Ashwagandha vs. Maca: Similarities & Differences Explained

Ashwagandha and maca are two herbs that are often compared because of their similar adaptogenic effects. However, there are also some vital differences between these plants that you should be …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha and maca are two herbs that are often compared because of their similar adaptogenic effects.

However, there are also some vital differences between these plants that you should be aware of before choosing over the other.

In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between ashwagandha vs. maca as well as their similarities.

Ashwagandha vs Maca herbs comapred

Ashwagandha Overview & Uses:

Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that has been used as an adaptogen.

This plant has been used as an aphrodisiac and health remedy in India for thousands of years. It’s also been utilized in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-stress and immune-boosting effects.

Ashwagandha has been shown in scientific studies to help with anxiety, hormone production, and sleep.

1.  May Reduce Mild Anxiety

Ashwagandha has been shown to help with anxiety and general mental well-being in clinical studies.

One human clinical trial revealed that participants who took 300mg of ashwagandha daily reduced self-reported stress levels.

Ashwagandha has also been found to help with anxiety in humans, as determined by a variety of anxiety measures.

2. May Increase Testosterone Production

According to studies, ashwagandha may help with physical performance and testosterone production.

A clinical trial involving aging, overweight males found that ashwagandha increased testosterone by 14.7%, compared to placebo. The researchers noted that the study participants also had an 18% increase in DHEA-S.

One study found that a daily dose of 500mg of ashwagandha was shown to enhance upper and lower-body strength in a study with recreationally trained men. The researchers also noted that ashwagandha appeared to help build muscle mass.

Another study found that ashwagandha raises testosterone levels. It was also discovered to help with muscle mass and strength growth.

3. May Improve Sleep

According to clinical tests, ashwagandha might enhance sleep quality and reduce insomnia.

Ashwagandha has a beneficial impact on several sleep conditions in people with poor sleep quality, according to one study.

Another human study compared the effects of ashwagandha on insomniacs. The researchers discovered that ashwagandha improved sleep quality in both the insomniac and healthy groups, according to a clinical test.

You can learn more about ashwagandha’s health benefits in our comprehensive article here.

Maca Overview & Uses:

Maca is a plant that grows at high altitudes in the Andes mountains.

It was traditionally used as a food source by native tribes. It is now used as a dietary supplement and clinical research shows maca helps to support brain health and sexual function.

While maca can be taken as a supplement, it also can be used as a coffee substitute. If you’re asking the question, what is maca coffee, you’re not alone. Check out our handy guide!

Below are the best research-backed uses for maca.

1. May Increase Libido

Human clinical research, as well as traditional usage, indicates that maca may be helpful for increasing libido and sexual function.

A 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that maca helped to improve sexual desire in men. The researchers noted an improvement in sexual desire was observed in the maca group after 8 weeks of treatment (with a 3,000mg dose per day). It was observed that although maca helped to improve libido and sexual desire, it was not found to impact hormone production.

Another clinical trial involving women with sexual dysfunction found that a daily 3g dose of maca helped to improve libido. The researchers noted that the maca was well tolerated and that a 3g dose was found to be more effective than a 1.5g dose.

2. May Improve Energy & Physical Performance

Research shows that maca may help to increase energy and stamina.

A clinical trial was conducted to determine maca’s impact on athletes. The researchers noted that the performance of the athletes increased by 10.3% on average. According to the findings, maca is thought to improve not only athletes but also everyone’s physical health.

One other placebo-controlled study found that maca helped to increase self-reported energy levels in healthy men.

3. May Have Neuroprotective Properties

Maca has been shown to have neuroprotective qualities in animal and laboratory studies.

In middle-aged mice, a maca extract study revealed that it enhanced cognitive performance, motor coordination, and endurance capacity. Mitochondrial respiratory function and upregulation of autophagy-related proteins were observed in the cortex of mice fed a normal diet, according to researchers.

In one other experiment, black maca helped to improve memory in mice. It’s possible that the antioxidant properties of black maca played a role.

Learn more about the benefits of maca root.

Ashwagandha vs Maca: Similarities & Differences

When it comes to comparing ashwagandha vs. maca, there are many similarities and differences.

First off, both ashwagandha and maca are harvested for their roots and have a long history of traditional usage. Maca was used more as a food source while ashwagandha was used strictly as a medicinal herb.

Second, both ashwagandha and maca help to promote sexual function and physical performance.

The key difference between these two plants is that ashwagandha is a true adaptogen that has the ability to regulate the body’s stress response.

Maca is more of a secondary adaptogen, which means it has the ability to support the body in many different ways, but it doesn’t quite mean the standard of being able to impact the HPA axis.

Also, both of these herbs have different ways of helping to improve sexual function and physical energy. Ashwagandha supports the body by helping to increase hormone production (primarily testosterone).

Maca helps to increase sexual function but does not have the ability to influence hormone production. It’s thought that maca’s mechanism of action is through its nutrient profile, which is rich in minerals.

Ashwagandha vs. Maca: Which is right for you?

Think of ashwagandha as an anti-stress herb that helps to improve resilience within the body. It also has been shown to improve sleep quality as well as testosterone production.

With maca, its primary ability is to increase sexual desire and libido. It also has the ability to improve physical energy and endurance.

If you are stressed out and need support in your ability to adapt to stress, then ashwagandha root is the best option. Its testosterone-building properties are a great secondary benefit.

If you feel physically sluggish and are looking to improve your libido, then maca might be right for you. It’s nutrient-rich and helps to restore your body’s function.

Ashwagandha & Maca Supplements

When it comes to supplementing with ashwagandha or maca, we have a handful of recommendations.

For ashwagandha, we recommend Gaia Herb’s ashwagandha formula. Gaia Herbs is known for the quality and purity of their products.

For maca supplements, we recommend checking out the products by The Maca Team. They sell a variety of different types of maca.

This is a family-owned and operated business that works directly with growers in Peru. They have a morning-time Maca Coffee Blend, which makes it easy to add maca to your daily routine.

They have both a sweetened and an unsweetened formula, so feel free to find the blend that’s right for you.

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Can You Take Maca and Ashwagandha Together?

Yes, you can take maca and ashwagandha together.

These supplements do not have any known negative interactions when taken together.

Taking ashwagandha and maca together benefits the body by providing ashwagandha’s stress-fighting properties and maca’s energy-stimulating properties.

In fact, these herbs may be a good combination to help increase sleep quality and hormone production at night and stimulate energy and libido during the daytime.

It would be best to take maca in the morning or afternoon. Ashwagandha should be taken prior to bedtime to aid in sleep and recovery.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

As with all things, herbs and supplements have the potential to interact negatively with your body.

Mace is generally well tolerated by most individuals.

You can find a full safety profile review of maca here.

Ashwagandha is also typically well-tolerated and generally safe to consume.

A safety review showed that midrange doses of ashwagandha (~300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any side effects or adverse reactions.

You can find our full safety review of ashwagandha here.

As with all supplements, it’s best to check in with your personal physician prior to taking them.

Conclusion:

As you can see, both ashwagandha and maca are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

Consider testing each plant for yourself for a few weeks before deciding between them.

You may discover that one is superior to the other, or vice versa! Alternatively, combine them to see whether you get an additive effect.

It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before adding any new herbs or supplements to your routine.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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