Maca Side Effects

side effect dangers Maca is a uniquely safe root vegetable from Peru, the use of which dates back three thousand years before the birth of Christ.

But only in the last few centuries, has it’s attributes been recognized by the wider world, and this potent extract made its way into North America and Europe.

An adaptogen by definition, maca is accredited with being a super-food that helps avert many modern ailments. But there are certain side effects to be cautious of, particularly if you have allergies to certain plants, or if your body is susceptible to hormone changes.

You should also know when to take maca, and more importantly, when NOT to take it.

Maca grows in the most inhospitable, mountainous peaks of the Andes. It is virtually the only plant that can survive, even thrive in this extremely harsh climate.

It resembles a cross between a large radish and a turnip, and has been used as a staple food for centuries by the local inhabitants.

In the 16th Century, maca was cultivated and used to barter for essential supplies by the Chinchayochas Indians, who exchanged and gifted with the first Spanish explorers.

Common sense dictates that if anything that has been used for this long had any adverse effects, it would be well documented and written in the archives of many libraries.

Fortunately, because of the advancements in science and technology, we actually do know of the side effects of maca! And they are no more serious than those of other herbs or vegetables that one might using on a daily basis.

Do Not Take Maca if You Have Thyroid Problems

Maca root is high in iodine, at 50ug per average serving. Extreme high doses of iodine have adverse affects on the thyroid gland, and can cause hypothyroidism (1).

Paradoxically, iodine deficiency can also trigger thyroid problems, and even cause a goiter (also because of maca’s concentrated glucosinolate amounts).

So, if you do have, or have previously had concerns relating to your thyroid, you may want to avoid taking maca (or at least consult your primary health care professional first). If you are deficient in iodine, maca would probably benefit your health, but if you have a sensitive thyroid, it could cause you problems.

Do You Have Plant Allergies?

If you are allergic to some plants, the chances are you will probably be allergic to maca.

Check with a nutritionist, or a herb expert if there is one in your region.

Maca May Cause Insomnia in Some People

Maca is a natural stimulant. So, another possible side effect of excessive use of maca is insomnia.

The simplest way to deal with this is not to consume more than the recommended amounts, better still, to start with smaller than recommended amounts (2).

Also, do not consume maca late in the day – it’s a stimulant, and unless you’re working long night shifts, there is no need to take any kind of stimulant late in the day. You could find yourself lying in bed counting sheep, hopping over a fence, but with no resultant sleeping!

So, always take it in the morning, or latest, in early afternoon.

Maca Might Cause Hot Flashes and Increased Heart Rate in Some People

Ok, so you already know that maca is a stimulant. Take just enough and you will reap the rewards of an energy boost and improved endurance, but take too much and you could find yourself sweating profusely, your heart racing and having hot flashes.

You could even become a little paranoid or having feelings of anxiety.

If this happens, don’t panic, the effects will wear off, but it does mean that you have taken too much! Next time, you will know better.

Maca Could Upset Your Gut

Maca is approximately 8% fiber. You need fiber for a healthy gut and normal bowel movements. If you ingest too much maca in one go, you increase the rate which your body digests food.

The result could mean you get gas, even diarrhea. Remember, diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so drink plenty of water if it affects you this way.

Maca Could Cause Acne

Maca does not produce any new hormones in the body, but works by improving the efficiency of the hormones your body already produces. When efficiency is enhanced it leads to the individual feeling better.

With increased hormonal activity, it is possible that some people may develop some acne as they did during adolescence. Oddly enough, maca can be used as treatment for hormonal acne.

If you do get acne when using maca, it is direct proof that the herb is doing what it is known for. To correct this, reduce the amount you are taking, or stop all together, then add in a little more over a couple of weeks.

This should allow the body to get used to the hormone balancing effects of maca.

Testosterone Increase Can Lead to Complications

There are numerous reports of maca increasing testosterone production in both men and women. This is not usually an issue for men, but in women it might produce some undesirable results (3).

  • Deep voice
  • Excessive facial hair
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Baldness

An increase in testosterone caused by maca could also lead to anxiety attacks and mood swings, it could even cause unwarranted bursts in anger, again, in women as well as men.

