I’ve been a fan of maca and tulsi for their hormone balancing, immune boosting properties. But just because a herb or food item is a natural, generally helpful supplement doesn’t mean that everyone’s body will respond the same way to it.
I came the conclusion that I should only take maca or tulsi if I was working with a qualified herbalist as the way my body responded to both of them was different than many other people’s experiences. This isn’t to say that I think that maca and tulsi aren’t excellent supplements to take, as I think they can be. Rather, we should just always be aware that there isn’t a one-fit rule for all, and that getting professional advice on using certain herbs may be needed for some of us. Since I’ve been getting a lot of emails about maca lately in particular, I thought it could be helpful to share my experience.
I also started drinking yerba mate tea as an alternative to coffee and found that I enjoyed its flavor. But I found that mate didn’t work well for me either.
This does NOT mean that they are bad to take, as all have been shown to have significant health benefits and were all traditionally used in different cultures.
However, I share my little story to show that 1) Not everyone responds the same way to all foods and we should listen to our bodies, and 2) There can be an adjustment period to adaptogenic foods/herbs and 3) Some of us may need to work with a skilled herbalist/Naturopath when using these foods.
My results aren’t typical, but I share them in the hopes that they help other “non-typical” responders.
First, a quick overview of items:
Maca looks like a root, but is in the cruciferous family. It can grow in even the harshest conditions in Peru and has been used for thousands of years for energy, fertility, endurance, sexual drive, and nutrition. It has been the subject of numerous studies showing benefits for those dealing with low sex drives. It is considered an adaptogen herb, that is a herb that helps balance the body’s function (including hormonal balance).
Tulsi is a herb that is used as a kind of all-purpose traditional immune booster in India. It is also considered an adaptogen herb helping balance out the body.
Yerba mate is a type of tea drunk extensively in South America. It is made from the leaves of a plant in the Holly family, and is caffeine rich. Like tea from the tea plant, there is some evidence that it could be a health promoting drink.
My experience with maca was that eventually it led to me having heavy bleeding in the middle of my cycle (which meant, one week I’d have a period, then I’d have a week break, and then I’d have another “period” start again for another week). It also made me feel (all the time) bloated, retain a lot of water, and other symptoms that one would typically experience right before a period. Ironically, these “all the time” symptoms I was experiencing were actually worse than any pre-cycle symptoms I normally had.
Tulsi caused the same mid-monthly bleeding, but without all of the other symptoms.
This certainly proved to me that maca has the power to change things hormonally for me. When reading up on maca and tulsi, I did find that maca is generally considered pro-fertility, but that tulsi may have an anti-fertility effect. I also read that the types of changes I was experiencing could simply be an uncomfortable part of the hormonal balancing effects. Often advice is given to keep it up for three months before decided whether a supplement was helpful or not. Because my symptoms were so severe, that was not an option for me.
I think that my symptoms were fairly unusual, though apparently not unknown. I noticed a comment on this helpful article on maca, sharing even more severe reaction to maca (and another fertility boosting herb, vitex).
“I was diagnosed as being estrogen dominant in 2008 while ttc with the help of an RE (reproductive endocrinologist). This year (2014), I ttc on my own, and decided to give vitex a try to help with my somewhat irregular periods..as it took too long between periods (approx 2 – 3months). On the last day of my period, I began taking vitex; and 2 days later, i developed a nagging headache that grew worse day by day. I also started bleeding again. I had to stop after one week as the headaches became constant and was frequently leading to migraines. 2 weeks later after stopping the vitex, and the bleeding had slowed down to occasional spotting….I started taking maca….there were no headaches, but the bleeding came back subtly (without cramps) and gradually increased to a flood with huge, multiple clots. After one month on maca with alternating days of heavy bleeding and spotting; I decided to stop the maca. 2 weeks after quitting, I still kept on bleeding and spotting. I did not ovulate on either the vitex or maca. I had to go back to my doctor to get a prescription for provera, which brought my 10wks bleed to a stop. Right now, I am on provera day # 5 and I am looking forward to resetting my cycle, as vitex and maca had totally messed up my system…..I did quite a bit of research on the internet before starting either. I just thought to share my story because we do not all respond in the same way…If your cycles are regular. do not take.”
