I have been getting a lot of questions from my readers about Black Maca as a supplement.
So I decided to educate myself on yet another gem from Peru. What I found was a “wonder” food that actually does come with a fair amount of cautionary warnings.
Although no proof of toxicity has been in any studies!
This article will give you enough facts so you can make an informed choice about whether you can benefit from introducing black maca powder into your diet.
You will find out why it comes to precautions and also how you may be able to rectify and prevent certain medical or health issues naturally, with Black Maca Root.
This is one product I won’t be testing myself as it takes at least four weeks before results present. Also, it cannot be taken by people with impaired thyroid function (which I have).
I have a spouse who body builds and has been trying out supplements for years. Needless to say, the ginseng and L-arginine are taking a back seat while he switches to Black Maca for now.
So keep reading !!
What is Black Maca and Where Does It Come From?
From Peru and used by Peruvians, the black maca root is used as a traditional remedy for healthy sexual function, mainly in men. But also used by postmenopausal women to alleviate hot flashes, depression, and anxiety.
It has been used to boost stamina and enhance vitality. Much of its supposed benefits have yet to be scientifically verified but this hasn’t stopped Peruvians from using it and getting results.
Unlike the range of genuinely wonderful berries that have been found in Peru and Chile, Black Maca is not an antioxidant. It is an adaptogen. Therefore it contains a host of phenolic compounds that show results similar to those of saw palmetto, ginseng, and L-arginine.
It does, however, contain enough vitamin C to have antioxidant benefits but its adaptogenic properties have been the focus of much testing.
Adaptogens are usually plants that have adapted to harsh growing conditions. These same stress adapters benefit humans when ingested, without reacting to the body’s adrenal and endocrine systems.
Environmental factors and the color of hypocotyls (source) influence the bioactive metabolites. This means widespread cultivation in other areas may not produce maca with the same health benefits.
Black Maca is a root. It's botanical name is Lepidium meyenii. The harvested plants resemble turnips.
The black maca has shown, in studies, to produce more efficient results than the other variants.
Black Maca Nutrition Facts
Black Maca in its raw state contains the following
- Macaenes and macamides (unique to maca)
- Lepidine A+B
- Alkaloids and alkonoids
These compounds listed above are not destroyed by heat processes, which mean they can be used by the body’s defense system when taken in tincture and capsule form. The powder form, if raw would yield different advantages.
In its raw state, 1 serving of 28 grams (1 oz) contains (source),
- Calories: 91
- Carbohydrates: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams of protein (loaded with amino acids) easily absorbed by body
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat:1 gram (“good” fats)
- vitamin C: (133% RDA*)
- Copper: (85% RDA)
- Iron: (23% RDA)
- Potassium: (16% RDA)
- Vitamin B6: (15% RDA)
- Manganese: (10% RDA)
* Recommended Daily Allowance
What does black Maca do for you?
Testing and presenting scientific data that can verify why it has the effects it does have can be difficult to prove within the boundaries of science’s precise framework.
Often groundbreaking or unexplainable cures seem to come from taking natural and traditional herbal remedies. Most naturalists accept the evidence of nature cures based on taking something and then feeling the results. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Right?
But for a herbal supplement to be sold commercially it has to market and promote based on mainstream studies and evidence. This can often take years before conclusive evidence is gathered and the expenses involved, astronomical.
Many of the studies done so far have proved insufficient or inconclusive. But the effects that were recorded, although not altering hormone levels within, definitely produced results. The ingestion of a regulated dosage over a period of more than 6 weeks produced results consistently for a range of randomized clinical trials (source) (RCT’s).
Good News: Maca is an adaptogen. Taking Black Maca on a regular basis does not interfere with our hormone levels.
Black Maca & It's Benefits
1. Enhances Libido
Black maca may increase sexual desire (source) but results are inconclusive when it comes to the efficacy it has on erectile dysfunction.
2. Improves memory and learning
Black maca tested more effective than red or yellow when it came to improving the memory (source). Peruvians claim the children that drink the boiled juice of maca do well in school.
