My great maca experiment started with a half-hearted attempt to give up coffee. I drink way too much of it, sometimes up to five cups a day, complete with Splenda and full-fat half-and-half. I saw someone tweet that maca was a great alternative to coffee when you’re trying to wean yourself off it, and if it’s on Twitter, obviously it must be true, right?
Maca is derived from a root that grows in the Peruvian Andes, where it has been used as a food and medicine staple for centuries. It contains antioxidants, fiber, and amino acids. It’s one of those things that’s been lumped into the (meaningless) superfood group.
If you research maca online, you might come away concluding that you can treat everything from male impotence to cancer with it. Let’s debunk the various maca claims, using my personal experience. (I bought Navitas Naturals maca powder from Whole Foods for $24.99. Idiotic, in retrospect.)
• “Maca powder has a distinct caramel or malt-like flavor. Many people enjoy the taste, while others simply don’t.” — The Maca Team. This is a lie. No one enjoys maca. Caramel is delicious. Maca is like eating slightly nutty wood shavings that have rotted. Recipes abound online for ways to disguise your maca powder in a smoothie or tea, but the truth is that anything you put maca in will taste like maca. I tried it in coffee-flavored yogurt in a moment of coffee-craving desperation, in my favorite green-tea blend (where it admittedly dissolved quite well), and in a smoothie of five different fruits. It turns everything it touches into maca, like a wellness Medusa.
• “The biggest reason to give up your caffeine fix is that maca gives you energy and endurance.” — One Green Planet. I got myself down to two cups of coffee per day before I attempted to add maca into my routine. I’d had headaches for a day or two, but they were dissipating by this point. One day I hit a slump, though, so I added the maca into some green tea. A half hour later, I felt dizzy and nauseous, and I threw it up. I was weak and irritated the rest of the day. I went back on it two days later and was nauseous again, but managed to keep it down. Energy and endurance? Unless sprinting to the bathroom counts, no.
• “In a double-blind study, treatment with maca increased sexual desire in young and middle-aged men.” — University of Michigan Health System. Untested, because my husband said to me, “When are you getting that stinky pouch of powder off the kitchen counter?”
• “Maca is … known to improve fertility and sexual function in both men and women.” — Superfoods Living. See above. Also, puking is not conducive to sex.
• “In agriculture, [maca] is used to increase fertility in livestock.” — WebMD. In my home I have one spayed female cat and two gerbil brothers, so this unfortunately went untested. I let my cat smell the maca powder, however, and she ran away.
As I have also done. Maca is the worst.