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What is Raw Maca?

By Erica Stratton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Raw maca is a powdered form of the maca root, which is native to the Andes Mountains area of South America. The root is processed without using heat, which makes it acceptable to eat for those following a raw food diet. It is also used as a nutritional supplement. Many people also eat maca root because it has a reputation of being an aphrodisiac.

The maca tuber has been consumed in the Andes for thousands of years, most notably by the Incas. People eat its leaves in salads or mash the tubers to eat them in a way similar to mashed potatoes. Many people claim that raw maca powder should be considered a food, but in Norway, it is considered a drug and cannot be gotten without a prescription.

Raw maca differs from other preparations in that it is processed without the use of heat. To make it, the maca tubers are collected, cleaned, and freeze-dried. The dried tubers are then pulverized into powder. By contrast, gelatinized maca requires the use of chemicals to sterilize the tubers and heat to pasteurize the product for shipment, so it does not meet the standards of "raw" food, which requires that no food be heated above 104°F (40°C) or 115°F (46°C).

The powdered form of raw maca can be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be mixed into a juice or other beverage. Some people sprinkle it on top of hot or cold cereal, yogurt, or fruit. Some people who are not followers of the raw food diet also cook with this ingredient. They are concerned more with getting the nutrients and aphrodisiac benefits of consuming maca itself rather than the raw food dietary restrictions.

According to New York University's Langone Medical center, only two small studies state that maca root may be useful as a kind of sexual stimulant by improving blood flow to the genitals. The studies did not show that maca had any effect on human hormone levels, though many maca purveyors claim the opposite. These two studies do not show conclusively that raw maca has any effect as an aphrodisiac, and more studies need to be done before its true effectiveness can be determined.

Raw maca has not been found to produce harmful side effects in individuals who eat it. Some people who have eaten raw maca sprinkled on fruit have reported digestive upset.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Apr 05, 2013
@ddljohn-- I have not, but I wasn't suffering from a yeast infection previous to taking maca products, so I'm not sure if there is a connection.

I did experience some gastrointestinal problems on raw maca however, mainly indigestion. Then I switched to the gelatinized version and I think this is much better. I feel like my body digests it and absorbs it more easily.

By ddljohn — On Apr 04, 2013

Has anyone experienced a yeast infection flare-up after consuming raw maca powder?

By turquoise — On Apr 04, 2013

It's kind of unbelievable that so many people are taking raw maca powder for increased fertility despite the lack of studies done on it.

When I was asking around about natural supplements for fertility, raw maca was often recommended to me. I also have friends who have used it in the past, even during their pregnancy.

I hope that more conclusive studies will be done on raw maca and its effects soon. Because I personally think that a lot of people are wasting their money on it.

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