Is maca safe? Myths and truths about maca
Maca is a sacred Incan root vegetable that has been used for centuries in Peru due to its therapeutic properties. Maca root grows in extreme conditions (4000m above sea level), is prepared through hand-harvesting, sun drying and boiling into teas, soups, broths and elixirs. People in Peru believe that such strength and resilience of this sacred plant, should be cultivated and consume with respect, as maca root offers several health benefits such as improving energy, vitality, stamina, immunity, endurance, hormonal balance, mental health and mood. Maca is also known for its aphrodisiac properties and has been used for centuries. Maca acts as an adaptogen to return balance to the body during times of stress and fluctuations in physical or mental balance.
Setting aside these health benefits of maca roots, there might still be some questions about its compatibility with some health disorders or medication, or about how safe can it be to consume it, so let us learn more about this.
1. Is maca safe for hormones?
The myth - that maca might stimulate hormonal production and could interfere with the contraceptive pill or worsen hormone sensitive conditions like cervical dysplasia, cervical cancer or breast cancer.
Maca is an adaptogen that brings balance back to our endocrine system and returns innner harmony, it does not stimulate hormones. Although there have not been any direct studies about the effectiveness or the safeness of taking maca with hormones sensitive conditions, maca is generally considered safe for your hormones as it does not stimulate oestrogen or contain phyto-oestrogens. In support of this a recent study showed that maca did not affect any phase of either the estrous cycle, number of ova recovered within oviduct, nor serum estradiol levels, wet uterine and body weights as compared with a placebo control group. In a further study, 14 postmenopausal women taking maca were tested and showed no difference in serum concentrations of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, or sex hormone-binding globulin between baseline and vs placebo.
According to the results, Maca (3.5 g/d) was able to reduce psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lower measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of oestrogenic and androgenic activity. Thus, maca has no androgenic or alpha-oestrogenic activity. Macadoes not contain phytoestrogens and does not stimulate oestrogen production, unlike other hormonal specific botanical treatments like HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
Maca is an adaptogen that brings balance back to the body - it doesn't interfere with hormones
2. Is maca safe for thyroid function?
The myth - that maca belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which are known in some cases to contain high levels of biochemicals called glucosinolates, substances that can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, particularly in the presence of a low-iodine diet.
This may only be an issue for those who consume raw maca which should never be done. When you cook maca, the glucosinolates break down to create a form of maca that is “thyroid friendly”. That is why, in Peru, maca is never consumed raw since it may be harmful on the body and also is high risk due to the danger of aflatoxins and mould that can grow on the skin of the raw roots. But don't worry all our maca is thyroid safe, it is pre-cooked (known as activated maca), tested and safe from all the nasties and as such there is no risk of a negative effect on thyroid function or your gut. In fact, activated maca like ours can actually better regulate and enhance thyroid function and may be highly beneficial for those suffering from thyroid related conditions.
Our activated maca is safe for your thyroid and can even improve thyroid function
3. Is maca safe for pregnancy and breast feeding? Is maca safe for kids?
The myth - maca may interfere with hormones and be bad during pregnancy, breastfeeding or for children to consume?
Maca and pregnancy – Studies have shown that maca root benefits conception and fertility in both men and women; and in Peru is traditionally consumed before, during and after pregnancy. Maca is a rich source of folate and other essential vitamins and minerals that support the body during pregnancy and is consumed to alleviate morning sickness in traditional settings. As maca powder improves energy and resilience to stress, balances hormones, improves mood and mental health; it represents an excellent ally particularly after birth, as it can reduce the risk of postnatal depression.
There are no clinical studies that evaluate the safety of maca during pregnancy, we advise to check with your healthcare professional before starting with maca consumption if pregnant. Also remember to check which type of maca is the ideal for you and make sure it is a therapeutic good quality maca powder.
Maca and breastfeeding – APILAM (Association for Promotion and Cultural and Scientific Research of Breastfeeding), an organization formed by a group of pediatricians, health practitioners and mothers, has reviewed evidence, case studies and data, deemed maca to be safe to both mother and child during breastfeeding.
As we talked about many health benefits of maca powder, it may help nursing mothers and their babies with energy, mental health, hormonal balance, and immunity. In Peru they believe maca can not only help the mothers mental and physical health post-partum but provides breast milk rich in nutrients to produce happier and healthier babies. To ensure safeness during breastfeeding, it is extremely important to take a premium and safe form of maca, as not maca is equal. Our maca is tested and safe to use during this important stage of life.
Maca and children – Maca is traditionally consumed in Peru at all ages. For children, maca is especially beneficial for improving brain function and concentration, enhancing memory, boosting immunity and providing sustained energy. For children we recommend taking approximately half the dose of adults, until they begin puberty (ideally 1/2 tsp per day of our yellow maca or 1 tsp of our chocolate maca). There is no evidence to suggest that maca would have any negative effects on children and their development and there is thousands of years of real life data from Peru showing that children who eat maca grow up to be happy and healthy.
Maca is traditionally consumed throughout and after pregnancy in Peru and by kids.
4. Is maca safe to go with my medication?
The myth - as it is energising could maca be bad for blood pressure? And as a cruciferous vegetable could the levels of vitamin K cause issues with my blood thinners? What about lipid lowering medication is that ok with maca? As maca works in the brain will it affect my anti-depressants or medication for my mental health?
The simple answer is yes maca is a safe and natural supplement to take while on any metabolic or mental health medication as it shouldn't interfere with how any of your medication is working.
Maca and blood thinners - The first recommendation when you start taking a blood thinner like Warfarin, is to limit your vitamin K intake. This is found in many nutrient rich dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach. The level of vitamin K in maca is not high, hence it is very unlikely that maca will alter vitamin K levels and impact on blood thinning medication like Warfarin. Secondly the daily dose of maca is small (~10g per day or less) again making it even more unlikely. When taking blood thinners like warfarin, it is recommended to keep your levels of vitamin K intake below 150 mcg per day. A dose of ½-1 tsp per day of maca is much lower than consuming the equivalent broccoli, kale or spinach; and is the recommended dose for you because you might consume other foods with high levels of vitamin K (see Vitamin K levels in food here). For more information on vitamin K daily intake, please consult your healthcare professional.
Maca and blood pressure – According to a study from 2015, maca lowered diastolic blood pressure in a group of postmenopausal women vs controls. Maca is not a stimulant and has been linked to increased production of a chemical called nitric oxide - known to relax blood vessels and improve heart health. This property of maca is one desirable for cardiologists looking for new ways to manage hypertension. As maca is traditionally used for bringing balance to the endocrine and adrenal system it can build strength and resilience to stress and reduce fluctuations in blood pressure and other symptoms associated with chronic stress. So it may have many positive effects for those suffering from heart disease or metabolic syndrome.
Maca and lipid lowering medication – According to a metabolic study, maca was shown to reduce blood pressure, body weight, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, showing it has many positive effects for people consuming it in terms of metabolic health and wellbeing.
Maca and antidepressants - Maca can act as a natural antidepressant and improve mental wellbeing and mental function. It works independently of your mental health medication so is considered safe to use in a complementary fashion or as a natural antidepressant. One study showed that the macamides in maca were able to demonstrate positive improvement in psychological symptoms. Maca was also shown to preserve cognitive function in a recent trial. With a further study showing antidepressant-like effects on behavioural, anatomical, and biochemical levels after treatment with maca. So if you are struggling with your mental health maca may actually be a natural supplement you should add into your daily routine.
Studies have shown that Maca is safe for metabolic syndrome medication and with antidepressants. It can improve metabolic markers and improve our mental health and wellbeing.