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Trying to decide between two similar supplements?
There’s a lot to think about, like benefits, cost, side effects and more.
So I’ve gone ahead and gathered all of that information so you don’t have to. No need to thank me!
Our Supplement Comparison Series continues with Ashwagandha vs Maca.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania Sommnifera) is a herb native to India that’s been used for over 4,000 years for a wide variety of conditions.
It belongs to the Solanaceae family of plants (commonly known as Nightshades) which includes popular vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes.
It’s most well-known for its ability to promote feelings of vitality, calmness and strength in people.
In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha roughly translates to “the smell of a horse”, suggesting it can give you the strength of a stallion.
(The root of Ashwagandha is reported to have a smell similar to horse sweat. A worthwhile trade-off for gaining the strength of a stallion in my opinion!)
What is Maca?
Maca (Lepidium Meyeni) is an indigenous Andean vegetable that’s been grown as a root crop for over 2,000 years.
Used both for medicinal purposes and nutritionally, Maca grows in many South American countries, including Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay, but has mostly been cultivated in the Peruvian Andes.
Maca looks similar to turnips and the roots can grow in many different colors, including yellow, black, or purple.
And although its popularity has dramatically risen in the last 10 years, it’s been used since the days of the Inca warriors in Peru.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha boosts testosterone levels
Low testosterone levels are a lot more common than you think nowadays, due to many reasons, including:
- Low fat diets
- Poor sleep quality
- Less meat consumption
But low testosterone levels can be brutal to your health.
For example, recent research has attributed depression in aging men to low testosterone levels.
And this is where Ashwagandha comes in handy.
A study on 75 infertile men showed that supplementation with Ashwagandha increased Seminal testosterone levels (as well as vitamin and antioxidant levels.)
Ashwagandha increases muscle size and strength
Ashwagandha is pretty much unheard of in the Bodybuilding community. But that isn’t to say it’s no good for building muscle and strength.
In fact, research shows that it’s an excellent supplement for Bodybuilders.
A study looked at how Ashwagandha affects muscle size and strength in 57 subjects. Some of them took 600mg of Ashwagandha daily and some took a placebo.
The results showed that the Ashwagandha users had greater increases in muscle size, strength, testosterone levels and fat loss than those who took the placebo.
Ashwagandha improves Anxiety symptoms
Here’s a shocking fact for you.
Over 40 million US adults are affected by anxiety disorders.
(Making anxiety the most common mental illness in America.)
The good news is that many studies have shown just how effective Ashwagandha is at improving anxiety symptoms.
For example, a 6-week study compared anxiety levels in subjects taking Ashwagandha or a placebo.
By the end of the 6 weeks, 88% of people who used Ashwagandha had less anxiety.
Another study over 2 months had some participants take 600mg daily of Ashwagandha.
Compared to those who took a placebo, the Ashwagandha takers had a massive reduction in scores on the “stress test”.
(Related reading: Do Cold Showers Work For Anxiety?)
Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar levels
High blood sugar levels can sap you of your precious energy, leading to mood swings, brain fog and fatigue.
This low energy state will steal any will power that you have meaning you’re more likely to gorge on sugary foods, restarting this vicious cycle all over again.
(This is how a lot of people fall into the trap of being slaves to junk food.)
Not to worry though – Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in recent research.
For example, a study on 12 participants investigated how Ashwagandha powder affected their blood sugar levels.
After just 30 days of taking Ashwagandha, their blood sugar was lowered by amounts similar to that of a medical blood sugar lowering drug.
Benefits of Maca
Maca is full of nutrients
Maca is an excellent source of many important vitamins and minerals.
In fact, an Ounce of maca root powder contains:
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Also, Maca contains many health-promoting plant compounds, including polyphenols and glucosinolates.
Maca increases libido
Many adults experience reduced sexual desire as they get older.
In fact, a study on US women showed that 27% of premenopausal participants experienced low sexual desire, whilst this figure rose to a whopping 52% for menopausal women.
As a result of this, many people turn towards natural herbs, such as Maca, to boost their libido.
The effectiveness of natural herbs is often questioned (and rightly so), but Maca has been supported by research in many studies.
