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Is Maca Bad For The Liver?

Introduction

There is no doubt that the liver is one of the most crucial organs in the body.  And it simply makes good sense to keep our livers as healthy as possible.  Maintaining a fully functioning liver involves eating a balanced diet, staying active, staying at a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding toxins (1).  These are especially important for anyone with compromised liver function.

Maca And Liver Health

As more and more people consider their liver health, we’ve been seeing more questions about the effect that maca has on the liver.  In this article we will review the research as well as clarify a commonly misinterpreted article on the subject. 

Research on Maca’s Effect on The Liver

Maca (lepidium meyenni) has gained in popularity over the past 20 years and stimulated a significant amount of research.   One of the most important areas of research involves maca’s safety as a food source.   To date there are 100s of published studies regarding maca’s effect on important systems in the body.   The results of these studies have been positive and maca is regarded as safe for both humans and animals by all researchers and authorities.  

In terms of studies done on maca and the liver there have been about 15 directly related to the topic (2)

None of these studies contain any reference to maca being harmful to liver function in any way.  And some even suggest that maca may be helpful to the liver.   One study in particular concluded that maca may “lighten the inflammation produced in the body by alcohol” (3)

To be sure, more research is needed before making any general or sweeping conclusions, but it is telling that these studies have shown maca in a positive light when it comes to liver health. 

Clarifying A Study That Shows Up in Google

Now, if you got here by searching “Is Maca Bad For The Liver?” on Google, you’ll likely have seen an article with a very scary sounding title: “Drug-induced Liver Injury Due to Lepidium meyenii (Maca) Medicinal Liquor.” (4)

Is Maca Bad For The Liver?

Before pushing the panic button based on that title, let’s dive in and see what this article actually says and what it concludes.

At the beginning of the article, the authors point out that maca is considered as safe and has shown no evidence of being toxic to the liver:

“Maca has been intensively studied since its diverse repertoire of pharmacological properties. These experimental studies have not found any evidence of in vivo or in vitro toxicity associated with either long- or short-term consumption.”

Based on this preponderance of research, the authors were surprised to find the case they reference in their article.    In this case, a person in China went to the hospital reporting stomach upset, regurgitation and excessive burping after having consumed 300ml of maca extract in an alcohol solution.   Doctors were able to help the person quickly, but noted that a full liver recovery took longer than expected.  

The authors of the article postulate that maca could have been responsible for the patient’s adverse reaction, and suggest that further research is necessary. 

But let’s look at the facts of this case a bit more carefully.  is-maca-bad-for-the-liver-.jpg

In essence, what we have is an extreme case with several important factors.   First of all, the person drank a huge amount of maca extract – 300ml is equivalent to 10 ounces and is well over 20 times the amount recommended to consume at any one time.   Second, the extract was alcohol based, which means that the person drank 10 ounces of alcohol.  Finally, the maca in question was grown in China and was likely of inferior quality.  See our article on Chinese grown maca here.

While we can agree with the authors of this article that more research is advisable, in no way is this one case representative of the millions of people who consume maca safely every year.   When taken in recommended quantities and in proper preparations (powder, capsule and glycerin extracts), high quality maca has to date shown no risk factor for liver health.

Conclusion

Does all this research mean you should take maca without concerns?   If you are healthy, we would say probably yes.  If, however, you do have a pre-existing liver condition or other serious health condition it’s important to check with your physician before adding anything new to your diet including maca.

We hope that this article has been helpful and has shed some light on the state of research regarding maca and liver health.   If you have any further questions please reach out to us.  We’re always happy to help.

Enjoy the day!

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