Typically used to enhance fertility and sex drive, the maca plant has been catapulted into the spotlight in recent years for the numerous benefits associated with its use.

The highly nutritious maca root can help improve your mood and protect you from the sun but besides its benefits, what are the uses and side effects of this popular supplement?

What is Maca Root?

Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is known scientifically as Lepidium meyenii. You can find maca root in the Andes of central Peru, growing in harsh conditions and at a very high altitude above 13,000 feet.

This plant has one main edible part: the root. The maca root is also a cruciferous vegetable and is related to cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli. With its long, vast history of culinary and medicinal use in Peru, the maca root provides several benefits that come with its use.


Maca root is typically dried and consumed in powder form, taken as a capsule, or taken as a liquid extract. No matter the method, consuming maca root can lead to several benefits, ranging from the relief of symptoms of menopause to boosting sports performance and energy.

What can maca root do for your body? Some of the most common benefits of maca root include:

Benefits when taken orally:

  • A strong source of nutrients, as it contains essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, copper, and iron.
  • Increases libido in men and women
  • Improves mood, due to its plant compounds called flavonoids.

Benefits when applied topically:

  • Provides sun protection, as it contains polyphenol antioxidants and glucosinolates.
  • Helps reduce the effects of ageing
  • Stimulates the scalp, thereby boosting the amount of nourishment that reaches hair follicles.

With all of these benefits that come with the use of the maca root, products containing this supplement make for a worthwhile purchase for those looking to improve both their skin, hair, and overall health. 

Side Effects

Maca root is generally considered safe for human consumption and use. Although there aren’t prominent adverse reactions from maca root, Peruvian natives believe that consuming fresh maca root may have side effects, so they recommend boiling it before consumption. 

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have thyroid problems, talk to your doctor before using maca root orally or topically. Maca root contains goitrogens, which are substances that can interfere with the normal function of the thyroid gland, making it important for those with thyroid problems to be careful with maca.

How to Use Maca Root

The main edible part of the maca plant is the root, which is generally dried and consumed in powder form. But, this supplement is available in other forms as well, including:

  • Capsules
  • Liquid Extract
  • Added to smoothies
  • Incorporate it into your meals
  • Used in a cream

To prevent any negative reactions from topical application, it’s recommended you do a skin patch test with the product to see if any irritation occurs. 


Although the optimal dose for medicinal use of maca root has not been established, the dosage of maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5-5 grams per day. When taking maca root, it’s important to follow the directions on any product labels.

All in all, the appropriate dose of maca root depends on several factors such as your age, health, and several other conditions, which is why it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor to find the best dosage for you specifically before using.

Best Time to Take Maca Root

While taking the proper dosage of maca root matters, so does the time that you take it. If you’re planning on incorporating maca root into your daily diet, it’s recommended that you take one or two capsules, first thing in the morning, before eating.

Taking the capsules on an empty stomach allows for it to absorb more quickly. But, if you have any digestive sensitivities, it’s recommended to take maca with food so it has more time to absorb into the digestive track.

Final Thoughts

Whether you take it orally or apply it topically, there are several benefits when you take advantage of this highly nutritious and delicious plant.

If you are thinking about using maca root topically or orally, you should consult with your doctor first. They will be able to provide more information on whether or not this supplement would be beneficial for you. 

Further, when purchasing maca root products, look to the packaging labels for more information. You may want to look out for the following.

  • What, if any, government labels the package has to determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
  • Other ingredients in the product that you could be sensitive to

Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.

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