However, it should be noted at this point, that maca normally has positive effects on mood, stress levels and anxiety.

It will also usually help to relieve symptoms of depression. But, someone who is highly sensitive to testosterone increases, may be susceptible to these side effects.

So, if you ARE sensitive to testosterone, take care when introducing maca into your diet. Smaller doses are recommended in this case.

Initial Maca Dosing and Cycling for Reduced Possibility of Side Effects

cycling Whether you are sensitive to hormonal changes or not, you should be cautious when taking maca for the first time. Introduce it slowly into your diet to avoid possible complications.

I say ‘possible’, because there is probably only a slim chance of observing any side effects.

That being said, to cut down on any possibility of side effects, frequent cycling of maca is recommended. A commonly accepted cycle lasts two weeks of using the herb, followed by three to four days of not taking it.

Finally when starting on a regiment of maca use, it is important not to combine its use with any other enhancement. This way, if you notice any problems, you will know the cause right away.

Maca and Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant, or who are breast feeding should refrain from taking maca.

Although there is much more research needed on maca and women in the gestation period, stimulants of any nature should be avoided at this vital time for a baby.

Maca V’s the Side Effects of Other Medicines

With all the health benefits maca has to offer, the potential side effects discussed are not life threatening, and are fairly minor (compared to drug treatments for similar disorders).

Supporters of this alternative therapy use it to protect and combat the effects of many health conditions and diseases – PMS and menopause, sexual dysfunction, promote mental clarity, enhance fertility, increase stamina and athletic performance, and many other ailments.

The majority of prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs used to treat the same issues, come with their own set of side effects (that you will not be made aware of).

The positive of using maca is that its minor side effects are only possible, and can be averted by using sensible amounts of the herb, and then by cycling.

Important Guidelines to Start Taking Maca

As maca is probably new to you, and you don’t really know how it will affect you, here are a few guidelines you might like to adhere to.

  1. Take the minimum recommended dose, less if possible. You can always take more next time.
  2. Once you find the right dose, start cycling usage – 2 weeks on, 4 days off.
  3. Never take maca late in the afternoon, evening or night time – unless you want to be awake all night!
  4. If you notice you’re getting acne, stop taking maca and re-start with a smaller dose.
  5. If you notice you’re getting gas and upset stomach, you’ve taken too much.
  6. Although maca can improve the chances of getting pregnant, if you are already with baby – do not take maca (or consult your doctor first).

References:

1 – http://www.patient.co.uk/health/hypothyroidism-underactive-thyroid-leaflet

2 – http://psychology.about.com/od/psychoactivedrugs/a/stimulants.htm

3 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone

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31 thoughts on “Maca Side Effects”

  1. Dear Sir,

    I wanted to ask you for some advice.
    I used a maca oil for my hair in April for a month. I misused it as I was not supposed to put it directly on my scalp but I did every 2 days in the evening usually. It coincided with the beginning of sleeping problems. I literally could not sleep during a month and unfortunately it took ;e a month to relate it to Maca. Since then, I can.t seem to get back to normal sleeping patterns. I get easily anxious, my adrenaline is very high according to some analysis, my heart beats fast. What can I do to get back to normal? My life became hell!
    Thanks!
    Kind regards,
    Miranda

    1. Hi Mimi, thanks for your message. I would recommend to stop using maca in any form, and eat a completely natural diet – no processed foods, alcohol or other stimulants like coffee. If you’re leading an active lifestyle, I think your sleeping pattern should normalize. Then, if you wish to use maca again, use it only in the morning, at the latest, lunchtime to avoid any ‘stimulating’ affects.

      Andy

  2. I was taking about half teaspoon per day for two weeks, with a few days break and had some positive affects, monthly mood swings were much less severe, I had much less anxiety and I had more energy. I did experience acne though and when I upped the dose to a heaped teaspoon, thinking I wasn’t taking quite enough, I had even less pms but I noticed becoming hairier, on my face there is like this downy fluff on my chin and upper lip, on my arms, everywhere and more in the pubic area…so I stopped using it and have the usual pms again. Was this likely because of testosterone?…and since the hair is now permanent, I wonder if its worth taking again but at a lower dose? I am otherwise eating a very clean and balanced diet, taking some extra vitamins and minerals, exercising regularly and avoiding bad fats, caffeine and sugar etc. Id like to add Maca to help with hormone balancing but if I’m very wary of the testosterone affects.

    1. Hi Angelique, thanks for your message.

      Perhaps you are taking too much maca, that would be my initial impression. Yes, the side effects you are seeing could be caused by maca. They have been reported previously. If you stop taking maca, does hair growth subside (facially)? If it does, and you want to re-introduce it to your diet, try a very small dose. And then increase if necessary.

      Wishing you the best of health.

      Andy

  3. Hi, I discovered Maca about 3 months ago. I started with 3/4 tsp & loved how great I felt. About 2 wks into it (same dosage) I had bad diarrhea & a small rash on back of neck that lasted 6 days. I tried this twice with the same effects. I really want to try again but with the gelatinized to see if it will work. I am a bit skeptical & wonder if my body just can’t tolerate. What would you recommend? This stuff is great.

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for reaching out. Apologies for the late response, I have been away on holidays.

      You may be a little sensitive, so I would suggest trying a very small dose and if no ill effects, increase the dose very slightly over time.

      Andy

  4. Hi, My name is Muneeb Tariq. I am getting married in a month and i was wondering if i start taking Maca Root capsules before one month of my wedding will it change or improve my sexual health in a month or so. If i just take one capsule a day

  5. Hi , I get severe pms 10 days before my periods. I started taking maca during pms. I took about 1/4 teaspoon in the morning with oatmeal . I felt fine for few days . I started noticing my irritable mood and I stopped taking after 10 days because usually those first 10 days after periods I am in happiest mood .

    Don’t know if I should try it again

    1. Hi Tina, thanks for reaching out.
      As you’ve discovered maca works for you, I would recommend trialing the dose up and down, pre-period time. Only you will know if a higher dose will work for you, but then obviously if is is affecting you during your happiest time, stop taking maca until the next time you need it.

      I hope this helps.

      Andy

  6. Julia Pollard

    Hi. I started using half a teaspoon of maca powder a day a week for menopausal symptoms about a week ago but I started with a bad headache 3 days ago which is still there. I have a small goiter on my thyroid and have read that you should not use maca powder if you have thyroid problems. Could the maca be causing the headache? I have some gelatinised maca capsules and wondered whether these would be better tolerated as I have a small goiter. Your advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Julia, thanks for reaching out. Please read our page on ‘Maca and Thyroid Function’ for more information, I think you’ll find the information you’re looking for in that section.

      Andy

  7. I have ARVD and considered to be a vtac, I have a defibrillator and pace maker. My sex drive is zero and are considering using IRON BULL EDGE. It contains Macs extract, don’t know how much. But will find out before purchasing. Any ideas, about my condition on sex drive. Thanks

    1. I don’t have anything in my research for the conditions you’ve mentioned Odie, but Maca does have a positive effect on libido. Good luck experimenting!

  8. Rebekah Barton

    Hi, I have started taking Maca capsules but noticed a strong racing in my heart rate, even when I took minimum dosage (1 capsule 416mg). My normal resting hr is 55, and it goes to 80 if I take Maca….is this common?

    1. Thanks for your contact Rebekah.

      Maca is a stimulant, so it is quite possible that you’ve experienced a higher heart rate after taking it. It’s better to take it early in the day because of these effects.

  9. Im on prescribed medications for epilepsy and depression what have stopped my sex drive 100% Would Maca help and improve my sex drive?

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for reaching out.

      Yes, maca can help build muscle. Have you read our page titled ‘Maca for Fat Loss or Weight Gain..? The information you require is there.

      Wishing you the best of health.

      Andy

  10. Hi, I have lactation without pregnancy issue and scanty mensuration. started using Maca Just last week and few days later I noticed I started ovulating again which I haven’t experienced in a while now. I’m so happy.

    But i noticed I’ve also been having stomach cramps and acne on my face. I take 3/4 teaspoon every night.

    Should I continue taking Maca, reduce the intake or stop taking it.

  11. George Paolucci

    Hi.

    I have heart disease. I take one teaspoon of maca daily with one day off per week. Do you think maca can increase the the times I get arrhythmia’s. (SVT ) ?

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