Maca is a sacred medicinal root vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family and only grows around 4000m above sea level in a remote part of the Peruvian Andes. The Incan people call maca the “food of the brain” and consider it their most sacred plant that brings happiness and balance back to their body during stress. What is unique about maca is that it comes in 3 colours, with seeds from any colour producing all 3 colours again.
Figure 1 – the inside of the 3 different colours of maca, yellow, red and black.
YELLOW MACA is the most common making up approximately 60-70% of the entire harvest. Being abundant the locals understand that Pachamama (Mother Earth) provides yellow for all and it should be consumed daily. It is traditionally consumed by children, women and men without exception to maintain balance, build resilience and prevent health problems. Scientific studies of yellow maca have shown that it can assist with improvements in energy,[i] mood and mental health,[ii] it increases fertility and sexual function,[iii] enhances metabolic function[iv] and reduces stress-induced inflammation.[v] These unique properties are due to the fact that maca acts as an adaptogen and seeks to maintain balance during times of stress.
RED MACA is a rare form of maca making up approximately 20-25% of the harvest. Red represents our feminine or internal energy, that energy that nourishes, balances and calms. Traditionally it is used to prevent and improve conditions such as: anxiety, adrenal fatigue, osteoporosis, circulatory issues, hypoxia (low oxygen), or chronic inflammation. Red maca also nourishes, regulates and strengthens the female reproductive organs, and in men the function of the prostate. Interestingly, clinical studies have shown red maca to be the most effective for strengthening bones[vi], with one study showing high-dose extracts of red maca preventing post-menopausal bone loss.[vii] Furthermore, red maca was shown to be the most effective at improving female fertility and libido.[viii] But that doesn’t mean red is only for women, in men the same high-dose extracts of red maca were able to improve prostate function, reduce inflammation, whilst simultaneously stimulating male libido.[ix] So both men and women have positive benefits for consuming red maca, and both men and women need to nourish their feminine energy.
BLACK MACA is the rarest form of maca making up only 10-15% of the harvest. Black represents our masculine or external energy, that which strengthens, endures and vitalises. Traditionally it is used to prevent and improve conditions such as brain fog, fatigue, depression, loss of co-ordination and strength. It acts to enhance memory, regenerates brain function, gives energy, improves physical performance, mental focus, is a natural antidepressant and regulates and strengthens the male reproductive organs. Clinical studies have shown black maca to be the most effective for improving memory function, learning and brain clarity,[x] as well as improving athletic performance.[xi] For men black maca increased sperm production and function as well as male libido.[xii] So both men and women have similar and yet different positive benefits for consuming black maca, and both men and women need to nourish their masculine energy.
Figure 2 – using all 3 colours of maca in combination can have significant health benefits.
The Incan Shamans believe we are a mixture of two forces, internal and external, feminine and masculine. Whether male or female, we all have both energies. But the ratios we need of each energy will differ, especially between men and women and depending on what condition you are looking at treating. Understanding how the colours differ and how they work can help better select the right maca for you.
Table 1 – different colours of maca for the treatment of different conditions.
When selecting the right maca you can either choose a single colour like yellow or extracted high-dose red or black maca. Or you can opt for a combination blend of the best of the 3 colours combined. For women looking for more internal hormonal balance and harmony try Maca for Women – a 3 coloured blend enriched with high doses of red maca. For men looking for more energy, stamina and endurance try Maca for Men – a 3 coloured blend enriched with high doses of black maca. Each blend contains the best of the three colours for either male or female health and is formulated based on ancient traditions and scientific research.
[i] (a) Shin, S., et al., Gelatinized and fermented powders of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improve physical stamina and epididymal sperm counts in male mice. J. Emb. Trans, 2008. 23: p. 283-289. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291889082_Gelatinizedand_fermented_powders_of_Lepidium_meyenii_Maca_improve_physical_stamina_and_epididymal_sperm_counts_in_male_mice (b) Choi, E.H., et al., Supplementation of standardised lipid-soluble extract from maca (Lepidium meyenii) increases swimming endurance capacity in rats. Journal of Functional Foods, 2012. 4(2): p. 568-573. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464612000436
[ii] Brooks, N. A., Wilcox, G., Walker, K. Z., Ashton, J. F., Cox, M. B., & Stojanovska, L. (2008). 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. Menopause, 15(6), 1157-1162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18784609
[iii] Zinaman, M. J., Brown, C. C., Selevan, S. G., & Clegg, E. D. (2000). Semen quality and
human fertility: a prospective study with healthy couples. Journal of Andrology, 21(1), 145-
[iv] Meissner, H. O., Reich-Bilinska, H., Mscisz, A., & Kedzia, B. (2006). Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon) used as a non-hormonal alternative to HRT in perimenopausal women-Clinical Pilot Study. International journal of biomedical science: IJBS, 2(2), 143. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614596/
[v] Zheng, W., et al., Lepidium meyenii Walp Exhibits Anti-Inflammatory Activity against ConA-Induced Acute Hepatitis. Mediators Inflamm, 2018. 2018: p. 8982756. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30647537
[vi] Gonzales C, Cárdenas-Valencia I, Leiva-Revilla J, Anza-Ramirez C, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Forsch Komplementmed. 2010;17(3):137-143. doi:10.1159/000315214. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20616517
[vii] Zhang Y, Yu L, Ao M, Jin W. Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;105(1-2):274-279. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.12.013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16466876
[viii] Gonzales, G. F. (2015) Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a
Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat
Med. 2012;2012:193496. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21977053
[ix] Gonzales, C., et al., Effect of red maca (Lepidium meyenii) on prostate zinc levels in rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia. Andrologia, 2012. 44 Suppl 1: p. 362-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21762188
[x] (a) Rubio J, Caldas M, Dávila S, Gasco M, Gonzales GF. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006;6(1):23-27. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1534053/ .(b) Rubio, J., et al., Aqueous Extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on Memory Impairment Induced by Ovariectomy in Mice. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2011. 2011: p. 253958-253958. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18955369
[xi] Wan, W., Li, H., Xiang, J., Yi, F., Xu, L., Jiang, B., & Xiao, P. (2018). Aqueous Extract of Black Maca Prevents Metabolism Disorder via Regulating the Glycolysis/Gluconeogenesis-TCA Cycle and PPARα Signaling Activation in Golden Hamsters Fed a High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 333. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29681858
[xii] Gonzales, G. F., Nieto, J., Rubio, J., & Gasco, M. (2006). Effect of Black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats. Andrologia, 38(5), 166-172.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16961569