Maca's Brain-Boosting Wonders: 4 Key Health Benefits

Maca is a versatile superfood with a history rooted in ancient Andean traditions. From boosting brain function to alleviating mood swings and even enhancing libido, Maca offers a plethora of health benefits.
Maca Tea

Key Takeaways

Maca Benefits

1. Cognition and Learning

Maca is a brain-boosting powerhouse rich in amino acids that improve neurotransmitter function and acetylcholine levels, benefiting learning, and cognitive function.

2. Mood Improvement

Maca improves mood and energy levels, with studies showing a significant drop in anxiety and depression among users.

3. Life Quality Enhancement

Maca enhances life quality, particularly for individuals living at high altitudes, by reducing oxidative stress and improving overall health status and emotional well-being.

4. SSRI-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Reduction

Maca may help counteract SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, with a higher dose showing meaningful improvement in patients dealing with sexual issues caused by SSRIs

What is Maca?

Maca is a unique nootropic plant from Peru, part of the same family as mustard, and closely related to veggies like cabbage and turnips. It thrives in the harsh conditions of the Peruvian Andes, at elevations over 13,000 feet, where it has to deal with extreme cold, intense sunlight, and strong winds.

People in the Andes have relied on Maca for more than 2,000 years, not just as a nutritious food but as a natural way to boost fertility in humans and animals. Recently, it's caught the world's attention as a brain-boosting supplement and for its other health benefits.

Typically, the plant is harvested, dried, and stored for later use. The locals often boil the hard, dried Maca to soften it and enjoy it as a juice.

What makes Maca so unique? It's packed with amino acids—building blocks of proteins—like leucine, arginine, and phenylalanine, among others. Also, it's rich in essential minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc.

But that's not all. Maca has unique compounds found only in this plant, such as macaridine, macaene, and macamides. These fantastic ingredients contribute to its distinctive health properties. [1]

Interesting to note, Maca comes in three principal colors: yellow, red, and black. Research shows that each color has different levels of these compounds, explaining why different colors of Maca might have varying health benefits. [2]

In summary, Maca is a nutritional powerhouse used for centuries for its unique health-boosting properties. Whether you're looking for brain health, fertility, or overall well-being, Maca offers something for everyone.

How Does Maca Work in the Brain?

Maca has some pretty cool benefits for your brain. Let's focus on two main ones.

Firstly, Maca appears to boost a neurotransmitter called anandamide, often called the 'bliss molecule.' One of the unique compounds in Maca, known as macamide, is quite similar to anandamide. This neurotransmitter interacts with cannabinoid receptors in your brain and is linked to feelings of joy or bliss. [3]

Studies have shown that Maca also slows down the breakdown of anandamide by inhibiting an enzyme called FAAH. [4] FAAH breaks down anandamide. 

Researchers believe that Maca's various health effects, from boosting libido to improving memory, could be because it helps keep more anandamide active in your brain. [5]

Secondly, Maca seems to have a calming effect, reducing both anxiety and depression. What's interesting is that it does this without directly affecting hormone levels.

A study conducted in Australia found that postmenopausal women who took Maca daily for 12 weeks saw a significant decrease in their anxiety and depression scores, without any change in hormone levels. [6]

All three colors of Maca—yellow, red, and black—have been observed to possess this antidepressant activity.

While it's not proven, some experts speculate that Maca's mood-boosting effects could also be due to some of the amino acids it contains, like tyrosine and GABA, along with its antioxidant activity in the brain.

So, in simple terms, Maca could be a natural way to lift your spirits and sharpen your mind, all thanks to its unique blend of compounds and amino acids.

4 Benefits of Maca

1. Maca Boosts Cognition

Maca is not just a superfood; it's also a brain-boosting powerhouse. Here's how it helps:

First, let's talk about neurotransmitters, the brain's chemical messengers. Maca is rich in amino acids like arginine, tyrosine, and phenylalanine, which are key players in brain function. These amino acids help your neurotransmitters do their job better, which can improve everything from your mood to how quickly you can solve a puzzle.

