Considered a sacred root native to the Peruvian Andes, maca has been cultivated for over 2000 years by indigenous people for its health benefits. It is said that they first noticed the positive effects of this root on their livestock – boosting energy and fertility, and decided to start consuming it for themselves.
Maca may be best known for its adaptogenic qualities, considered by the Incan people as the “food of the brain” that brings happiness and balance back to the body during times of stress. It is also high in phytonutrients, containing a rare blend of amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fibre.
So which maca is best?
It may surprise you to learn that all three types of maca (red, yellow and black) all come from the same seed crop and cannot be individually cultivated. In fact, all the types of maca have an identical nutrition profile – it is the phytonutrients in the skin of the different types that offers their unique qualities.
Although they are all grown from the same seed crop, the roots do not grow equally. A typical crop will grow 60-70% yellow maca, 20-25% red maca and 10-15% black maca, it is believed that this is not an accident and that la maca is suggesting that this is how it should be consumed – the most abundant maca, yellow, should be used for daily use, whereas red and black are considered to be rare and therefore should be saved for medicinal use.
Being the most abundant maca, it is thought that the yellow root should be consumed daily to maintain balance and prevent health problems. Yellow maca is especially high in active compounds called ‘macamides’, which are thought to give it its adaptogenic properties. Macamides work to preserve and increase levels of anandamide in the brain, the compound that is also known as the bliss molecule.
Red maca is thought to be the feminine root, traditionally used to nourish, regulate and strengthen the female reproductive organs, as well as preventing conditions such as anxiety, adrenal fatigue and osteoporosis. Scientific studies have also shown red maca to be most effective at strengthening bones, particularly in preventing post-menopausal bone loss. Another study also found that when post-menopausal women took a daily dose of red maca over a six week period, they saw a significant reduction in psychological symptoms associated with menopause such as anxiety and depression.
The rarest form of maca, black maca is traditionally used to support male sexual health and studies have found it to increase sperm motility, sperm count and quality. The skin of black maca is also rich in antioxidant compounds and is often used to improve conditions such as brain fog, fatigue and strength as well as enhancing memory, regenerate brain function and improve physical performance.