Some women experience the opposite, with delayed or skipped periods. In support of maca, I definitely found it an energy boost, as did my parents and husband who were also taking it for a time (they didn’t experience any negative side effects)
At a later date (and most recently) I switched to yerba mate from coffee when I read that the caffeine content wasn’t as likely to create ups and downs like coffee caffeine does. I was probably drinking one, sometimes two cups of it when I experienced the same thing again – a mid-monthly bleed.
When I had this happen with tulsi, I was drinking two cups of tulsi every day. Interestingly, I had a friend who had the exact same thing happen (bleeding mid-month) when drinking tulsi tea. With the yerba mate, I was drinking 1-2 cups a day.
When taking maca, I was taking one serving a day.
Does this mean I’d never take any of them ever again?
Not necessarily. For me, I simply felt that I would need a qualified doctor working with me to make sure I was taking proper doses, and that it was the right supplement for me. Because I have iron issues, dealing with extra bleeding is not a good thing for me, and thus I have to be extra careful. It’s a possibility that all three are simply not the best for me personally.
Because the naturopathic doctors I have worked with have not had experience working with maca (or tulsi), I have simply chosen not to use it.
Years ago, I wrote this post on flax, phytoestrogens, and possible links to premature labor and hormonal issues for those consuming it. This post still gets comments from women sharing that they felt that flax seeds contributed to extra heavy periods and other issues. This doesn’t mean that flax seeds are bad, but simply that we should be aware of the hormonal changes that certain foods can have.
I take the same stand on maca, tulsi, and yerba mate. I think they can be lovely healthy additions to a good diet, but we should be aware that there can be side effects and that it may be not equally good for everyone. For those trying to work with specific issues, working with a professional herbalist may be a good idea so that you can work out dosage for your personal situation and body.
All three of these items are traditionally used, and are generally considered very safe to use, and many of my friends have had great success using them. But for those of you who may react to them like me, I hope that sharing my experience was helpful.
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Thank you for this very insightful experience. I came across this while googling if maca can cause spotting. I started maca to balance hormones because my last period totally drained me, gave me a 3 day headache, and seemed to drag on. I started the maca shortly after. Surprisingly my next period was slow to come, not as heavy, and shorter. I was pleasantly surprised. Then a week later I got some cramping and spotting. I guess it didn’t all come out. I have a copper IUD, but this is abnormal for me at this point. Maybe it was the maca? I am going to continue with it, but if it seems to cause more issues I will definitely be stopping.
It’s so strange that Maca is having the opposite effect on me. Nexplanon was making my periods long and irregular. I was bleeding almost every other week. My first go-to was Vitex, but that didn’t help at all. So I switched to Maca and it has been like a miracle. My first period on it took almost four weeks to come. It was 8 days. I started to have my normal breakthrough bleeding, but it stopped after a day. My next period came after five weeks, but it’s being really weird. I had a whole week of the pms symptom of hunger, then one spot of red blood yesterday, then the bleeding stopped completely. This morning I am having minor cramps, but only some gray streaks/tissue so far. I’m 38. My off birth control periods are short, light, and regular. I would love to not bleed at all. After the Nexplanon is out, I’m getting permanent bc
My energy/happiness levels have been absolutely through the roof. My nails are incredibly strong for the first time since pregnancy 8 years ago. And my face is super clear. Normally I get at least a spot or two per month.
I’m sorry Maca isn’t doing well for some people, but I’m having a wonderful experience. I take two, twice daily of the mixed color capsules.
I started taking maca because my acupuncture Dr suggested it. Now a month later I am experiencing extreme fatigue and mid cycle bleeding. It did not help with libido either for me. After reading this, I will stop taking maca. I am very disappointed in my acupuncture Dr…. as I specifically asked him if the maca would mess up my very regular cycle.
This is exactly what is happening to me right now. Did things balance out after you stopped?
I started Meca 4 weeks ago and the last 3 days I have experienced pretty severe PMS. It did not help my libido or vag dryness either. So frustrating.
I think 2 months dosage has created lots of problems….24)7 fatigue for 3vweeks and still same. Please advise.
Hi! Thanks for this post. I’m 45 with a surprisingly normal hormone profile. My naturopath suggested that I take Maca to raise my slightly low testosterone. Anyway, after taking it for about a month, I started spotting in day 14 and got a pretty heavy period on day 19. I’m guessing it is the Maca, unless it is a coincidence because of my age. I feel bad. No energy and heavier bleeding than I had in years. Any thoughts? Also will my hormones regulate if I messed them up with Maca, by stopping it?
