Maca vs. Black Maca: Unveiling the Health Benefits and Differences

Picture of Maca vs. Black Maca

The demand for natural and holistic approaches to health and wellness has surged in recent years, leading to a growing interest in superfoods, adaptogens, and alternative medicine. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and black maca (Lepidium meyenii var. Black) have gained significant attention for their potential health benefits. 

These two variants of maca, native to the high-altitude regions of the Peruvian Andes, offer various health-promoting properties and are often considered nutritional powerhouses. This comprehensive blog post will delve into the key differences and health benefits of maca vs. black maca, supported by scientific references.

Understanding Maca and Black Maca

Maca (Lepidium meyenii):

Maca, often called Peruvian ginseng, is a cruciferous root vegetable cultivated for thousands of years in the Andes mountains. Traditionally, it has been used for its potential aphrodisiac and energy-boosting properties. Maca comes in various colors, including yellow, red, and black, each with its unique nutrient profile.

Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii var. Black):

Black maca is a specific variety known for its dark, purplish-black color. It is the rarest of the maca colors. It is believed to possess distinct health benefits compared to other maca varieties. While it shares many of the same nutrients and bioactive compounds as regular maca, it also contains some unique compounds that set it apart.

Nutritional Composition

Both maca and black maca are rich in essential nutrients and bioactive compounds that can support overall health. However, they differ slightly in their nutritional profiles:


Maca is rich in carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates.

It contains a moderate amount of protein, around 9-14% of its dry weight.

Maca is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins (B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E), and minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron).

It is known for its high glucosinolate content, which has antioxidant properties.

Black Maca:

While sharing most of its nutritional content with regular maca, Black maca has been found to contain higher levels of specific bioactive compounds.

It is particularly abundant in polyphenols, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Black maca is also a notable source of anthocyanins, the same compounds responsible for the dark color of foods like blueberries and blackberries.

Health Benefits of Maca vs. Black Maca

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and black maca (Lepidium meyenii var. Black) are two closely related varieties of a root vegetable native to the Peruvian Andes. Both of these maca types offer a range of health benefits. Still, there are some differences in their effects due to variations in nutrient profiles and bioactive compounds. In this section, we’ll explore the specific health benefits of maca and black maca.

Health Benefits of Maca:

Hormone Regulation:

  • Maca is renowned for its adaptogenic properties, which may help the body adapt to various stressors, including hormonal imbalances.
  • It has been traditionally used to support hormonal balance in both men and women.
  • Some studies suggest that maca can alleviate symptoms of menopause and PMS, such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Enhanced Libido:

  • Maca has a reputation as a natural aphrodisiac and is believed to improve sexual function in both men and women.
  • Some research indicates that maca supplementation may increase sexual desire and improve erectile function in men.

Boosted Energy and Endurance:

  • Athletes and individuals seeking increased energy and endurance have reported benefits from maca supplementation.
  • Maca is thought to help improve physical performance and reduce exercise-induced fatigue.

Mood Regulation:

  • Maca is known to have positive effects on mood and mental well-being.
  • It may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly by influencing neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

Nutrient-Rich Support:

  • Maca is a good source of essential nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
  • These nutrients support overall health and well-being.

Health Benefits of Black Maca:

Enhanced Male Reproductive Health:

  • Black maca, in particular, is associated with more potent aphrodisiac effects and may be more effective in improving male reproductive health.
  • Some studies suggest that black maca can increase sperm count and motility, making it beneficial for fertility.

Mood and Cognitive Benefits:

  • The polyphenols and anthocyanins found in black maca may have a more pronounced impact on mood regulation and cognitive function compared to regular maca.
  • Black maca may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and enhance mental clarity.

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

  • Black maca, with its higher polyphenol content, offers more potent antioxidant properties.
  • It may provide better protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Bone Health:

  • Like regular maca, black maca contains essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, which support bone health.
  • It may be particularly beneficial for individuals concerned about osteoporosis or bone density.

Balanced Hormones:

  • Similar to regular maca, black maca may help balance hormones, especially in women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
  • It could alleviate hot flashes, mood swings, and other menopausal discomforts.

