Maca (Lepidium meyenii), also known as Peruvian Ginseng, grows in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It has been grown there as a crop for at least 3,000 years.
The most nutritious part of maca is the root. It resembles the taproot of carrots. Maca root has different colors such as cream-yellow, red, purple and black. The nutrients of the different colors of maca are slightly different. So, the best way of taking maca is to understand the different nutrient content of each color and consume based on your needs.
The maca root has a butterscotch-like flavor. It is usually dried and taken in powder form. 
Nutrient components of maca
Maca is an excellent source of carbohydrates and proteins and contains low levels of fat and high fiber levels. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, copper and iron. It also contains several phytochemicals including glucosinolate and polyphenol.
Maca contains several kinds of fatty acids including; linolenic, palmitic, and oleic acids, with 19 types of amino acids. In 1999, U.S. scientists discovered two new types of botanical active ingredients, macamide and macaene. These are believed to be the active ingredients in maca that can enhance sexual function.
8 benefits of Maca
1. Increase libido in men and women
Low libido is a common problem among adults and maca supplementation has been shown to increase it.
2. Improves male fertility
Sperm quality and quantity are critical for male fertility. Some evidence suggests that maca may improve male fertility.
A recent study showed that Maca improves the quality of semen in men.In one study, 9 healthy men were given maca. After 4 months of ingestion, researchers observed the volume, count, and motility increased in their sperm.
3. Improves male erectile dysfunction
Maca is also beneficial for those with erectile dysfunction.
One study showed that taking 2,400 mg of Maca per day for 12 weeks had a significantly improved in erectile function and sexual satisfaction compared with the placebo group.
4. Relieves Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is the last menstrual period in a woman’s life. During this period, there are uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep problems, and irritability due to the drop in estrogen.
Research has shown that taking 2,000-3,500 mg of Maca per day can help relieve menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and night sweats.  Although the mechanism is unclear, researchers speculate that it may be related to maca’s ability to balance estrogen.
5. Mood enhancement and anxiety reduction
This study was conducted on 14 postmenopausal women and found that consuming 3300mg of maca per day for 12 weeks reduces anxiety and depression while also lowering blood pressure.
6. Boosts athletic performance and energy
Maca is a popular supplement for bodybuilders and other athletes. This is because it can help build muscle, increase strength and endurance which helps improve athletic performance.
A study of 8 male cyclists found that after taking maca for 14 days, the completion time of the bicycle ride was faster.
7. Eliminates free radicals
A study in rats with genetic hypertriglyceridemia found that providing maca to rats on a high-sucrose diet for 2 weeks could significantly reduce VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and total cholesterol levels, and improve glucose tolerance.
The results indicated that maca has a positive effect on chronic human diseases and their prevention.
8. Relieves prostate hypertrophy
Prostate hypertrophy is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), more common in elderly men. Prostate hypertrophy will cause urinary retention and can cause the patient to be more prone to concurrent bacterial cystitis, bladder stones and other diseases.
The effectiveness may be related to the abundance of glucosinolates. These substances may also reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Choosing the right Maca
Other than the active ingredients, maca also contains carbohydrates and amylopectin. This makes fresh maca hard to digest and eating it directly might cause flatulence.
Extra starch can be removed through the process of gelatinization. This can reduce digestive discomfort, concentrate the nutrient and significantly enhance absorption.
Different colors of maca roots
All colors of maca such as black, red and yellow maca have their own unique effects.
Some may improve mood while others are able to strengthen athletic performance. Some affect males directly by the improvement of sexual function and fertility enhancement.
The balanced intake of various colors of maca may assist the body in self-adjusting.
- Yellow Maca: Reduces anxiety and depression in menopause females, increases fertility and sexual function.
- Red Maca: Improves fertility and libido in females, improves prostate function and stimulates libido in males.
- Black Maca: Increases athletic performance, improves sperm production and libido in males.
Dosage of maca
There is a significant dosage variety between the different brands of maca and some labels do not show the gelatinized dosage, which may cause certain misinterpretations.
How much maca do you need to take to have an effect? According to research, a supplement of more than 2,400 mg of gelatinized maca per day can achieve a better effect.
Maca with zinc
Zinc is an important mineral involved in enzyme synthesis and metabolism in the body. It can regulate physiological functions and is also a nutrient related to reproductive functions.
If zinc deficiency occurs in the body, it will lead to a poor mental condition, physical decline, and could even cause hypogonadism.
Adding zinc in Maca products can increase the concentration of testosterone in serum and maintain reproductive health.
Maca with arginine
Arginine can act as a precursor of nitric oxide synthesis and promote the production of nitric oxide (NO) to improve erectile dysfunction.
The effective dose of arginine is 2,500 mg and when added can create a better synergy with maca.
Tips for Supplementing with Maca
- The many colors of maca have varying levels of nutritional value. It is recommended to take different colors of maca to obtain different nutritional effects.
- Because maca contains a lot of starch, it is not easy to digest. It can be dried and grounded to remove the starch in a specific way to retain the nutrients that can improve digestion and absorption.
- The time period of using Maca for health issues varies. For energy regulation and supplementation, it takes 14 days to feel the difference. For libido and hormonal balance improvement, it is recommended to take maca for 3 to 4 months.
What are the side effects of maca?
- There is not enough evidence that shows pregnant women, lactating women and children are safe to take maca. It is highly recommended that these groups avoid taking it.
- Directly having raw maca roots may affect health.
The effective dose of maca is 2,400 mg per day based on clinical trials (2.4 g, the number after gelatinization and concentration, not the number of n-fold concentration). The absorption rate of maca increases only after gelatinization and concentration.
Because Maca contains a lot of indigestible macromolecular starch (59-73%), human bodies find it difficult to absorb the nutrients without gelatinization and many effective clinical studies use maca after gelatinization  .
Different raw material manufacturers have different gelatinization and concentration technologies and some manufacturers will claim that their products are concentrated. In fact, the maca content in the product is only about 400 to 500 mg, but customers have been told that the dose reaches 2,400 to 3,000 mg, which causes a misunderstanding.
Therefore, it is meaningless to calculate the reduction of weight from powder to fresh maca. The important factor is to have more than 2,400 mg of gelatinized and concentrated maca and to take it for the recommended period of time to show its real effect.