What is Maca?
Maca is a member of the cruciferous family of plants that includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips and radishes. Maca is grown for its root, which resembles that of the radish, and is off white, yellow or purple in colour.
Maca is also referred to as ‘Peruvian Ginseng’. It is native to Peru and is a major part of the Peruvian diet. The traditional use of Maca dates back thousands of years.
Reasons to take Maca
Traditionally, Maca has been used for enhancing strength and stamina but recent research is proving Maca to beneficial for so much more.
Powerhouse of nutrition
Maca is a nutritionally packed super food rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Maca is a rich source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iodine, manganese, zinc and most of the essential amino acids. It is this density in nutrition that enhances energy production.
Maca has long been known for its aphrodisiac qualities now research has proven that Maca does indeed increase libido in both men and women. Treatment with Maca also resulted in increased sperm count, semen volume and sperm motility suggesting Maca may have a role in the treatment of infertility. (1, 2)
Helps to combat Stress
Maca is an adaptogen, which helps your adrenal glands respond to stress. Studies have also shown Maca to help reduce anxiety and depression in post-menopausal women when they ingested 3.5g of Maca daily over 6 weeks. (3)
Improves Bone Health
Maca may have a place in the treatment of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that Maca supplementation acted to preserve bone mineral density. (4)
Researches postulated that Maca had a positive effect on the parathyroid gland which is responsible for calcium metabolism in the body. The high calcium content of root is also considered to improve the bone health.
Maca has gained a reputation for helping balance hormones and reverse hypothyroidism. It is an endocrine adaptogen, meaning that it does not contain any hormones, but rather it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the ‘master glands’ of the body.
These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands. Maca root has been shown to be beneficial for all sorts of hormonal problems including PMS, menopause, and hot flushes.
How to take Maca
As Maca is a root vegetable in the Radish family, it can safely be taken in small amounts daily. It is available in powder form the least expensive option or in capsules. Some people prefer capsules as the powder has a somewhat earthy taste to it.
The powder can be mixed in to smoothies, juices, tea or coffee or capsules can be easily consumed.
How much to take
It is recommended to start slowly when first using Maca.
Powder - start with ˝ -1 teaspoon daily gradually increasing to 1 to 2 teaspoons a day.
Capsules - start with 1 x 500mg capsule and gradually increase to 1000mg-3000mg daily.
If you are taking Maca daily it is best to either have one day off a week or one full week off each month.
I have personally seen people get great results from using Maca, myself included. If you are looking for that little bit of extra energy or having trouble balancing your hormones why not give Maca a try!
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1 Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian Journal of Andology. 3.4 (2001):301-3.
2 Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. "Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.
3 Brooks NA,et al.Beneficial effects of Lepidium (maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in post menopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content (http:’’www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18784609) Menopause (2008)
4 Zhang Y, et al. Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium Meyenii Walp. On osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16466876) j ethnopharmacol.(2006)
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