Maca has its origins in a plant that was originally grown in Peru. A cousin to the radish, the powdered form has grown in popularity in recent years due to its wide range of supposed advantages. There may be some exaggerations in popular depictions of maca, but research suggests it may still have some real benefits for women.
What is maca?
The plant known as maca is also called Peruvian ginseng, or by the scientific name of Lepidium meyenii. It grows high in the Andes mountains and the root is most often dried to create a powder. This powder has a variety of uses, from dietary supplement to flour as well as in traditional medicine. It has an earthy flavour that is a little like butterscotch, so sprinkling the powder over anything from porridge to popcorn can add depth of taste as well as health benefits.
There are few calories in maca, but the root is rich in iron, potassium, copper and vitamin C, all of which have an important role in the human body. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, whilst lack of potassium is associated with hypertension as well as a condition called hypokalemia. Copper effects a range of bodily functions and vitamin C prevents you developing scurvy.
Some of the other supposed benefits of maca are a little more dubious. Claims that it boosts the libido have only limited scientific support, as does the suggestion that it can relieve symptoms of the menopause or improve energy levels. Research is still ongoing into these topics, but so far none of it suggests any danger from maca in its powdered form, so it may still be worth giving it a try.
Pills or powder?
You can buy maca in different forms. It is most often available as a powder but in Peru the fresh root is cooked and eaten. It is also available in a gelatinised version and as a pill, but this is generally not recommended https://www.vivolife.co.uk/blogs/news/a-big-Maca-mistake-gelatinsed-vs-raw-Maca-powder. Pills are not as carefully regulated as other forms and may be mixed with other ingredients. The safest way to consume is to use the raw powder and check the label.
In summary, whilst the scientific research may be ongoing into some of the more radical supposed benefits of maca, there is no question that it contains many important vitamins and minerals that could help improve your health.