It also tested with results for improved memory (source) in cases where memory had become impaired through scolopomine use or surgical procedures involving sex organs (like hysterectomies and vascular procedures). Scolopomine is a drug that induces Alzheimer like symptoms.
3. Improves sperm
Trials involving black maca showed an increase (Source) in sperm volume, sperm count and sperm motility but created no results on overall serum hormone levels.
4. Acts as an energizer
As an adaptogen black maca can increase energy levels without affecting the cortisol levels in the body. This can increase stamina and endurance, but if too much is taken, it can have the opposite effect and create the shakes.
5. Depression and anxiety
6. Lowered cholesterol levels
20 fatty acids have been identified as well as a list of sterols, specifically sitosterol. This means taking black maca could improve your cardiovascular health by lowering the “bad” cholesterol which would improve circulation, prevent atherosclerosis and minimize the risk of heart disease.
7. Lowered glucose levels
The Black Maca is high in glucosinolates which are released through chewing, it is also high in fruit sugars, while this is counteracted by a low GL it is better to take the drops if you have diabetic.
Lowered glucose levels in the blood also help to regulate both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, alleviating the symptoms associated with blood pressure (source). Lowered blood pressure was even more affected when the gelatinized form of black maca was taken.
Diffrent form of black Maca and how to use them?
The Peruvian root known as Black Maca has to be cooked to become bioactive. This means through the heat incurred, during production, the bioactive compounds that claim miraculous benefits come alive, but in exchange, specific nutritional values are lost.
On the other hand when the dry matter was tested in its raw state it showed very high levels of beneficial sterols, amino acids and metabolites (source) .
In certain tests much larger amounts were given, with time you will know whether to increase or decrease your black maca dose.
Black maca Capsules : Capsules usually come in 500mg which means you’d need to take 2 capsules 3 x per day if taking it for sexual health and/or depression.
Take 1 capsule 3 x per day for general improvement of energy, as the adaptogenic activity will still be substantial with the minimum requirements.
Black maca extracts : When taking drops, take 10 - 30 drops 3 x per day. Drops have proved to have higher efficacy when taken for certain specific ailments and not just for overall health
Black maca powder : When using powder; use 2 tsps per serving. You can experiment with the powder but don’t take more than 6 tsp daily. 1 serving daily is fine as a booster if taken with your other smoothie supplements.
Tip: Take drops and gel capsules if wanting to support and perhaps reverse certain ailments. Take the powder form if wanting a general tonic to increase endurance and vitality.
Great Ways to Add Black Maca powder To Your Diet:
Taking capsules or drops is a good way to get Black Maca into your system but if you are anti taking pills or drops then the raw powder is the way to go.
Add to soups: After serving, sprinkle 1 – 2 tsps raw powder over soup. The heat will release locked in compounds and the nutritional value will not be lost as the heat is not an extreme process.
How to make Root Veg Soup:
- Slice 2 onions
- Peel and cube 3 butternut
- Heat 2 tbs coconut oil in 5l pot.
- To the oil add and fry onions.
- Add cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and cloves.
Note: Once served add 1-2 tsp Black Maca powder (I use this brand ) to each bowl
Yummy Soup! Loaded with amino acids and protein, adaptogens and alkaloids, vitamins and minerals. For overall health and balance.
Chocolate Banana Maca Smoothie
No kidding this powder is not the best taste if you are after sweetness. It has a nutty, earthy undertone so best add to smoothies with agave syrup, molasses or honey. Or add a banana or dates for extra sweetness.
Awakening Green Juice With Maca Root
Using a juice extractor make a juice with
- and ginger.
- Add 1 tbs of black maca powder to the juice.
- Stir, add ice cubes (optional) top with freshly chopped mint.
Chocolate Almond Cookies + Salted Maca Caramel
Add to baked goods: When baking with the raw powder the heat will unlock extra benefits from the black maca like the alkanoids called macadines and macaenes, unique to maca.
