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This Ancient Peruvian Herb Tames Hot Flashes + Boosts Your Libido — And It Tastes Like Caramel

It's no wonder top doctors recommend maca powder to their menopausal patients

Do a quick Google search for “maca powder benefits females” and you might be surprised by the number of health perks that pop up. It turns out the popular supplement, which has been used for centuries in South and Central America, can soothe some of most common (and bothersome) menopause symptoms.

“Maca is something I recommend to my menopausal patients who are struggling with issues such as fatigue, low libido, and stress,” says Karen Koffler, MD, an internal medicine physician at the Osher Center for Integrative Health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Research reveals that maca can boost your health in other ways, too. Read on to find out how this ancient superfood can increase your energy and vitality through menopause and beyond.

What is maca root?

Maca, sometimes called Peruvian ginseng, is a root vegetable that’s been grown in the Andes Mountains for at least 3,000 years. It’s related to radishes, but it doesn’t taste like them. Instead, it has a malty, caramel-like flavor that’s sweet and nutty. (Yum!)

The plant has traditionally been eaten in its native Central and South America. There, it’s long been used as a remedy for menopause symptoms as well as male infertility and boosting sexual desire. In the US, it’s typically consumed as a powder or capsule made from ground maca root.

“The roots are dried in the sun, boiled, and pressurized to remove the starch, which makes it easier to digest,” explains Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, AZ.

Maca’s power may come from the fact that it’s an adaptogen. “Adaptogenic herbs reinstate healthy sleep-wake rhythms, lower hormones like cortisol, and help us adapt to stress more healthfully,” Dr. Alschuler says. Powerful antioxidant compounds like polyphenols, glucosinolates, alkamides, and polysaccharides may also play a role, Dr. Koffler adds.   

Maca roots next to maca powder, which benefits females

6 maca powder benefits for females

“I recommend maca pretty frequently for my menopausal patients,” Dr. Alschuler says. And for good reason: The herbal remedy can give you an edge in combatting some of the biggest hormone-related bothers that strike in your 40s to 50s and beyond.

Related: MDs Reveal the Best Natural Ways to Ease the Most Bothersome Menopause Symptoms

1. Maca powder boosts energy

Found your get-up-and-go got up and went when you hit menopause? A spoonful of maca powder can restore your energy naturally. A whopping 90% of women who consumed 1 tsp. of the powder daily for 12 weeks reported an uptick in energy, found one study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals. The benefits come from maca’s adaptogenic qualities, Dr. Alschuler explains, which can help tame energy-zapping stress.

2. Maca powder enhances your libido

Stress, fatigue, and declining estrogen levels during menopause can take a toll on your libido. “As we go through menopause, desire decreases for most women,” Dr. Koffler confirms. To restore your desire, try a daily teaspoon of maca. After 12 weeks, 50% of women who did so noticed an increase in their sex drive, research reveals.

Of course, you’ll get even more bang for your buck by talking with your partner about ways that they can help set the mood. “Libido in women can be complicated. For desire to happen, the stars have to align. The garbage has to be taken out!” Dr. Koffler laughs. (Click through for more natural remedies for a low libido.)

3. Maca powder thwarts hot flashes

If you’re among the 80% of menopausal women who get hit with uncomfortable hot flashes, maca might be the ticket to feeling cooler and more comfortable. Consuming just 2 grams of maca powder daily can alleviate hot flashes in just 4 days, say researchers reporting in the International Journal of Biomedical Science.

The perk may come from the fact that maca has mild estrogenic properties, which can help even out the erratic hormone swings that can happen during menopause. “Hot flashes, we believe, are due to these swings in estrogen,” Dr. Koffler explains. “So if those swings are modified or shrunk, hot flashes are less of an issue.” (Click through to learn how turmeric benefits women by taming hot flashes, too.)

Check out the video below for more on how maca can help hot flashes (plus other herbal remedies).

Related: This Honey Can Help Women Ease Hot Flashes, Boost Libido + More

4. Maca powder lifts your mood

Feeling blue lately? It’s no wonder. Menopause is tied to an increased risk of mood problems like depression and anxiety. And unchecked stress only makes matters worse. But “maca’s adaptogenic qualities can be useful for depression and anxiety,” Dr. Alschuler says. Research backs ups the stress-busting benefits of maca powder for females. Women who reported these symptoms reported a major mood boost after taking 3.5 grams of maca daily for six weeks, found a study in Menopause.

5. Maca powder lowers your blood pressure

Turn to maca to manage blood pressure spikes that can come from menopause-related estrogen declines. Women who took 3.3 grams of maca per day for 6 weeks lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 7 points and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 8 points, according to a study in the journal Climacteric.

Just don’t forget the healthy blood presssure basics, too, like choosing wholesome foods, exercising, and losing weight if your doctor recommends it. “Maca isn’t a magic bullet, but it can be part of the package,” Dr. Koffler says.

Related: 20 Easy Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally — No Diet or Gym Required

6. Maca powder bolsters your bones

If you’re loading up on calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese to support your bones, give yourself a pat on the back. Then help yourself to a daily spoonful of maca. Up to 20% of bone loss happens during menopause, thanks to falling estrogen levels. But maca has been shown to serve up bone-protecting fatty acids that reduce your risk for osteoporosis, suggests a study in Food Research International. (Click through for more natural ways to strengthen your bones if you don’t want to take osteoporosis drugs.) 

A woman with short hair and a tan sweat flexing her bicep

How to use maca powder for females

Ready to tap into the health benefits of maca powder for females? It’s easy! Dr. Koffler prefers maca powder over maca capsules or tablets. That’s because you can easily stir the powder into smoothies, coffee, or even hot cocoa. Her favorite is Navitas Naturals Organic Maca Powder (Buy from Amazon, $9.99). Aim for about 3 grams per day, suggests Dr. Alschuler. “A teaspoon is about 5 grams, so that’s all you need,” she says.

Smoothies are Dr. Koffler’s favorite way to have maca, since it gives her a chance to fill up on other healthy foods at the same time. “I’ll add berries and greens, whey protein, a little kefir or yogurt to get extra probiotics, and hemp seeds or chia seeds to get more fiber,” she says. (Click through to learn how to make your own probiotic-rich yogurt at home.)

She also points out that you’ll get the most from maca when you take it as part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes choosing healthy foods and being active. “It’s part of a lifestyle. You don’t have to do it perfectly, but do it with the mindset of I’m doing this to take care of myself!” she adds. (Click through for more of our best menopause self-care tips.)

A pink maca powder smoothie in a glass topped with mint beside fresh blackberries and two colorful straws
Gabi Musat/Getty

When to avoid maca powder for females

Maca is generally considered safe for most people, and it’s not known to cause side effects or interact with any medications you might be taking. But you should avoid taking maca powder if you have hormone-sensitive conditions including breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, says Dr. Alschuler. Because maca acts like estrogen in the body, it could potentially make these conditions worse.

For more ways to soothe menopause symptoms naturally:

It’s Not Your Imagination: Menopause Brain Fog *Is* Real — MDs Reveal How to Sharpen Your Thinking

MDs Reveal the Best Natural Ways to Ease the Most Bothersome Menopause Symptoms

Your Vagina *Does* Get Smaller After Menopause + The Lubricants Women Over 50 Should Never Use

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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