Maca is a root vegetable belonging to the mustard family.
This radish like root vegetable grows extensively in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
The root of maca plant looks a little radish and has a slight sweet and sharp taste. It smells close to butterscotch.
Four different varieties of maca are observed in Peru the black, red, purple and cream varieties. Peruvians have been using Maca for the past 2000 years for its medicinal value.
The amino acids, alkaloids and fatty acids contained in the root offer numerous health benefits such as improving strength, fertility and sexual libido. However, inappropriate or extensive use of maca causes certain side effects.
Possible Maca side effects
Use of maca in limited amounts is generally safe. But use of higher dosage for prolonged periods causes certain side effects. Here are some general side effects observed:
- Goiter: Glucosinolates are a group of compounds present in maca. Prolonged intake of glucosinolates causes swelling of the thyroid gland. They may also alter the functioning of the gland causing goiter and associated symptoms such as difficulty to swallow, hoarse voice, swelling at the neck region and difficulty to breathe. Intake of iodine deficiency diet while using the maca vegetable increases the risk of Goiter.
- Altered functioning of the brain and central nervous system: High dosage of maca influences the functioning of the brain causing headaches, insomnia and mood swings. Hence, people suffering with migraine headaches or sleeplessness should consult the physician before using maca supplements.
- Allergy: Sensitive people who often suffer with allergies may develop allergic reactions with maca. It causes symptoms such as rashes, itching of the skin, difficulty to breath, pain and tightness of the chest region.
- Drug interactions: Interacts with drugs such as blood thinners, pain killers such as ibuprofen, anti-coagulants and birth control medications. It also interacts with the herbs such as St. John’s Wart.
- Gastro intestinal disturbances: Enzymes contained in the root disturb the normal digestion process causing diarrhea, flatulence and bloating. Intake of fresh maca causes stomach pain.
- Other side effects: Due to increased brain activity people using maca supplements often suffer with insomnia, drastic changes in mood and hot flashes.
Possible Maca side effects in women
- Fastens the ovulation process by stimulating the production of essential hormones.
- Severe pain before menstruation.
- Irregular menstrual cycle if taken for a long period.
- Facial hair growth, baldness, resistance to insulin and uterine or breast cancer may also be observed in few women.
Possible Maca side effects in men include decrease in Sexual libido if the root is taken in large amounts.
Other maca side effects: In addition to the above listed symptoms hot flashes, fatigue, hypertension, heart burn, increased heart rate and indigestion may be observed in few patients.
As maca side effects vary from patient to patient it is highly recommended to consult the physician before using Maca for any of its health benefits.
Who should not take Maca?
In view of maca side effects people suffering with certain medical conditions should not take maca.
- People suffering with thyroid disorders should avoid using this root vegetable.
- Pregnant and nursing women.
- Patients suffering with hormonal disorders, liver and kidney diseases.
- People taking pain killers, anti-coagulants, blood thinners and birth control pills.
Safe dosage of Maca
There is actually no scientifically proven dosage limit. Taking 500 mg of maca thrice a day is generally considered safe. To prevent side effects it is recommended to take a week off and then continue using the herb.
Stop using maca supplements if any of the maca side effects are observed and consult the physician immediately to prevent complications. Care should be taken to read the labels while purchasing the supplements as certain pills contain 1000 mg per dosage.