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Maca vs Ginseng: Key Differences and Similarities

Maca and ginseng are two of the most popular adaptogenic herbs known for their wide range of health benefits. Both have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and are now gaining mainstream popularity as natural health supplements.

Though they share some similar properties, there are important differences between maca and ginseng that are worth understanding so you can choose the one that best fits your needs. This article comprehensively compares maca and ginseng to highlight their key differences and similarities.

What Are Maca and Ginseng?

Maca is a cruciferous vegetable native to the Andean mountains of Peru that resembles a radish or turnip. It has been cultivated and consumed by Peruvians for thousands of years and was traditionally used to enhance fertility, libido, energy, and stamina.

The maca root is the most common part used medicinally. It can be dried and powdered for capsules, extracts, and supplements. Maca has an earthy, nutty taste and can also be consumed as a food.

Ginseng refers to the roots of plants in the Panax genus, including Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Of these two varieties, Asian ginseng is the most widely used and studied for its medicinal properties.

Like maca, ginseng has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine as an adaptogen and vitality enhancer. The roots are usually dried, sliced and steeped into a tea or boiled and made into extracts.

The Maca Team Tri-Color Maca Powder

Best Maca Powder

The Maca Team Tri-Color Maca Powder

The Maca Team is a family-run, fair trade company that sources their maca directly from co-op farms in Peru that use 100% organic and traditional agriculture to cultivate maca. All of their products are USDA Certified Organic and non-GMO and come with a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) to ensure their quality. Their Tri-color Raw Maca powder is made from red, black, and yellow maca roots, with each type having its own unique benefits

Note: in 2020, we tested their raw maca for the harmful mold aflatoxin and found no detectable levels.

Critical Differences Between Maca and Ginseng

Though both are adaptogens, there are some notable ways that maca and ginseng differ:

  • Origin: Maca is from Peru, while ginseng is native to Asia.
  • Parts used: The maca root is primarily used while ginseng root and occasionally leaf are used.
  • Taste: Maca has an earthy, nutty flavor. Ginseng is quite bitter.
  • Speed of effects: Maca’s effects may be felt within two weeks, while ginseng may take two months.
  • Hormones: Maca may help balance hormones, while ginseng does not directly affect hormones.
  • Sexual function: Maca boosts libido in both men and women, while ginseng is more effective for erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Nutritional profile: Maca is a nutrient-dense superfood high in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Ginseng is not considered a superfood.

How They Are Similar

Though they have their differences, maca and ginseng share the following key similarities:

  • Adaptogens: Both are considered adaptogens, which means they help the body adapt to stress and balance hormone levels.
  • Energy boost: Maca and ginseng can boost energy, alertness, and stamina without causing caffeine-like side effects.
  • Sexual function: They both have traditional uses relating to sexual health, though in different ways, as mentioned earlier.
  • Mood: Both maca and ginseng are believed to boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Immunity: They may strengthen the immune system and fight fatigue.
  • Overall wellness: Both are taken as general health promoters and are believed to improve many aspects of health.

Choosing Between The Two

When choosing between maca and ginseng, consider which health benefits are most important. Here is a quick guide:

  • For a quicker energy boost, choose maca.
  • To balance hormones, maca is more effective.
  • For low libido, maca is typically the better option.
  • For erectile dysfunction, ginseng may be more helpful.
  • As a nutrient-dense superfood, maca wins.
  • For the best taste, the earthy maca is preferred over bitter ginseng.
  • For immunity and adapting to stress, both can be excellent options.

Remember that dosage, quality, and lifestyle factors also play a role in which is better suited for an individual. Many people find taking both maca and ginseng together provides comprehensive benefits. It’s best to speak with a healthcare practitioner to determine what’s right for your needs.


While ginseng and maca share similarities as adaptogenic herbs, they have some clear differences in their traditional uses, mechanisms of action, speed of effects and nutritional profiles. Understanding these key distinctions allows you to decide which single or combined benefits of maca and ginseng are most suited to your health goals. Both remain prized natural supplements to help fight fatigue, enhance libido, and improve overall well-being.

About the author

Holden Desalles is a journalist in the new wellness space, covering topics such as CBD, adaptogens, and nootropics. He was formerly a staff writer at the millennial lifestyle website Thought Catalog.

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