Ginseng vs. Maca: Similarities & Differences

Ginseng and maca are two herbs that are commonly compared because of their similar adaptogenic effects on the body. However, there are a few key distinctions between these herbs that …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ginseng and maca are two herbs that are commonly compared because of their similar adaptogenic effects on the body.

However, there are a few key distinctions between these herbs that you should be aware of before making a selection.

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

ginseng vs. maca similarities and differences

Ginseng Overview & Uses:

Ginseng is a herbal adaptogen and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has been used for millennia. In the TCM school of thought, ginseng is said to be an essential herb for increasing energy and longevity.

It should be noted that there are two different types of ginseng, American Ginseng (panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng). You can read about the differences between American Ginseng and Asian Ginseng here.

These two different varieties of ginseng provide similar health benefits, so we’ll combine them together in this article in our ginseng overview.

Research indicates that ginseng may provide a variety of health benefits, including brain health, antimicrobial properties, and blood pressure.

ginseng vs. maca : ginseng

1. May Support Brain Health

For centuries, ginseng has been used for its neuroprotective powers.

A research review showed that ginseng is helpful for brain health, especially for healthy aging.

A human clinical trial found that Panax ginseng helped to improve brain function in individuals with cognitive impairment. The participants in the study showed an improvement in immediate memory recall, as well as 20-minute delayed recall, according to the study.

Another study involved 30 individuals who consumed 200mg of Panax ginseng daily for 1 month. At the end of the study, the study participants showed improvement in mental health, social functioning, and overall mood. It should be noted that these benefits stopped being significant after 2 months, suggesting that ginseng’s benefits may decrease with extended use.

2. May Promote Sexual Wellness

Ginseng has also been shown to support sexual health.

A study involving 45 men with erectile dysfunction found that supplementing with ginseng helped to improve sexual function.

A similar clinical trial involving 60 men with erectile dysfunction also reported improvement in sexual function after taking Korean red ginseng (1000mg) daily for 13 months.

However, a recently published research review involved nine studies with 587 men with mild erectile dysfunction, aged from 20 to 70 years old. The researchers reported that ginseng was marginally better than placebo at improving erectile function.

It appears that ginseng may help to improve sexual function, but further research is needed.

3. May Support Blood Pressure

A phytochemical in ginseng known as ginsenoside Rg3, has been shown in lab studies to normalize blood pressure. 

Researchers believe that ginseng works to lower blood pressure through a process known as vasorelaxation. This tension-reducing process balances blood pressure by relaxing the walls of blood vessels.

A clinical trial in 26 study participants with elevated blood pressure levels showed that 4.5g of ginseng daily worked to reduce systolic blood pressure.

Maca Overview & Uses:

Maca is an herb that grows in the Andes mountains at high altitudes. It was used as a food source, similar to potatoes, by native tribes traditionally. It can also be consumed as a coffee, you can read more about maca coffee here.

Maca is now used as a dietary supplement, and studies conducted show that it supports brain health and sexual function.

As a note, there are two different types of maca, gelatinized and non-gelatinized. Each of these types of maca has different benefits, you can read more here in our maca guide.

Below are the top research-based benefits of maca.

ginseng vs. maca : maca

1. May Improve Libido

Clinical research and traditional usage both suggest that maca may help to increase libido and sexual function.

A 3 month long placebo-controlled study found that maca root helped to improve libido in men. After eight weeks of taking maca (3,000mg per day), the researchers observed an improvement in sexual desire within the group. They noted that while maca may improve libido, it had no effect on hormone production.

One other clinical trial involving women with sexual dysfunction found that a 3g dose of maca taken daily helped to improve sexual desire. 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 Increase Energy Levels

Research suggests that maca may improve energy levels and stamina.

A clinical trial was conducted to determine the benefits of maca root for athletes. The researchers found that athletic performance increased by 10.3% on average. According to these findings, maca is thought to improve not only athletic output but could also benefit individuals looking for an energy boost.

Another placebo-controlled study discovered that maca root helped to improve energy levels in study participants.

3. May Protect Brain Health

Studies on animals and in laboratories have shown that maca has neuroprotective qualities.

In older mice, a study found that it improved cognitive performance, motor coordination, and endurance capacity.

In another experiment, maca root helped to improve memory retention in mice. Researchers think that maca’s antioxidant properties played a role in this benefit.

Learn more about the benefits of maca root.

Maca vs. Ginseng: Similarities & Differences

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

First off, both ginseng and maca are harvested for their roots. They both also have a long history of traditional usage. It should be noted that maca was used as a food source. Ginseng was used strictly as a medicinal herb.

Second, both maca and ginseng help to promote sexual function and physical performance. The primary difference between these herbs is that ginseng is a true adaptogen that has the ability to regulate the body’s stress response. Maca is more of a “secondary adaptogen”, which means that this herb has the ability to support the body in many different ways, but it doesn’t quite meet the standard of being able to impact the HPA axis (i.e. the body’s stress response center).

Also, each of these herbs has a different way of helping to improve sexual function and physical energy. Ginseng appears to be able to support the body by helping to improve blood flow.

On the other hand, maca is a nutrient-rich herb. It’s thought that maca’s mechanism of action is through its nourishing nutrient profile, which is rich in minerals.

Ginseng vs. Maca: Which is right for you?

Both maca and ginseng are great herbs for supporting physical energy and sexual function.

If you’re in need of a stimulating adaptogen that can help to improve stress resilience and physical output, then ginseng is the right option for you. It also has benefits for heart health and blood flow, which can benefit sexual function.

Ginseng also has the ability to help to lower inflammation levels and support weight loss, but these are secondary attributes.

With maca root, its primary ability is to increase libido. To a lesser degree, it also has the ability to improve physical energy and endurance.

If you feel 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 baseline function.

Can You Take Maca and Ginseng Together?

Yes, you can take maca and ginseng together.

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

In fact, these herbs may be a good herbal combination for improving energy levels and libido.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

Ginseng is typically well tolerated, especially at low-to-moderate doses.

It’s been noted by researchers that high doses of ginseng can interfere with how your body utilizes the medication warfarin. If you take blood-thinning drugs, like Coumadin®, it’s best to avoid taking ginseng.

You can find a full Asian ginseng safety profile here.

Maca is typically well tolerated by most individuals. You can find a full safety profile review of maca here.

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

Conclusion:

As you can see, both of these herbs are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

If you’re trying to decide between ginseng vs. maca, consider taking a few weeks to experiment with each herb for yourself before making your final decision.

You might find that one works better than the other or vice versa! Or, try them together and see if your body gets a synergistic effect.

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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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