Both maca and black maca offer numerous health benefits. Still, the choice between them may depend on individual health goals and specific needs. Regular maca is well-known for its adaptogenic properties and hormone-balancing effects. In contrast, black maca, with its unique polyphenol and anthocyanin content, may provide extra advantages, particularly for male reproductive health and mood regulation. 

Regardless of your choice, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating maca or black maca into your daily routine to ensure it aligns with your health objectives.

Side Effects of Maca and Black Maca

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and black maca (Lepidium meyenii var. Black) are generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet. However, like many dietary supplements, they may have some side effects and considerations. It’s important to note that individual responses to maca and black maca can vary, and some people may be more sensitive to these side effects than others. Here, we’ll explore potential side effects associated with both maca and black maca:

Side Effects of Maca:

  1. Digestive Issues: Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, or stomach cramps, when taking maca. This is more likely to occur when consumed in excessive amounts.
  2. Hormone Imbalance: While maca is often used to support hormonal balance, in rare cases, excessive consumption might lead to hormonal fluctuations. It is essential to use maca in moderation and consult a healthcare provider if you have concerns about its impact on your hormones.
  3. Insomnia or Restlessness: Some users have reported difficulty sleeping or increased restlessness when taking maca, particularly if consumed late in the day.
  4. Allergic Reactions: Allergic reactions to maca are rare but possible. If you experience symptoms like itching, hives, or swelling after consuming maca, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

Side Effects of Black Maca:

  1. Similar Digestive Issues: Black maca may also cause digestive discomfort in some individuals, including bloating and gas.
  2. Hormonal Effects: Like regular maca, black maca can influence hormones. While this is often a desired effect, excessive consumption may lead to imbalances or side effects in some people.
  3. Insomnia or Restlessness: As with regular maca, black maca might result in difficulty sleeping or increased restlessness if taken too close to bedtime.
  4. Blood Pressure: Some individuals may experience changes in blood pressure when using black maca. If you have blood pressure concerns or are taking hypertension medication, consult a healthcare provider before using black maca.
  5. Allergic Reactions: As with regular maca, allergic reactions to black maca are rare but possible. You may also be sensitive to black maca if you are allergic to regular maca.
  6. Interactions with Medications: Both maca and black maca may interact with certain medications, such as those for hormone-related conditions. If you are on medication, consult your healthcare provider before using these supplements.

Precautions and Tips:

  • Start with a lower dose: If you’re new to maca or black maca, begin with a smaller dose to assess your tolerance and minimize the risk of side effects.
  • Monitor your body’s response: Pay attention to how your body reacts to maca or black maca, and adjust your dosage accordingly.
  • Consult a healthcare professional: Before adding maca or black maca to your daily routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications, consult a healthcare provider to ensure it is safe and appropriate.
  • Quality matters: Ensure you purchase high-quality maca or black maca products from reputable sources to reduce the risk of contaminants and impurities.

Maca and black maca are generally considered safe for most people when used responsibly and in moderation. However, like any supplement, they may have side effects in some individuals. It’s crucial to start with a lower dose, monitor your body’s response, and consult a healthcare provider if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.

In the debate of maca vs. black maca, it’s important to note that both variants offer impressive health benefits. While regular maca is widely recognized for its adaptogenic properties and hormonal balance support, black maca stands out for its unique polyphenol and anthocyanin content, potentially making it more effective in certain applications, such as enhancing libido and mood regulation.

Ultimately, the choice between maca and black maca depends on individual health goals and preferences. To reap the maximum benefits, ensuring product quality and dosage consistency is crucial. Before incorporating maca or black maca into your daily routine, consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable option based on your needs and health status.


  1. Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:193496.
  2. Rubio J, et al. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006;6:23.
  3. Valentová K, et al. Cytoprotective effect of maca (Lepidium meyenii) on human osteoblastic cells treated with hydrogen peroxide and menadione. Phytother Res. 2008;22(9):1206-12.
  4. Gonzales GF, et al. Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2005;3:5.
  5. Dini A, et al. Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of Lepidium meyenii. Food Chem. 2012;131(2):484-90.
Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.


