What is Maca Powder?
Maca is a herbaceous biennial plant native to the Andes in Peru. It is used as a root vegetable and medicinal herb and is sometimes known as Peruvian ginseng.
The maca root is an inverted pear shape. That said, its shape and size vary with the type of plant, from triangular to flattened circular, spherical or rectangular. The colour also differs, from gold or cream to red, purple, blue, black and green.
Cream coloured roots are most widely grown because they are sweeter. However, red, purple or black maca roots are a good source of natural iodine. And black maca is thought to have the best energy and stamina-promoting properties, being both sweet and slightly bitter in taste.
Once harvested, maca is dried. In Peru, the vegetable is either cooked or used to make a local beer. However, it’s also ground into a flour or powder, maca powder, which is the form that’s mainly exported and used as a supplement.
Maca is described as tasting earthy and nutty and although popular in Peru, some people find its taste unpleasant.
Maca powder is thought to aid sexual and erectile dysfunction by boosting libido. And there’s also some evidence that it may improve fertility in men. Studies in animals suggest that red maca can help reduce an enlarged prostate gland too, helping alleviate problems with urination.
It is also considered effective in soothing menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and interrupted sleep. And it’s also been associated with improved mental well-being and reduced anxiety, particularly in menopausal women.
Maca powder is popular with athletes who claim that it helps develop muscle tissue, increase strength, boost energy and improve performance. And there’s also some evidence that black maca can improve memory and learning capability – it is traditionally used by school children in Peru for this purpose.
Just a word of warning though, cream maca powder contains glucosinolates, which can cause goitres when a significant amount is eaten as part of a low iodine diet. However, red, purple or black maca powder contains significant iodine, so it can be used to counteract the effect of cream maca powder.
Many people add maca powder to smoothies, cakes, porridge, breakfast cereals or milky drinks. You can also sprinkle it over desserts or pancakes.
Energy ball recipes including maca powder: