Considering that maca is a naturally grown food, which has been used by South American natives for centuries, there are many inconsistencies and misconstruction’s regarding its safe consumption levels.
Many people believe that since it is a food, it can be used in profuse quantities without any harm or side effects.
Other experts do not agree, arguing that maca collects in the body over time and its effects can be discomforting but not toxic.
Scientific studies estimate roughly 50 – 100g of maca can be safely consumed as food. A range of 1.5 – 3 grams of dried maca, which is roughly equal to 10 grams fresh maca, is considered safe (1).
Maca, scientific name Lepidium meyenii, is a member of the brassica genus growing in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia.
Other members of the brassica genus include the more readily recognized vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
The root of the plant started to become popular in the US in early 2000 due to its potential to enhance vitality, sexual health and energy levels. The powder form of the root is used in aphrodisiac preparations as well as energy drinks, nutrition bars and even chocolate.
What’s in Maca That Makes it So Good?
The vegetable root is composed of approximately two percent fats, eight percent dietary fiber, ten percent protein and sixty percent carbohydrates.
It contains a number of vital minerals like calcium, selenium, magnesium, iodine and iron. It also includes some essential acids like linolenic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acids.
Additionally it houses a number of other substances like including uridine, malic acid, glucosinolates, glucotropaeolin and m-methoxyglucotropaeolin. Methyl-1, 2, 3, 4-tetrahydro-beta-carboline-3-carboxylic acid (MTCA) is also found in maca, and it plays a role in the central nervous system (2).
Beware: A Safety Aspect of Maca
No significant side effects linked with maca, that have been reported. Even a review of published studies does not come up with any safety concerns.
However there are certain precautions one must take as with all medications.
Since maca, like all Brassicaceae family members, has elevated amounts of vitamin K., which is needed by the body for proper coagulation of blood.
It is possible that excessive use of maca can adversely affect patients on anticoagulant medication.
If you have blood clotting problems or are taking Coumadin, speak with your doctor before taking maca.
The drug interaction may increase the risk of bleeding (if one were to bruise or cut themselves), because of the anti-coagulant effects of maca (3).
How to Take Maca
Maca can be purchased in various forms.
You can buy a tub of powder. It also comes in capsule and liquid form. Since maca is a new substance being introduced into the diets of many people, it is best to start with a very small dosage, increasing the dose slowly.
This is very easy to do with liquid maca, or the powder – you just add as much (or as little) as you need.
Obviously, this is a little harder to do with a capsule, if the serving size is ‘one’. This process will allow the body to get acquainted with the new substance and get accustomed to it.
The powdered form of maca can be added to many different recipes, in practically anything you want to add it to.
Like blended with yoghurt, sprinkled in salads, or added to smoothies for ease of consumption.
There are a list of maca recipes in a different section of our site, to take the guess work out of things for you.
Advice from The Peruvian Health Ministry
The Peruvian Health Ministry suggests that since maca is a food, it should be consumed as such. In other words, the dosage should be similar to that of eating a potato or a yam.
Also, it should be eaten intermittently, just like any food, so the body does not get accustomed to maca’s health benefits.
Like most foods offering vital nutrients, you must decide how much of the food to consume, how frequently and for what duration.
This does not mean you have to take a certain amount of maca every day for specific amount of time.
You might build up to taking a safe maximum amount, replenishing the nutrients your body is lacking, then taper off or, even better, stop taking it all together for a few days.
This is called cycling, and is the best way to take maca (because the body does get accustomed to it).
It’s a Paradox!
Maca is highly potent, and can help with many ailments, but the paradox is that you must take enough, to make sure it does it’s job in the body.
This is why it is important to note that less than 1.5 grams will probably not make much of a difference.
But, you should also not over do it if you are susceptible to hormone changes, if you have plant allergies, and you should definitely not take maca late in the day (because it is a serious energy booster, and you won’t be able to sleep).
The effects of maca may be noticed within a few days or it may take a week, even longer.
It depends on a number of factors, like how deficient you are in nutrients; or the dosage you are taking.
Body-weight is even a factor.
Someone who weighs 150 pounds might not need as much as someone who ways 220 pounds.
But remember, maca is a natural herb, with no side effects and can be used forever to maintain the desired effects (providing it is cycled).