Second, how about a natural study aid? Locals in the central Peruvian Andes have a tradition: they give their kids Maca to help them do better in school. [7] Why? It's believed that Maca boosts acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for learning, and also acts as an antioxidant to protect brain cells. [8]

But don't just take their word for it; there's science to back this up. A study conducted for 21 days explored the effects of different colors of Maca on learning and mood. The result? Black Maca came out on top for enhancing learning, while all types showed promise in lifting mood. [9]

In simple terms, Maca could be your brain's new best friend. Whether you're looking to sharpen your thinking or elevate your mood, this Peruvian plant has something for you.

2. Maca Improves Mood

Maca is not only a hit among the general population; it's also getting scientific nods, especially when it comes to improving mood and energy levels. Two noteworthy studies have delved into this.

The first study was carried out at Victoria University in Australia with 14 postmenopausal women. Each woman was given powdered Maca or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Interestingly, while there were no changes in hormone levels, the women did experience a significant drop in anxiety and depression. [10]

And get this—around 80% of those who took Red Maca felt an improvement in mood by weeks 8 and 12, and more than 90% reported an energy boost by week 12.

In another study at a Peruvian University, 175 people were given either a placebo, Black Maca, or Red Maca daily for 12 weeks. This study included people living at both low and high altitudes. [11]

The conclusion is? Both Red and Black Maca seemed to enhance mood, energy, and overall quality of life. Notably, Red Maca had a stronger impact, especially on mood and energy levels.

3. Maca Enhances Life Quality

Living high up in the mountains has its challenges, like chronic mountain sickness (CMS), which can really put a dent in your quality of life. Researchers decided to explore how Maca could help people living at high altitudes—specifically, 13,000 feet above sea level in the central Peruvian Andes.

Why is living so high up a concern? Elevated altitudes can lead to increased hemoglobin levels, which produce oxidative stress. They measured this stress by a marker called interleukin-6 (IL-6).

Higher IL-6 levels have a link to aging, heart disease, obesity, and even cognitive impairment. [12]

The study included 50 people. Half were Maca consumers, while the other half didn't use Maca. They used the Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQL) questionnaire to measure emotional well-being and life satisfaction. The results were eye-opening. [13]

People who consumed Maca scored higher in terms of their overall health status. But that's not all—they also had lower CMS scores, meaning they were better off dealing with the challenges of high-altitude living.

So, if you're dealing with life stressors—whether high up in the mountains or just navigating the ups and downs of your day—Maca could boost your overall sense of well-being.

4. Maca Decreases SSRI-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

Antidepressants like SSRIs are a lifeline for many dealing with depression, but they often come with a trade-off—namely, sexual dysfunction and a dip in libido. 

Researchers wondered if Maca could help balance things out.

To find out, they conducted a study with 20 mostly female patients averaging 36 years old. These patients were dealing with sexual issues due to their SSRI medications. They were given either a smaller dose of Maca or a higher dose per day.

The results? The group that received the higher dose saw a meaningful improvement in overcoming their sexual dysfunction. The lower dose group didn't experience the same benefits. [14]

These results led the researchers to conclude that Maca might help counteract SSRI-induced sexual issues, and the effects might even be dose-related.

Safety And Side Effects

Maca has a pretty good safety record. You can include it in your regular diet or even take it as a supplement. Research shows that taking up to 3 grams per day for a maximum of four months should be safe for most people.

Are you pregnant or nursing? The safety of Maca during pregnancy or breastfeeding is still a gray area. If you fall into either category, it's better to be cautious and consult a healthcare provider before adding Maca to your routine.

In short, Maca is generally considered safe, but as with any supplement, it's wise to do your due diligence and consult healthcare professionals if you have specific concerns.

