head to our blog on adaptogens to learn more about these powerfully-beneficial superfoods, including other herbs and mushrooms you’ll find in our new 310 Shake.

Maca Root Quick Benefits 

  • Incredibly nutrient-rich, with therapeutic antioxidant potential 
  • Supports stress reduction and hormonal balance 
  • Promotes greater energy levels & mood
  • May enhance sexual health and wellness
  • May improve mental sharpness such as memory and learning 

What is Maca Root? 

Dried maca root

Maca, also known as “Peruvian ginseng”, is a vegetable and traditional herbal medicine grown and cultivated for thousands of years in the high altitudes of Peru. (2) It’s a hardy plant that manages to grow anywhere from 14,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level—one of few edible plants that can survive such intense weather conditions. (2,3)

The edible part of the plant is the root of the maca—hence the name! It’s a relative of the radish and you can see the family resemblance in the root’s shape, but not necessarily its coloring. (1) Maca root comes in many colors including red but mostly black, white, or brown with a smell and taste like nutty butterscotch. (1,2,4) 

After getting plucked from the ground, maca is then dried and stored until ready to eat. After boiling the root you can enjoy it raw, drink it as a juice, or grind it up into a fine powder. (3) 

This is how indigenous populations have been using the plant for thousands of years. The first written description of the root pops up as early as 1553 when Cieza de Leon described the Andean natives using a root—the maca—for health and longevity. (3) And still to this day, it’s a popular ingredient in many Peruvian dishes. (5) 

Maca has grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past couple of decades, especially for its potential benefits for sexual health and fertility. (3) While we need more research, it’s a promising adaptogen with a lot of possibilities for supporting your long-term health.

In-Depth: Maca Root Health Benefits

The natives have been using maca for thousands of years to enhance health and wellness, energy, sexual function, and fertility. (2) And while we’re still confirming these potential benefits and discovering possible new ones, one thing we do know for sure is that maca is a nutritional superfood. This powerhouse of nutrition features fatty acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber. (1,3,4)

The root also contains compounds unique to the plant including macaridine, macaenes, macamides, and maca alkaloids. These could be responsible for the potential sexual health and energy-enhancing benefits that this root is most known for. (2,6) 

May improve sexual health and wellness

Sexual health and wellness

It’s hard to research maca root and not come across some mention of sexual health or fertility. This possible benefit is far and away the biggest talk of the town with this adaptogen. 

The research is still unclear on the exact role the root could play in your sexual health. But early results show that the root may help ease menopausal symptoms, promote fertility, and boost energy and libido. (3,6) 

In one study, researchers found that adult subjects consuming extracts of red and black maca experienced changes in sexual desire, mood, energy, and quality of life compared to a placebo. (7) Another study found similar results, with maca improving self-rated sexual desire in both healthy menopausal women and healthy adult men. (3) 

There are also several animal studies on this subject. One study on rats found that sexual behavior increased with maca consumption and another saw an increase in sperm count with black and yellow maca specifically. (3) Many studies cite the unique compounds of macaridine, macaenes, macamides, and maca alkaloids as the reason for these potential benefits. (2,6) 

May enhance mood and energy levels

Happy woman holding a smiley face balloon

The possible stimulating effect of maca root also makes this adaptogen a popular choice for energy and mood enhancement. (3) In the study on red and black maca root, 80% of adult subjects experienced a boost in their mood compared to the placebo. (7) And by week 12 of the study, more than 90% of the subjects consuming red maca specifically experienced an increase in energy and mood. (7) 

Like many other adaptogens, maca root could create a state of homeostasis or balance in your body. This could make it easier for you to adapt and respond to stress. (4) Maca also contains several substances that could play a major role in this possible energy and mood-enhancing effect. These include GABA, choline, and flavonoids.

GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between the brain and nervous system. An increase in GABA can create a calming effect, which could help elevate your mood. (7,8) Choline and flavonoids play a similar role, with high levels impacting your cognitive functioning, mood, and energy levels. (5,7) 

Possibly aids in memory and learning

Aids memory and learning

Some varieties of maca, especially black maca, have been shown to potentially help improve memory and learning. In fact, Andean natives often use maca to help improve school performance for young children. (3) 

In one study on mice performing a locomotor activity and water Morris maze, researchers found that black maca improved the memory impairment induced by ethanol. In other words, the mice consuming maca root took less time to find the hidden platform in the test than those treated with ethanol alone. (9) 

This is largely credited to the root’s choline and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants found in maca root, including glutathione and superoxide dismutase, could help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. This stress can damage cells in the body and play a role in a large number of health concerns, including reduced memory and learning capacity. (3,5) 

Choline also impacts your neurocognitive functioning, possibly playing a role in mood enhancement, memory, learning, and overall cognitive improvements. (7) 

Shop Our All-In-One 310 Shake

Shop All-In-One Shakes

Take advantage of this power-packed adaptogen and many others with our 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend. Our all-inclusive shake features the best ingredients that plant nutrition has to offer. This includes adaptogens (like the maca root!), a triple protein blend, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and superfoods. 

Shop our exciting new 310 Shake flavors and add some adaptogens to your diet today!  

 And in case you missed it, check out this article Explaining All About Different Adaptogens and how they might benefit you — including every adaptogen you’ll find in our 310 meal replacement shakes! 


Sources:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-555/maca
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31643869/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/
  4. https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-maca-root
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322511#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874117323516?via%3Dihub
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039502/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/gaba-uses-and-risks
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21780878/
Written by:

Megan Elizabeth Clark

310 Nutrition Content Writer 

Megan Elizabeth Clark is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist in the health, wellness, and fitness industry. As a NASM certified personal trainer and RYT-200 certified yoga instructor Megan is passionate about using her fitness background and writing skills to provide authentic, actionable, and accurate information to the world [...]

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