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Maca Root

Lepidium meyenii

What is Maca Root?

Maca powder comes from the native Peruvian Maca root plant. It can be blended with many smoothie recipes or used to make a Maca Latte. The taste has been described as earthy and nutty, or caramel or malt-like so it can also be added to baking.

What are the potential health benefits of maca root?

Maca or otherwise known as Lepidium meyenii is a plant that grows abundantly in the highlands and plateaus of central Peru. The Maca root plant is a plain tuber, that looks similar to a radish, it grows at an altitude of 4000 metres and survives extreme heat, cold and a thin atmosphere. Therefore the plant stores resources for itself to stay healthy such as vitamins, trace elements and mineral nutrients. The Inca civilisation used maca root from the Andean high plateaus as food and as medicine. It is said to have many benefits such as increased libido and in women’s fertility, pregnancy, for healthy skin and hair growth, for support in preventing osteoporosis, thyroid health, athletic performance and even for reducing depression. It is also known as Peruvian Ginseng due to its stimulating qualities.

Stamina and mood

Due to its rich nutritional content and adaptogenic qualities, Maca will naturally have a positive effect on energy, stamina and mood. Maca is packed with nutrients that support mood such as all essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Maca is especially rich in B Vitamins which are required for boosting brain power and energy production via the Kreb’s cycle in the mitochondria of our cells [i] [ii].

Endocrine health

Perhaps one of its most famous applications is as a stimulant of the endocrine glands. These glands produce hormones responsible for regulating metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood and response to stress and injury. It is thought the benefits of Maca in this regard are due mainly to glucosinolates, which are plant chemicals known as alkaloids within Maca root. Maca root works in an entirely different way from hormone therapy or hormone mimicking substances such as phytoestrogens herbs or phytoestrogens in soy etc. Instead maca works via promoting optimal functioning of the hypothalamus and the pituitary, thereby improving the functioning of all the endocrine glands[iii]. The alkaloids act on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which may explain why the effects in humans are not limited to ovaries and testes, but also acts on the adrenals. This explains why Maca provides a feeling of greater energy and vitality and why it acts on the pancreas and thyroid as well [iv]. Because of these effects it is said the entire endocrine system becomes balanced.

Reproductive function and health

Following on from the discussion of endocrine health, Maca has also shown to act as an aphrodisiac. For this purpose, the ancient Peruvians ingested this powerful root to boost the potency of the male libido. These effects have been studied in recent research. Recent clinical trials have also suggested significant effects of maca for increasing sperm count and mobility and improving sexual function in humans [v] [vi].Preliminary evidence shows that Maca at a dose of 3.5 g per day reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women. This action is due to the effect of Maca on the aforementioned hypothalamus-pituitary axis, and is said to be independent of female sex hormones such as oestrogen and androgens such as testosterone [vii]. Maca can be helpful in reducing discomfort caused by menopausal symptoms and limited case studies on laboratory animals have shown that Maca can be effective for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as well [viii]. It is said this effect is due to the balancing action which also controls oestrogen levels in the body, improving reproductive health.

Stress and anxiety

Excessive stimulation of the nervous system from chronic high levels of stress can cause “adrenal fatigue” or “burnout”. In these cases, the way Maca can help is by harnessing its adaptogenic capacity to regulate the hormones that are produced by this gland. An adaptogen regulates an over stressed state back to a better equilibrium and if the body under-produces a hormone, it helps raise the level until it is balanced. For this reason it is powerful in terms of combating excessive stress and anxiety. The herb was seen to anti-anxiety effects in menopausal women [ix] .

Furthermore, a study in mice found maca to decrease negative effects of stress on the body such as elevated corticosterone levels and overactivity of the adrenal glands. It was also seen to normalise the free fatty-acids in blood plasma (fats in the blood) during a stress response [x].

How to use Maca Powder

1 -2 teaspoons per day is recommended. Add to smoothies, fruit juice or water. Alternatively sprinkle on porridge, cereal, or soup.

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