How to Take Maca

Maca comes in all sorts of forms, making it super easy to include in your daily routine. Capsules and powders are among the most popular. If you're a fan of smoothies or oatmeal, sprinkle in some Maca powder for a nutty, butterscotch kick. It's also great in baked goods and energy bars.

But remember, quality matters. To ensure you're getting the best Maca out there, or for personalized dosage advice, it's a good idea to check in with a healthcare pro like a registered dietitian.

So, whether you like it in a smoothie or as a supplement, Maca is an easy, tasty addition that could offer some health perks.

Maca Recipes You Could Use

1. Maca Cinnamon Spice Tea


  • One teaspoon of Maca powder
  • One cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • One cup of hot water
  • One teaspoon of honey (optional)


  1. Boil a cup of water and pour it into a teapot or mug.
  2. Add the Maca powder and cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon) to the hot water.
  3. Allow it to steep for about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the cinnamon stick if used and sweeten it with honey if desired.
  5. Stir well and enjoy your Maca Cinnamon Spice Tea.

Maca Ginger Lemon Tea


  • One teaspoon of Maca powder
  • One teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
  • One slice of lemon
  • One cup of hot water
  • One teaspoon of honey (optional)


  1. Boil a cup of water and pour it into a teapot or mug.
  2. Add the Maca powder and freshly grated ginger to the hot water.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon slice into the tea.
  4. Allow it to steep for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Remove the lemon slice and sweeten with honey if desired.
  6. Stir well and enjoy your Maca Ginger Lemon Tea.

Maca Turmeric Tea


  • One teaspoon of Maca powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of black pepper (enhances the absorption of turmeric)
  • One cup of hot water
  • One teaspoon of honey (optional)


  1. Boil a cup of water and pour it into a teapot or mug.
  2. Add the Maca powder, ground turmeric, ground cinnamon, and a pinch of black pepper to the hot water.
  3. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  4. Allow it to steep for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Sweeten with honey if desired.
  6. Enjoy your Maca Turmeric Tea, which combines the benefits of Maca and the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric.


Maca is more than just a root; it's a versatile superfood with a history rooted in ancient Andean traditions. From boosting brain function to alleviating mood swings and even enhancing libido, Maca offers a plethora of health benefits.

What makes it even more appealing is its diverse range of forms—capsules, powders, you name it! This makes it easy to incorporate into smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods.

All in all, Maca shows promise as a natural booster for both mind and body, backed by scientific evidence. So whether you want to enhance cognitive function, lift your mood, or add a nutritious kick to your meals, Maca could be worth a try.

Additional Readings

You May Also Like

The Complete Brain Guide to Acetylcholine Supplements

Tyrosine: Fueling Your Brain For Focus And Mental Stamina

L-theanine: Unlocking Calm and Focus for a Sharper Mind


[1]Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and Maca (Lepidium meyenii) : a critical synopsis - PubMed (

[2]Influence of colour type and previous cultivation on secondary metabolites in hypocotyls and leaves of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers) - PubMed (

[3]Identification of Endocannabinoid System-Modulating N-Alkylamides from Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra and Lepidium meyenii | Journal of Natural Products (

[4]The macamide N-3-methoxybenzyl-linoleamide is a time-dependent fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor - PubMed (

[5]Enzymatic synthesis and degradation of anandamide, a cannabinoid receptor agonist - PubMed (

[6]Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women - PubMed (

[7]Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands - PMC (

[8]Aqueous and hydroalcoholic extracts of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) improve scopolamine-induced memory impairment in mice - PubMed (

[9]Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice - PMC (

[10]Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content - PubMed (

[11]Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study - PMC (

[12]Long-term Assessment of Inflammation and Healthy Aging in Late Life: The Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars - PMC (

[13]Role of maca (Lepidium meyenii) consumption on serum interleukin-6 levels and health status in populations living in the Peruvian central Andes over 4000 m of altitude - PMC (

[14]A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction - PubMed (

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