Maca is an extraordinarily hardy root crop that has been raised for millennia in the Andean mountain highlands of Peru. This plant is widely recognized as an adaptogen, which means it is a natural herb that can stabilize the body to enable it to cope with stress. Adaptogenic plants are considered very useful in herbal medicine as it helps users to deal with stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders in a better way. Maca is highly regarded by the Peruvian people as a natural cure for different types of hormonal imbalances. This wonderful herb is a powerful superfood that is packed with:
- Dietary fibers
- Amino acids
- Essential fatty acids – oleic, linoleic, palmitic, etc.
- Important minerals like iron, calcium, selenium, and magnesium
While maca offers a lot of health benefits, many users who look for instant gratification from the herb unknowingly consume excessive amounts of the root crop, resulting in several side effects. Maca and its derivatives have been used in Peru, and later in nearly all of South America, for thousands of years. The most common side effects recorded may possibly have come from excessive maca consumption. Before presenting the possible side effects that can arise from using maca and its derivatives, it is worth knowing that maca is not in any form or appearance a pharmaceutical drug which, as is generally known, often comes with a lot of undesirable side effects. Maca has been consumed as a food crop in the Andes regions for thousands of years and no problems were reported. Curiously, maca growers in Peru are known to consume 100 grams of maca powder and as much as 500 grams of fresh maca a day. The recommended dosage, however, is way lower at 6 to 9 grams per day. Bodybuilders and athletes who use maca consume up to 50 grams a day of the root crop.
Comprehensive Study On the Possible Side Effects of Maca
Up until now, the most complete study done on maca is “Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands” by author Gustavo E. Gonzales. This comprehensive scientific study evaluates all of the recent significant research done on maca. Gonzales ends his review by concluding that maca is completely safe for consumption by human beings and has no unusual side effects or toxicity. The author cites one particular study conducted on 600 Peruvian maca consumers which showed that their health has significantly improved without a single reported side effects.
Maca Side Effects As Reported by Users
Although studies have not shown notable side effects from maca consumption, there have been reports from some individuals (mostly first-time users) about their experiences while using maca. Here are some of the reported side effects and the recommended actions to prevent them from occurring.
Some users have reported feeling like they have had caffeine overload after consuming maca. Some have described the experience as feeling highly-strung, agitated and jittery. While maca does give your body a pleasant boost in energy, it normally should not give its users the over-energized feeling. The agitated feeling occurs mostly in first-time users taking maca too much too soon. To prevent this type of side effect, take only the recommended maca dosage.
This side effect is one of the most common reactions linked with the use of maca. The recommendation for maca is to consume it in about the same amount found in two to six capsules of the supplement. This means you should not take over 500 mg of maca. Consuming anything over this quantity can create some reactions in certain individuals, particularly those with iron sensitivity. Individuals who want to boost their stamina or enhance fertility but are maca-sensitive must first consult their doctor before taking the supplements.
Some individuals have reported having insomnia when they took maca for the first time. To prevent this discomfort, maca consumption should be limited after 2 PM. Reducing the dosage can also help. Interestingly, peri-menopausal or menopausal women have actually used maca to relieve them of insomnia.
Fatigue is also one of the most common side effects due to excessive consumption or prolonged use of maca. It is also considered that consuming other supplements aside from maca, such as potassium, can also create the issue. With the over-consumption of maca, dehydration can also occur after the onset of fatigue. The best thing to avoid fatigue and dehydration is to drink a lot of water with maca. It is also recommended to consume raw maca and its derivatives in controlled dosages and not on a daily basis.
Raw maca powder may be too strong for some individuals to digest. Some maca users have complained of upset stomach, gas, bloating, and minor spasm. This could be due to the starch found in raw maca. Try gelatinized maca instead if you have a sensitive stomach. It is easier on the digestion with its starch content taken out.
Heightened sex drive
Most people look for raised endurance levels at the start. However, excessive consumption of maca, especially over an extended time period, can increase testosterone production in the body. More testosterone means increased libido and sexual performance. The body gets adjusted to maca’s components after long-term continued use which could eventually adversely affect libido and sexual performance. Taking maca in recommended dosages and not on a daily basis can help solve the issue.
A small number of users have reported increased acne flareups after trying maca. This symptom is only short-term. The acne will decrease and possibly disappear as the body achieves hormonal balance.
Increased estrogen secretion
Maca stimulates libido and multiplies the chances of fertility by increasing estrogen secretion levels in the body. However, excessive secretion of estrogen in the body could result in unwanted side effects, such as irregular menstruation cycles or even some forms of cancer. Follow the product manufacturer’s dosage recommendation. Skipping a day or two of taking maca supplements can help normalize the body’s estrogen production level.
Heartburn as a side effect of maca happens very rarely. It can be unpleasant when it does, though. Do not consume any kind of fruit with maca as this can only aggravate the symptoms. It will help a lot to make sure that you are using fresh and certified high quality maca. Some maca products may still contain traces of chemical fertilizers or may have been stored for a long period before being processed.
Maca is a rich source for iodine. Some maca users have experienced side effects due to iodine allergy. If you are allergic or sensitive to iodine, be sure to consult your doctor before trying any maca supplementation.
Maca is rich in iodine that can be used readily by the thyroid to promote hormonal balance. Due to its high iodine content, maca is not advised for individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease, goiters, and other thyroid issues. It is also not recommended for people who are presently on Tamoxifen or any hormone production inhibitor.
If you are looking forward to using maca, be sure to use one that is fresh, certified organic and which do not use pesticides or chemicals. Low quality maca may potentially lead to the side effects mentioned above. Studies have shown that there is no real side effects in using maca as long as it is organically-raised, consumed in moderation and used according to the product manufacturer’s dosage recommendation. Before adding maca to your diet, or if you are currently taking any form of medication, be sure to consult your doctor first.