Maca is a Peruvian root that is used both in cooking and medicine. Its fans cite benefits such as increased energy and libido, encouraging more consumers to buy this product. While it can help you feel more energetic, you need to consider the possible side effects of taking this herb. As with any herb, always check with your health care provider before adding maca root to your diet.
What Is Maca Root?
Maca root is an herbal supplement that comes from the Peruvian maca plant. It has been hailed in Peru for years as a superfood that can help improve health and vitality.
The latest in a long line of superfoods making their way to North America and Europe from other continents, maca is believed to be an adaptogen, or an herb that helps the body resist stress, trauma, and fatigue. It is believed to enhance immunity and increase energy. Maca may also elevate energy levels, improve immune function and provide vital nutrients to malnourished bodies.
There are many other promoted benefits of maca root, including hormone balancing, healing skin conditions, preventing migraines and many more.
Maca Root Side Effects
If you believe the press, maca root is all benefits. Are there maca root side effects? Before trying maca root yourself, consider the following caveats, side effects and cautions.
High in Iodine
Maca root is extremely high in iodine. While some iodine is necessary for thyroid function, too much can worsen the symptoms of thyroid disease. It also has a chemical in it called Glucosinolate, which may lead to the growth of goiters.Those with thyroid disorders should proceed with extreme caution and check with their endocrinologist before consuming maca root.
Like any herb, there may be those who are allergic to maca root. If you have plant based allergies you may want to check with your allergist before consuming maca.
Maca is believed to increase the production of testosterone in the body for both men and women. While men may benefit from this, too much testosterone can cause problematic hormonal changes in women including:
- Growth of facial hair
- Deepening of voice
- Changes in body shape
- Male pattern baldness
- Insulin resistance
- Breast and uterine cancers
There may also be mood swings, anxiety and excessive anger in both sexes; most likely attributable to the increased testosterone. It is interesting to note that New York University's Langone Medical Center reports that there does not appear to be an increase in testosterone levels for people taking maca.
Because maca increases hormonal activity, it can cause adolescent type breakouts and acne.
Altered Hormone Levels
Changes in hormone levels can also lead to menstrual problems, decreased sex drive and weight gain or even hot flashes.
One of the side effects of maca can be nausea and stomach upset.
Increased Heart Rate
The root is a stimulant, and can caused increased heart rate. If you have a history of heart disease or disorder, check with your cardiac care physician before taking maca root.
Some people taking maca root have reported increased incidence of heart burn.
Some people taking maca root report headaches that are increased in frequency and severity.
The stimulant properties of maca root may make it difficult to sleep.
Take Maca Root Cautiously
There are no known drug interactions with maca and, with the exception of the increased incidence of goiter, there are no scientifically based negative side effects, either. Every person handles substances differently, however, so be cautious when taking maca or any herb. Don't ignore any symptoms that you may have.
Always check with your health care provider before taking any herb, but especially before adding maca root to your health care regimen. If you do decide to take maca root, it is best to slowly build up your dosage to the recommended amount to reduce incidents of side effects. If you do experience any of the above side effects or any other changes you should stop taking maca root immediately and talk with your personal health care provider.
Cycling on maca root supplements is recommended to reduce the incidence of side effects. A typical recommended cycle is two weeks on followed by two or three days off. Never take more than the recommended dosage of maca root.
Not Evaluated by the FDA
None of the claims made about maca root have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, nor have any human studies been done. Because of this, it is difficult to know what dosage should be recommended or can be considered safe. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not take maca since its effect on your baby is unknown.
It may take a few weeks for side effects to show up; they may show up immediately, or you may not experience any side effects at all, so it is important that you carefully monitor yourself while you are taking maca root. As you can see, while maca root may have benefits, it is important to always proceed with caution when taking an untested herbal supplement.