How Safe is Maca Root? Side Effects and Precautions
Many studies have shown that taking black maca has no effect on hormone levels in either males or females. This means many of the possible side effects are not verified and overall toxicity and safety tested high. No signs of toxicity have ever been reported (source).
That said, anyone can show sensitivity to a certain food. If you start taking black maca and experience any of the following below, either lower your dose, change from capsule to drops or powder or stop taking it altogether.
Black Maca Side Effects
The Shakes – If you feel jittery on maca reduce your dosage.
Gastrointestinal complaints – The effects of maca may be too powerful for your digestive system initially. Or your body will be helped by the maca to rectify a condition and you may experience gas, bloating, flatulence and/or mild cramping.
Headaches – If black maca starts working to balance your bodily functions you may experience headaches. If your body starts to throw off toxins or if the maca goes to work finely tuning your system on a subtle level, headaches are common. If they persist or worsen discontinue maca.
Safety in pregnancy – It has yet to be determined whether it is safe to take while breastfeeding or pregnant. Tests carried out to see if maca improved fertility did offer promise.
A review of maca’s biological properties shed a lot more light on the amazing adaptogenic benefits and side effects of this humble root.
6 Best Black Maca Products:
I chose 3 capsule products, 2 raw powders and 1 liquid extract to show the great variety you can choose from. Whether it is a gel capsule, an extract or a powder, if you can benefit from taking black maca then one of these products will suit your lifestyle.
Best Black maca Extract:
Taking drops is the fastest way to feel the benefits of black maca. These Macateam drops are produced ethically. They have the highest bioavailability of all three forms, assimilating 25% faster than gel capsules or powders.
- This product is a fair trade product, meaning fair labor laws and wage structures were implemented.
- It is alcohol free and suitable for diabetics.
Best Black Maca Capsules
Tests have shown that in some instances the gel capsules had the most efficacy. Taking gelatinized maca has better results than the extract and powder when it comes to treating postmenopausal symptoms. Gel capsules are safe to take as no toxicity has have been recorded.
To avoid the side effects of gas or bloating, these capsules are ideal. Madre gel capsules are nutrient dense, non GMO and are made by a responsibly company that promotes sustainability and giving back to the community.
Viva Naturals produce a gel capsule for enhanced bioavailability. They promote claims that taking their black maca capsules will
- Support sexual well being
- Increase energy levels
- Enhance a radiant complexion
- Support hormonal balance
Each capsule has 750mg which makes these the strongest gel capsules. Other tablets labels sometimes say they are 1000mg but beware of fillers and additives.
This gel capsule is 100% black maca root, no additives or fillers. Encapsulated in house to guarantee quality. Another Macateam product available through Amazon.
Best black maca Powders
My body building spouse says this powder has the best taste compared to brands he has tried previously.
- Processed tin a way to ensure the nutrient density remains high. Nice resealable pouch.
- 100% raw and organic.
- Sustainably farmed.
I have to just say my best choice for maca products is Macateam. They have a great range of Black Maca products. They do the liquid extract, gelatinized capsules and a powder which comes in different sizes.
The powder can be bought in bulk bags of 2.2lbs. This yields 111 servings which is a great size for an active family of 4. Comes in a resealable pouch. High in nutrients that support iron absorption and iodine.
In conclusion, I just want to add that because of the adaptogenic nature of black maca root it is always better to underdose than overdose.
A healthy individual that takes way too much maca per serving may experience adverse reactions.
But a healthy individual taking a healthy dose will benefit by experiencing increased stamina and overall vitality. By the same logic, a person suffering from a condition that maca may alleviate may need higher doses than the recommended amounts.
Medical disclaimer: Opinions and information in this article cannot substitute for sound advice from your regular health and wellness practitioner.
Please consult your health practitioner before starting on any supplement, especially if you already take prescribed medications.
I would like to thank Gustavo F. Gonzalez for his open access article titled: Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii(Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands.