Maca Root is literally packed with impressive health benefits, including improving blood flow, boosting make fertility, buffering the effects of stress, boosting the immune system, boosting libido, boosting memory and retention, lowering blood pressure, helping treat an enlarging prostate, promoting bone health, relieving symptoms associated with menopause, and improving athletic performance.
(Yes, all that!)
Read on to find out exactly why you should be supplementing with this ‘Peruvian Ginseng,’ and all the ways (science has proven) it can improve your well-being!
What is Maca Root?
Maca has been cultivated and grown high in the Andean Mountains of Peru for thousands of years. Only recently, the many health benefits of maca have been brought to the awareness of the developing world.
Also called “Peruvian Ginseng,” this hardy root grows where no other cultivated crop can survive. With small leaves that hover close to the ground, this plant flourishes at altitudes between 9,000 to 14,000 feet in the extreme climate of freezing cold winds and strong sunlight.
Lepidium meyenii, maca’s formal name, is a member of the cruciferous family; its radish-like tuberous roots have numerous health benefits. An annual plant, maca has been used medicinally for centuries in South America.
The root is dried and has an amazing shelf life of about seven years. The powder made from the crushed root contains nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids and is about 60 percent carbohydrates, and a healthy 8.5 percent of one serving (about one tablespoon) is fiber.
In comparison to the potato, another root crop, maca contains five times more protein and about four times the fiber.
Maca is powerfully abundant in amino acids, phytonutrients, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
This superfood (foods that are nutrient-dense and offer tremendous dietary and healing potential) has the ability to increase energy and stamina, oxygenate the blood, support neurotransmitter production, and enhance libido.
Maca is an Adaptogen
Scientists and doctors are now finding maca to be one of the most optimal and natural ways to balance and support endocrine health by aiding in the regulation of healthy hormone production with its adaptogenic qualities; this simply means that it is a nutritive substance that raises the body’s state of resistance to disease while remaining nontoxic to the recipient.
Adaptogens increase immunity by improving the overall ability of the entire body to take on challenging and stressful situations.
The term “adaptogen” was given a formal definition in 1968, by Lazarevs colleagues Israel Brekhman and I.V. Dardymov and was defined as follows:
- An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient.
- An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents
- An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor.
In other words, an adaptogen is a safe, plant-based substance that reduces the body’s response to stress and supports overall overall health by normalizing the body.
Andrew Weil, MD, describes adaptogens as herbs “that can ‘tone’ the body and bring it back to homeostasis,” creating a non-specific response that helps it resist stress.
Are Your Hormones Out of Balance?
While maca contains no hormones itself, it provides a rare set of nutrients that nourish the endocrine system and supports the adrenal glands and the thyroid to produce vital hormones in the proper dosages determined by the bodily needs of each individual.
This unique blend of nutrients found in the powdered maca root can also contribute to regulating metabolism and to increasing energy levels, sexual development, and the sense of well-being and attitude.
Its ability to positively increase one’s mindset comes from the fact that maca works directly on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. In addition, it has the beneficial power of rejuvenating exhausted adrenal glands, which helps the body in its ability to handle stressful situations.
This medicinal root can provide relief from symptoms of menopause and andropause and can slow down the aging process by enhancing hormonal system function that supports ideal levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and the human growth hormone.
Maca Benefits and Research
Maca Root Increases Sex Drive
The most well-known benefit of maca root is its potential to increase libido,
and yes, there is scientific evidence to support this claim:
In a study of 57 healthy men, taking maca for 12 weeks increased sexual desire.
In a study of 20 men and women, taking 3 g of maca daily for 12 weeks improved antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction and increased sex drive.
In a study of 8 men, maca extract taken for 2 weeks increased sex drive.
A 2015 study found that maca root may help reduce sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women who were taking an antidepressant.
Psychiatrist and functional medicine physician Hyla Cass, MD, says maca works.
“In my practice, I have seen maca restore hormonal imbalance and related sexual desire and fertility in both men and women.”
Maca Root Reduces Erectile Dysfunction
In a study of 14 healthy postmenopausal women, 6 weeks of maca supplementation reduced sexual dysfunction.
Black maca increased sperm count, volume, and quality in a study of 9 healthy men.
Maca Decreases Anxiety and Depression
In a study of 197 people, 12 weeks of maca supplementation improved mood.
Maca Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (also called hypertension), can be the result of numerous factors, ranging from poor diet, to conditions that exacerbate stress.
Luckily, however, maca can address high blood pressure from multiple sources, and shows great promise.
For example, it is well establish that Maca improves blood flow, and can help them dilate and relax. In addition, Maca contains potassium, a mineral that also assists in regulation of a normal blood pressure.
Finally, since maca is an adaptogen, it can reduce the impact that stress has on the body, as the stress hormone cortisol is known to promote water and sodium retention.
Maca consumption was associated with low blood pressure in an observational study of 50 people.
Maca Will Boost Your Energy
Though the use of maca is supported by many bodybuilders, as it is believed to help with the muscle building process, it is more well known to boost energy levels and improve endurance of runners and athletes who must perform activity for an extended period of time.
A study of male cyclists using maca extract for 14 days improved their results in a 40-kilometer time trial.
Not only did maca enhance endurance, it also improved performance in terms of time, with cyclists documenting improved times while riding (such as time it takes to complete a mile, or a fixed duration).
Maca Improves Quality of Life
- sexual desire,
- health-related quality of life score (HRQL), and
- chronic mountain sickness (CMS) score,
- glycemia (blood sugar level), blood pressure, and
- hemoglobin levels.
The study concluded that:
“Maca extract consumption relative to the placebo improved quality of life parameters”.
Maca Improves Osteoarthritis Symptoms
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, maca may be just what the doctor ordered to relieve the associated pain and stiffness. associated with osteoarthritis, according to a 2011 review, published in the journal BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.
The authors found that taking 1,500 milligrams of maca combined with 300 milligrams of cat’s claw (Uncaria guianensis) twice daily for eight weeks helped improve function, and reduce pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.
In a study of Reparagen, a compound comprised of 83% maca, improved pain, stiffness, and physical function in osteoarthritis patients.
Maca Improves Bone Density
Bone is the most unappreciated tissue in your body, as many people assume that it is dead and requires nothing for sustenance. This is not the case, however, as bone is living tissue – it is just made of sturdy mineral deposits, but requires nourishment to remain strong and healthy.
Maca contains many of the minerals necessary for proper bone mineral density, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and phosphorus. Regular intake of these minerals also prevents osteoporosis development during advanced age.
Maca Reduces Menopause Symptoms
Of particular importance to menopausal women is maca research on the production of sex hormones, enhanced sex drive, stimulation of body metabolism, control of body weight, and increased energy, stress reduction, antidepressant activity, and memory improvement.
Recent research shows that Maca has actually stimulated estradiol levels, suppressed follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and increased HDL.
In addition, Maca significantly reduced both the frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats.
Plus, studies on Maca are now showing a significant reduction in psychological symptoms as well, including anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.
Maca root balances levels of the hormone estrogen. During perimenopause, the stage before a woman reaches menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate and cause a variety of symptoms.
One study found that postmenopausal women who took two daily tablets containing maca experienced reduced symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Maca Reduces Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Free radicals and oxidants are terms that are sometimes thrown around when talking about healing foods, superfoods, and cancer prevention. Free radicals and oxidants create something known as “oxidative stress”.
This causes the cell membranes to deteriorate, making cells more susceptible to damage from free radicals. This can result in damage to DNA in the cells, which causes mutations.
These mutations can occur in any number of ways, but one of the most common mutations we know of is cancer.
A March 2018 study shows the protective, antioxidant properties maca has. In the study, stallion semen is treated with maca root to reduce the damage of oxidative stress during cooling and transport. The results showed the integrity of the semen to decline more slowly in those treated with maca.
An earlier study,from 2007 also shows the potential maca has as an antioxidant and cancer-fighting supplement. The results show that it is promising for preventing certain types of chronic human disease — particularly cancer.
Another study of 50 people found that those who regularly consumed maca had lower levels of inflammation than those who did not.
Maca Balances Women’s Hormones
Women all experience menopause differently. Some sail through this dramatic shift in hormones without so much as breaking a sweat. Others suffer terribly from hot flashes, burning mouth syndrome, changes in mood, slowed metabolism, and insomnia (among other symptoms).
For those who suffer uncomfortable symptoms as hormone levels shift in mature women, treatment can include hormone replacement therapy. The problem with these therapies is that they are known to increase the risk of certain types of cancers (specifically breast cancer), and they are generally synthetic hormones. This means they might be biologically similar, but not biologically identical, and the difference between the two is immense.
Bioidentical hormones act on more pathways in the body. Bioidentical hormones are natural and are the same molecular structure as the body’s own hormones. This means that estrogen levels can be measured precisely, as well, which make therapy easier.
While bioidentical hormones sound much more appealing as a natural hormone therapy, it would be better still if our bodies could produce their own hormones at levels to keep us, as women, feeling more like our usual selves.
This is where maca comes in.
Maca is able to help balance female hormones, and the greatest benefit has been seen in pre-menopausal women.
A frequently-cited 2006 study shows an improved hormone balance in post-menopausal women. The women, who took maca powder for 2 months experienced lowered follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, and increased estrogen and progesterone. This study also suggests that pre-menopausal women may experience the best results from the root.
I believe that one could also extrapolate that balancing these hormone levels with maca root could also help reduce PCOS-related symptoms such as excess hair growth and menstrual cycles.
Dr. Bond and his guest Chris Kilham, The Medicine Hunter, discuss maca and dispel a few myths about this amazing herb.
Maca Reduces High Blood Sugar
A study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in 2007 found that maca lowered blood sugar levels.
This information is especially important for pre-diabetics, diabetics or those suffering from Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X).
Metabolic syndrome is associated with diabetes and atherosclerosis risk factors such as LDL cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, high fasting blood sugar, and high triglycerides.
Maca Improves Cognitive Function (Learning and Memory)
Several studies have also found that maca root benefits memory and focus. In fact, two animal studies in 2011 found that black maca was able to improve memory impairment in mice, likely thanks to its high antioxidant content.
A 2014 study, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found that maca (Lepidium meyenii) may help Alzheimer’s memory loss and dementia by improving spatial learning and memory impairments and ameliorating memory deficits.
Maca Reduces an Enlarged Prostate
In a study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, male rats who have prostatic hyperplasia were given different types of maca root extracts. It was revealed that the aqueous extract of the red maca has the most effect in decreasing the size and weight of the animal’s prostate.
Maca Side Effects
It is not advised to consume raw maca, however. Plus, almost all the clinical studies demonstrating positive health effects of maca have been performed with maca prepared in it’s traditional manner (boiling or heating in water) or with gelatinized or extracted, powderized maca: this shows that the active medicinal components are not denatured with heat and new studies suggest that the heating is actually necessary for production of the various health enhancing metabolites.
Sources and Dosage
Maca can be supplemented as a powder, pill, capsule, flour, liquor, and extract. It is most commonly sold as a powder or capsule (which contains the powder).
Maca powder is widely available in two forms: dehydrated (often marketed as “raw” or “dried”) maca powder or gelatinized maca powder.
I’m a fan of products that multitask, and scientific studies have proven maca to be beneficial for so many areas of well-being.
No matter what your age, or whether you’re a man or woman, there are numerous benefits to be had from simply taking a maca capsule or using maca powder.
Maca powder works well in smoothies, by the way! You can also add it to cappuccinos, guacamole, or hummus thanks to its nutty flavor and butterscotch aroma. Plus, you can mix it into your energy balls and homemade granola bars, or add to soups and stews. Use between one and a half to three grams of maca per day (about a quarter to a half of a teaspoon), which is the amount that shows benefits in research.
Whichever form of maca you choose, do give it a try! It’s safe, inexpensive, and proven to enhance good health.
Let me know what you think!
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