Maca Root: Side Effects, Benefits, and Tips for Safe Use

While some people take this supplement for energy, there are also concerns to keep in mind.

Updated October 10, 2022
Maca root

Maca root is an herbal supplement that comes from the Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii) plant. The root that has been used both in cooking and medicine for centuries. It has been hailed in Peru for years as a superfood that can help improve health and vitality. Fans of maca root cite benefits such as increased energy and improved libido, encouraging more consumers to buy the product.

While it might help you feel more energetic, you should consider potential maca root side effects before taking this herb. As with any herb, always check with your health care provider before adding maca root to your diet.

Benefits of Maca Root

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. According to research published in 2012, some limited studies showed that maca may be able to help with metabolic syndrome and might be useful for patients with hypertension.

Maca was also shown to help energy levels and possibly alleviate symptoms from osteoarthritis. Additionally, it was shown to have fertility-enhancing properties and protect the skin. However, it is important to note that some studies that show maca root benefits were performed on rats and that independent studies showing the benefits in humans are limited.

Maca Root Side Effects

Though the research on maca is limited, there don't appear to be substantial side effects caused by this herb. According to Medline Plus, maca and maca root are considered safe for most people when taken by mouth. They advise that maca should be eaten with food and daily doses of 3 grams can be taken for up to 4 months. Larger doses are also possibly safe for short periods. However, there are a few caveats and warnings to be aware of when taking maca.

Allergic Reaction

Like any herb, there may be those who are allergic to maca root. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, herb allergies typically involve local reactions in the mouth or to the tongue. However, you might have an overall body reaction. If you have plant-based allergies, you may want to check with your allergist before consuming maca.

Hormone Sensitivity Precautions

According to Medline Plus, maca extracts can work like estrogen. Therefore, it can make hormone-sensitive conditions related to estrogen, like endometriosis and uterine fibroids, worse. Therefore, if you have an estrogen-sensitive condition, it's not recommended to take maca root.

Pregnancy Precautions

Medline Plus also notes that maca might not be safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. There is not enough research available on the market to ensure maca is safe. Therefore, it's recommended to steer clear and stick to safe foods.

Testosterone Function Claims

Maca is believed to increase the production of testosterone in the body for both men and women. However, a 2018 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology notes that there does not appear to be an increase in testosterone levels for people taking maca. More research is needed to support this claim.

Other Maca Root Side Effects

A small clinical trial on maca root did note some additional side effects. However, these side effects were limited. The side effects from patients taking maca root included:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding)
  • Nausea

Use Caution When Taking Maca Root

Medline Plus states no known drug interactions or food interactions associated with maca. However, every person handles substances differently, so be cautious when taking maca or any herb. Don't ignore any symptoms that you may have. Also remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements the same way they do medication. The FDA only removes misbranded products after they hit the market if an issue is reported. Because of this, it is difficult to know what dosage should be recommended or can be considered safe.

Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any herb, but especially before adding maca root to your healthcare 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 maca root side effects or any other changes, you should stop taking maca root immediately and talk with your personal healthcare provider.

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Maca Root: Side Effects, Benefits, and Tips for Safe Use