What Is Maca?
High in the Andes Mountains grows a hearty root vegetable not well known to much of the world. The earthy plant resembling a parsnip is called Maca. This Peruvian ginseng belongs to the brassica family including cabbage, turnip, broccoli, and mustard green.
Native growers testify to four colored varieties including a pale gold, purple, half-purple, and nearly black. Color variation is due to the amount of anthocyanin, which gives the plant its pigment. The pale gold variety is the most commonly grown.
Maca is well known in Peru and is often used in Peruvian cooking. When eaten this vegetable is known for its rather earthy flavor. This vegetable makes a nice side dish but is easily added into stews and smoothies.
Nutritional Benefits Of Maca
Essential amino acids drive many cellular functions in the body. Maca contains just about all of them! Besides, free fatty acids work to support cellular function and maca has about 20 of these high-fliers including, vitamins, minerals, sterols, and glucosinolates. All of these nutrients catapult maca into the super-food category.
Maca is rich in free-radical fighting antioxidants. This vegetable works to neutralize damaging free-radicals preventing damage at the cellular level.
Dr. Axe DNM, DC, CNS, a doctor of natural medicine, chiropractor, clinical nutritionist, and author recently wrote, “An animal study in the Czech Republic even found that administering a concentrated dose of maca to rats not only improved their antioxidant status but also significantly decreased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver and reduced blood sugar, helping prevent the development of the chronic disease.”
Other research showed in a test-tube study that the antioxidant content of maca leaf extract could protect against neurological damage.
How To Consume Maca?
There are primarily 3 ways to consume maca.
- Baking or roasting
- Stored long-term to dry
- Ground and made into a medicinal powder
Baking maca is similar to baking potatoes. You can easily use your favorite potato dish substituted with maca. For instance, try your au gratin potato recipe with maca root for a delightful culinary substitute.
Storing maca root is easily done in a cool dry place. The dried root is traditionally made into a milk porridge. The roots can also be made into a fermented Peruvian beverage called maca chicha.
Grinding maca is similar to grinding any dried spice. The light powder is used for medicinal purposes and sold as a supplement.
Maca is known as an adaptogen. These are plants that help your body resist stressors of all kinds.
The pale gold variety works well as a general supplement to rebalance hormones. The purple variety has been shown to provide relief for symptoms during both menstrual cycles and menopause. Black maca is known as an aphrodisiac. It is used primarily to stimulates sperm production or it is taken to boost fertility.
5 Health Benefits Of Maca
- Assists in male sexual health
- Reduces anxiety
- Balances female hormones
- Decreases menopausal symptoms
- Improves mood
Assists In Male Sexual Health
Maca is the talk-of-the-town for its supposed aphrodisiac properties. Let’s explore some of the hype around this hearsay and the science behind the rumor.
In a 2015 study by The University of Michigan, they found that 1,500 to 3,000 mg of maca per day can increase libido in men. The supplemental form did so without affecting testosterone levels.
Observations from a double-blind clinical trial using 50 men affected by mild erectile dysfunction, maca did show a small but significant effect. In a separate 12-week double blind placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial, Maca Gelatinizada was compared with placebo. In conclusion, treatment with Maca improved sexual desire at about the 8 and 12-week mark.
Maca has been shown for its ability to influence spermatogenesis or the developmental pathway to produce mature male sex cells. In other words, this root has demonstrated to increase sperm count.
Because maca is considered an adaptogen, the plant helps the body naturally adapt to stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job, divorce, or illness. The deep colored variety has been known to assist in overcoming a variety of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can cause you to suffer from memory loss, confusion, and can make it difficult for a person to concentrate. Maca helps to enhance your memory thereby helping one to cope with stress and help kick-to-the-curb painful anxiety disorders.
Maca stimulates and nourishes both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. These are the master glands of your body. This plant helps achieve homeostasis, which essentially is balance.
The natural stress relief potential of maca naturally elevates your energy level. Once energy is restored, focus and mental clarity can engage your outlook and ability to manage stress. Mental focus is a powerful tool to assist you in kissing anxiety goodbye.
Balances Female Hormones
Amazingly, maca can balance female sex hormones. The supplement has even been shown to attenuate symptoms of menopause. This root vegetable, although not able to increase sex hormone production, encourages managing hormonal pathways.
In a clinical study focusing on responses of early postmenopausal women, maca noticeably improved bone density markers and reduced cortisol levels. Balancing hormone levels is key to reproductive health and assists in reducing symptoms like infertility, weight gain, and bloating.
In a similar study, maca was found to have a beneficial effect on libido, effective for selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-induced sexual dysfunction.
Maca regulates estrogen levels. It may also help with building fertility and decreasing symptoms related to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), such as abnormal hair growth, weight gain, and acne.
Decreases Menopausal Symptoms
Hormonal imbalances can have a serious effect on a woman’s body. They play an integral role in the wellness and health of women entering menopause.
Once women hit the menopausal years, hormones shift. The direction of metabolism and reproduction are directed by your hormones. More specifically, these are your bodies, chemical messengers.
During the menopausal years, ovaries are no longer the primary driver for sexual health, rather the adrenal glands take over. If your adrenals have been overburdened for years, subduing chronic stress, they simply won’t have the resources to boost those sex hormones.
In an article published in March 2020 by Magdalena Wszelaki, she states, “Maca in perimenopausal and menopausal women has been linked to an increase in hormones, including progesterone and luteinizing hormone (which stimulates ovary function). The maca also stimulated estradiol and suppressed the production of chemicals like the stress hormone, cortisol.”
Several studies have confirmed that maca benefits female sexual health in menopausal women. In a double-blind placebo trial, maca root was found to be an effective treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.
Now and then, we all could use a mood booster. Adaptogenic substances like maca support your body’s effort in managing homeostasis under stressful circumstances. This boosts your mood.
Dr. Jockers, a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist, and corrective care chiropractor said in an article, “The natural stress relief abilities of maca elevates our energy levels, increases stamina, enhances mental clarity, and can engage our spiritual outlook and ability to manage stress.”
According to a published PubMed study, “A self-perception survey showed that maca acted as energizer compared with placebo in apparently healthy men.”
High-quality maca supplements can be purchased from your local nutritional specialist or at a reputable health food store. I recommend an organic brand as this will be sourced without nasty pesticides or chemicals.
Beginning with a supplemental dose of 450 mg is common. Professional athletes have been known to consume up to 5000 mg of maca daily. These capsules are best taken with food. Be sure to discuss this supplement with your doctor or medical professional.