I was wondering how long it took to return back to normal, no spotting)bleeding in between your periods, after stopping Maca please?
I never take maca daily. I’ve mostly used it during my period to help relieve cramps. However, there is a drink I enjoy that has maca in it. It can start a period when I drink it. It’s how I know that I’m dealing with an estrogen dominance. The main thing the estrogen does is keep me from having night sweats. I enjoy that. Unfortunately an estrogen dominance (in me) creates the bleeding between periods. Because I somewhat know how to lower my estrogen I was able to stop the bleeding but I over did it and brought back my night sweats. Luckily, I’m currently more balanced and I’m curtailing the night sweats with diet and supplements. The whole system is such a difficult delicate balance.
Where can I find Maca to buy?
I started maca the pill form a month ago,my period was 4days late,it finally came the 5th day but very scanty.The next day there was nothing at all.My menses as always been regular with normal flow and mild PMS.I’m not comfortable with the outcome of this maca.I’m just going to stop it.Does anyone have similar experience?
I started red maca (3 mg powder per day) about 3 weeks ago, near the end of my last period. I’m now experiencing more severe cramps than I’ve had since before pregnancy 10 years ago (I’m 36). In terms of timing this still fits my regular cycle, but the PMS is much harsher, also with headaches in the past two days and now the cramps. I did enjoy an energy boost at first but it passed after about a week. So now I’m trying to decide whether to stop or continue for the full 3-month trial period.
I’ve been taking tulsi for a few months and have notice spotting outside of my normal period time. I wondered if it was connected somehow
Hi, we were trying to conceive, while my period was regular on 28 days, so I was reading about how maca can help fertility, so I decided to try it. I was taking a tea spoon of maca every day for a week, I stopped since it did’t sit well on my stomach, I would get a stomach ache in the evenings, as if I was terribly hungry, but I wasn’t since I ate dinner. After I stopped, the stomach problems stopped. But this is were my troubles started, I got heavy bleeding next week after stopping and it was coinciding with my ovulation period when we were trying to conceive. My next period came a week after that, it was dark and heavy, the sore boobs for me were usually a week before period, now they are non stop, and my period is lasting for 20 days already. I am living in this hell a third month already. Dunno what to do about it, or how to stop it. Went to the gyn doctor twice she says it’s hormonal dis-balance, she is offering hormone pills, but also since we were trying to get pregnant, she is postponing it, a month more, to see what will happen next. Doctor was very unpleasantly surprised when I told her about maca drinking. Didn’t know either that you shouldn’t take maca when having cyst, I do have a cyst as well. I do not understand how this info is not available on each box of maca. Since I see now that I am not lone example, maca is doing harm for a lot of women. Maca is not simply a supplement but serious medicine which is sold over the counter without proper documentation. I feel so let down, right now. My chances of conception are ruined, and I am in my 40s now. It would be so nice if I could get some real answers about what have happened to me, and how long till my period balances again?
I started giving my daughter maca for her breakouts and it helped and she took it for about a year and started having unusually stomach pains so we stopped and after a few cycles she started having her periods every three weeks with very heavy bleeding and cramps. A year later and still has not regulated and I wish I never had her take it because she was so regular like me. Now the doctor says we can put her on the pill to regulate her but I don’t want to do that either! Any ideas on how to naturally get her periods regulated?
I started Maca about a month ago and my periods were normal well the period after taking maca was 5 days late then started with some spotting them about 3 days later omg wow the heaviest blood flow ever with lots of clots so I do believe it was from taking maca which I have stopped it today so now I have to wait to see when my bleeding will stop.
I started taking Red Maca about 3 weeks ago knowing it was good for hormone balancing, stupidly I did not research how much to take and was taking a full teaspoon (probably around 3000mg) in a daily smoothie. My period has been late 8 days now, and I’ve never skipped or been more than the occasional 2-3 days late. I’ve also had consistent cramping and strong ovarian sensations. Almost like my period skipped and then i went speedily into ovulation cycle. Im just gussing cause ive never experinced these kind of sensations before. I’m wondering how long till my body goes back to normal and if I will get my period. Or if I’ve done any damage to my fertility, like releasing more eggs? At 43, and a hopeful mother I dont know how many eggs I got left…