For example, a 12-week study on men measured their sexual desire after taking either Maca or a placebo.
After 8 weeks, the men who took Maca reported a significant improvement in sexual desire.
Maca may relieve Menopause symptoms
When women enter Menopause, their estrogen levels decline which can produce a range of unwanted symptoms, including:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, then you may want to give Maca a try as a review of 4 studies found that it can improve these symptoms.
(Related reading: 3 Best Fish Oil Supplements For Menopause)
Maca may protect skin from UV radiation
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage and burn exposed skin. This can cause wrinkles and increase your risk of skin cancer over time.
But research has shown that applying Maca extract to your skin may help protect it from this damage.
Another study on rats shown that Maca extract applied to their skin did indeed prevent damage from UV exposure.
(Please bear in mind that Maca only protects skin when it’s applied to the skin, NOT when eaten.)
Ashwagandha is typically sold in the form of a liquid extract or as tablets.
Here are some standard prices for these:
- Tablets: $18 for 100
- Liquid Extract: $17 for 2 Oz
Maca is usually sold as a powder or in capsules.
Typical prices for these are:
- Powder: $27 for 1 lb
- Capsules: $13 for 100
Ashwagandha Side Effects
Ashwagandha supplements are usually well-tolerated, but some people have reported mild side effects such as headaches, sleepiness and stomach upset in clinical studies.
Also, if you’re already taking medication to lower your blood sugar (i.e. Type 2 Diabetics), then you increase the risk of Hypoglycaemia.
(Since Ashwagandha lowers your blood sugar levels…)
This can be extremely dangerous, so please consult your doctor before using Ashwagandha.
The following people should NOT take Ashwagandha:
- Pregnant women
- People with stomach ulcers
- Those with high/low blood pressure
- People who’re allergic to Nightshade plants, i.e. Potatoes, Tomatoes, etc.
- People with autoimmune conditions, i.e. Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
Maca Side Effects
Maca is generally considered safe, but Peruvian natives believe that fresh Maca root may have adverse effects, and so recommend boiling it first.
Furthermore, Maca contains substances called goitrogens, which may interfere with the normal function of your thyroid gland.
So you may want to be cautious with using Maca if you have thyroid issues.
My Ashwagandha Recommendation: NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha
You can’t go wrong with NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha.
It’s a high-quality, high-strength supplement that’s great value for money.
What I like about it
I love that this supplement contains Black Pepper extract.
Studies have proved that Ashwagandha is absorbed better when mixed with Black Pepper, making this supplement much more effective than others out there.
It has amazing reviews too, which shows that many people are seeing excellent results from using it.
And as a bonus, this Ashwagandha contains only natural, organic ingredients, keeping you safe from nasty additives and preservatives.
Since the serving size is 3 capsules, the bottle will only last you a month or so, assuming that you take it daily.
But in the grand scheme of things, this is a small price to pay for a top quality supplement.
My Maca Recommendation: The Maca Team Organic Black Maca
The gold standard of Maca capsules.
You’ll be lucky to find a higher quality Maca supplement than this.
(And if you do, then please tell me…)
What I like about it
This supplement is created by The Maca Team – a company that specializes in Maca.
In other words, it’s made by people who are experts in Maca and only focus on providing the best Maca on the market.
Also, since the Maca has been pre-cooked, the majority of the starch is dissolved, which helps your body digest it easier.
The recommended serving size is 8 capsules, which may be a pain if you’re not a fan of swallowing capsules.
This also means each tub will only last around a month or so.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this Ashwagandha vs Maca breakdown.
They’re both excellent supplements that are similarly priced and offer a wide range of benefits.
Now in all honesty, the only way to see which one suits you more is to try both and see how you feel.
But I appreciate that’s inconvenient for many, so for a high-level guide, here’s what I would recommend:
You might prefer Ashwagandha if:
- You want to lower anxiety
- You want to boost your testosterone levels
- You want to increase muscle size and strength
You might prefer Maca if:
- You want to improve sexual desire
- You want to increase your nutrient intake
- You want to reduce menopausal symptoms
Thanks for sticking with me to the end, and I’ll see you in the next article.