Maca Root vs. Ashwagandha: A Comparative Analysis of Two Adaptogenic Powerhouses

In recent years, the interest in alternative medicine and natural remedies has surged, leading to a renewed focus on ancient herbal traditions. Among these traditions, the use of adaptogenic herbs has gained significant attention. Two such herbs, Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) have stood out for their potential health benefits and adaptogenic properties. This post aims to comprehensively analyze Maca root and Ashwagandha, exploring their origins, traditional uses, active compounds, potential health benefits, and scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness.

Map of India

Origins and Traditional Uses

Maca Root:

Maca root, also known as “Peruvian ginseng,” is a cruciferous vegetable native to the high-altitude regions of the Andes Mountains in Peru. It has a long history of traditional use as a medicinal and nutritional food source by the region’s indigenous people. 

Maca root was believed to enhance energy, stamina, and fertility, and it was often consumed to address issues related to reproductive health and hormonal balance. Additionally, Maca root was utilized to improve cognitive function and as an aphrodisiac to enhance sexual desire.


Ashwagandha, often referred to as the “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry,” is an adaptogenic herb native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. It holds a revered place in Ayurveda, the ancient system of Indian medicine. 

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to promote vitality, strength, and longevity. It was considered a Rasayana (rejuvenating) herb and was employed to combat stress, anxiety, and fatigue while enhancing cognitive function and overall well-being.

pipetting in a lab

Active Compounds and Phytochemistry

Maca Root:

Maca root is rich in bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates. The specific compounds responsible for its adaptogenic properties are still being investigated. Notable compounds include macamides and macaenes, unique to Maca and associated with potential effects on hormone balance and energy regulation.


The active compounds in Ashwagandha, known as withanolides, primarily contribute to its adaptogenic properties. These withanolides exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-modulating effects. Additionally, Ashwagandha contains alkaloids, flavonoids, and steroidal lactones, all contributing to its medicinal qualities.

Maca Root

  • Hormonal Balance:
    •  Maca is believed to help regulate hormonal imbalances in both men 1 and women, which may benefit issues like menstrual irregularities and menopausal symptoms.
  • Energy and Stamina:
    • Maca often improves energy levels, physical endurance, and stamina2
  • Cognitive Function:
    • Some studies suggest that maca may have cognitive-enhancing properties, including memory and learning34
  • Mood Regulation:
    • Maca may help stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety5
  • Libido and Sexual Function:
    •  Maca is traditionally considered an aphrodisiac and is believed to improve sexual desire and function6
  • Antioxidant Effects:
    • Maca contains antioxidants that can help protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage7
  • Bone Health:
      •  Some animal studies suggest that maca may help improve bone density, which could be relevant for postmenopausal women at risk of osteoporosis. 8


  • Stress Reduction and Anxiety Management:
    • Ashwagandha is well-known for its stress-reducing properties and its ability to help manage anxiety9
  • Improved Mood and Mental Health:
    • Some studies suggest that Ashwagandha may have anti-depressant effects and could benefit individuals with depression and mood disorders10
  • Enhanced Cognitive Function:
    • Ashwagandha is believed to enhance cognitive function, including memory and focus11
  • Energy and Vitality:
    •  Ashwagandha is thought to improve overall energy levels and vitality12
  • Immune System Support:
    •  Ashwagandha’s immunomodulatory effects may help support the immune system.13
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
    •  Ashwagandha contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions.14
  • Hormonal Balance:
    •  Ashwagandha is believed to have hormone-balancing effects, particularly in women, and may help regulate menstrual cycles and hormonal disorders15
  • Blood Sugar Control:
    • Some research suggests that Ashwagandha may help regulate blood sugar levels, potentially benefiting individuals with diabetes or those at risk.16
  • Muscle Strength and Recovery:
    • Athletes sometimes use Ashwagandha to potentially increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise recovery.17

Maca Root

  • Gastrointestinal Distress:
    • Some people may experience digestive issues such as stomach cramps, bloating, or diarrhea when consuming maca root in excessive amounts.
  • Hormonal Effects:
    • Maca’s hormonal-balancing properties may lead to hormonal changes in some individuals. While this can be beneficial for some, it may cause unwanted effects in others, particularly those with certain hormone-sensitive conditions.
  • Interaction with Thyroid Function:
    • Maca has been reported to influence thyroid function potentially. It may interfere with thyroid hormone levels in individuals with thyroid disorders.
  • Allergic Reactions:
    • In rare cases, allergic reactions to maca root have been reported. Symptoms may include itching, rash, or swelling.
  • Sleep Disturbances:
    • Some individuals have reported insomnia or sleep disturbances as a side effect of maca consumption, particularly when taken late in the day.
  • Interactions with Medications:
    • Maca may interact with certain medications for thyroid disorders or hormonal imbalances. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking medication and considering maca supplementation.
  • Changes in Blood Pressure:
    • Maca may have a slight effect on blood pressure. Individuals with hypertension or those taking blood pressure medications should monitor their blood pressure when using Maca.


  • Gastrointestinal Distress:
    • Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, including stomach upset, diarrhea, or nausea when taking Ashwagandha.
  • Drowsiness or Sedation:
    • Ashwagandha has mild sedative properties and may cause drowsiness in some individuals. It is advisable not to operate heavy machinery or drive if you experience drowsiness after taking Ashwagandha.
  • Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure):
    • Ashwagandha may lower blood pressure. Individuals with already low blood pressure or those taking medications for hypertension should monitor their blood pressure carefully.
  • Allergic Reactions:
    • Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to Ashwagandha, including itching, rash, or swelling.
  • Thyroid Interactions:
    • Ashwagandha may influence thyroid function, potentially affecting individuals with thyroid disorders. It is best for you to monitor thyroid hormone levels under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
  • Interactions with Medications:
    • Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including thyroid medications, sedatives, and medications that suppress the immune system. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking any medication and considering ashwagandha supplementation.
  • Pregnancy and Lactation:
    • Ashwagandha is not recommended for use by pregnant women, as it may have abortifacient effects. It’s also advised to avoid it while breastfeeding due to the lack of safety data.

Scientific Evidence and Clinical Studies

Maca Root:

Scientific research on Maca root is still evolving, and while some animal and human studies suggest potential benefits in areas such as hormonal balance and energy enhancement, more rigorous research is needed to establish conclusive evidence. Some conflicting results have led to debates about Maca’s effectiveness in various health aspects.


Ashwagandha boasts a more substantial body of scientific research supporting its adaptogenic properties. Numerous clinical trials have investigated its effects on stress, anxiety, cognitive function, and hormonal balance. These studies have provided evidence that Ashwagandha can indeed offer benefits in these areas.

pharmacist shaking hands with patient

Safety and Precautions

Both Maca root and Ashwagandha are generally considered safe when consumed in appropriate doses. However, individual responses may vary, and you should consult a healthcare professional before adding any new supplement or herb to your routine. Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals and those with certain medical conditions should exercise caution and seek medical advice.

The comparative analysis of Maca root and Ashwagandha, two remarkable adaptogenic herbs with diverse origins and traditional uses, reveals a nuanced landscape of potential health benefits and considerations. While both herbs exhibit adaptogenic properties that contribute to improved well-being, they offer unique advantages rooted in their distinct phytochemical profiles.

Maca root, native to the high Andes, presents promising potential in addressing hormonal imbalances, enhancing energy and stamina, and supporting cognitive function and mood regulation. However, its scientific validation is still evolving, necessitating further research to substantiate these claims conclusively.

On the other hand, Ashwagandha, cherished in Ayurvedic traditions, boasts a more substantial body of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy in stress reduction, anxiety management, cognitive enhancement, and immune system support. Its adaptogenic and neuroprotective qualities have garnered attention in modern healthcare.

Nonetheless, it is essential to approach both Maca root and Ashwagandha with mindfulness. Individual responses vary, and considerations such as dosage, quality of the product, and potential interactions with medications or underlying health conditions should guide their use.

As the interest in natural remedies and herbal traditions continues to rise, the comparative analysis of herbs like Maca and Ashwagandha underscores the importance of informed decision-making, evidence-based choices, and consultation with healthcare professionals. These adaptogenic powerhouses offer a potential path to improved well-being, but a holistic approach to health remains paramount in our journey toward optimal vitality and balance.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.


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