Altitudes of 3,500 meters in extreme bright sunlight, freezing temperatures and some of the worlds strongest winds, is where maca has been cultivated for thousands of years, by the Inca’s of Peru.
They consumed maca root mainly as a food source, but they also knew of its ability to provide high levels of energy, to greatly boost stamina and endurance, and that it increases fertility – not only in humans, but in animals.
The Inca’s have been using the worlds first ‘super-foods’ for thousands of years, not just because of its nutritional properties, but also because of its medicinal effects.
Not Just a Vegetable!
One of the first foreigners to discover the health benefits of maca root, was the Spanish explorer Captain de Soto, who received this valuable plant as a gift from the Indians, for his help in improving animal husbandry techniques.
Then, in the mid fifteen hundreds, maca gained further recognition, when Chinchayochas Indians started to use the root for bartering.
By the mid 1800’s the plant was officially adopted by the scientific community when it was named Lepidium meyenii, by Gerhard Walpers, the German Botanist. It is surprising to me then, that maca root in one form or another, is not more widely known for what it can do for the body.
If goats and cattle have been eating this stuff for thousands of years to help them work harder and produce ‘tougher’ offspring, why has western civilization been denied this incredible vegetable for so long?
It could be promoting healthier pregnancies, providing energy and nutrients to the sick, and it could also be saving lives.
So, what’s in it that makes it so good for you?
Maca Extract Nutrition Facts
- Vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E
- Essential amino acids
- Fatty acids
- Essential oils
Dry maca root extract delivers some potent macro, and micro nutrients. It is roughly 60% digestible carbohydrates, 10% proteins (amino acids) and a little more than 8% fiber.
The remainder makes up the rest – especially rich in iron, calcium, copper, potassium and zinc. It also supplies ample amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E.
The maca protein delivers significant quantities of a number of essential amino acids:
The chief fatty acids found in maca include linoleic, linolenic, palmitic and oleic acid.
Additionally, it includes polyunsaturated acids and their amides. The main secondary metabolites found in the root include glucosinolates, flavonoids, steroids, and essential oil sitosterol.
Science now tells us that maca works by boosting the endocrine system (1).
It does so by regulating hormones produced in the body that are accredited with all physiological characteristics like digestion, fertility, sexual function, energy levels, nervous system and brain physiology.
How Does Maca Work?
It’s all about balance.
We live in a time where there is more demand placed on our bodies, than there has at any other time in history. Our lives are dominated by stresses, which cause over-production and under-production of hormones.
The health benefits maca has to offer, could be the solution to normalizing these fluctuations for many people, including you.
Maca is an ‘adaptogen’, which means it enhances the body’s own ability to protect itself against physical and mental deterioration (2).
It is able to carry this out by supporting the health of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
These are the ‘chief’ glands of the body, found in the brain, which control functionality of the adrenal glands, thyroid, pancreas, testis and ovaries. Though, I doubt you would ever be instructed by your doctor to try some maca root for any ailment.
Instead, patients are freely handed prescriptions, often with lists of drugs which only serve to put money into the pharmaceutical companies pockets.
But maca is one of those organically occurring wonders of mother nature that provides so much healing power.
So, what can maca do for you?
Maca Health Benefits
- Quicker recovery from injury
- Reduces anxiety, depression and stress
- Improved libido and sexual function
- Increased fertility in men and women
- Increased energy and stamina
- Enhances mood
- Improves prostate health in men
- Helps to regulate sugar levels, resulting in reduced hunger cravings and healthier food choices
- Contains cell protecting antioxidants (protection from free radicals)
- Reduced cholesterol
- Improved memory
- Reduced symptoms of menopause in women
- Supports muscle building in an exercise program
Maca improves overall health in several ways.
By supplying iron to the body, it enhances the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen to all corners of the body, which is beneficial for anemia and cardiovascular health.
This also allows for quick recovery from wounds. Maca also has a use in some sports and exercise programs.
When it is used in combination with an exercise program, an elevation in muscle mass can be observed. This can help sportsmen and women to become stronger, plus maca reduces muscle recovery time after vigorous and resistance exercises.
There are 3 Types of Maca Distinguished by Root Color
- Red/Light Pink/Purple
Studies on the three types of maca have been conducted.
Grey/Black maca has positive effects on sperm production.
Red/purple maca helped to reduce the size of prostate in rats in which prostate hyperplasia was induced with testosterone enanthate.
Cream/yellow maca, although rich in nutrients, comes lowest on the scale when offering benefits to ones health.
Red or black maca, offers much more.
Random clinical trials have shown that maca produced positive effects on energy and mood. It might reduce anxiety, thereby improving sexual desire. It has also shown improvements in sperm production, motility and volume of semen (3).
The root is known for increasing stamina.
It is said that Incan warriors ate the root before they did battle with their enemies. They used it to ensure they had unbeatable strength and endurance.
This is why modern athletes are turning to maca, because it gives them greater stamina. The increased vigor could be the result of more stable blood sugar level combined with the potency of maca on the adrenals.
Stabilizing Blood Sugar Levels
Greater sugar level stability and healthier adrenals mean more energy.
This is also beneficial in weight loss programs. The greater blood sugar stability reduces hunger cravings, so one eats less and makes better food choices.
Maca also has antioxidant properties, which can protect cells of the body from the abundance of free radical ions and molecules that surround us (4).
In one study, maca reduced the levels of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins, and the triacylglycerols in the blood.
Maca enhanced glucose tolerance and reduced its levels in the blood.
In another study using mice, it was determined that all variants of maca (red, yellow and black) demonstrated antidepressant activity.
It is believed that the phytoestrogens like anthocyanins and quercetin might be accountable for this. Black maca helped to improve memory impairment in a separate study.
It is thought that the mechanism involved for this health benefit might be linked with the effect on a monoamine neurotransmitter.
Menopausal women lose some vital minerals during menopause leading to serious disease like osteoporosis. In an independent study it was found that maca rebuilt the trabecular network in ovariectomized rats and improved bone mass (5).
Maca also relieves day to day hormonal imbalances, which cause the hot flashes in women during menopause.
Side Effects of Maca
The positives maca has to offer are numerous, but you should also know about the potential side effects of maca. Anyone with thyroid problems should be mindful of the iodine in maca.
Too much iodine in the diet can cause problems for them, making their condition worse.
Also, if you are allergic to some plants, which is very rare, you could experience mild side effects. About five percent of people report gas or indigestion using raw maca, so if you have a sensitive gut, you should try maca in a different form.
There is however, a danger of maca to women who may be sensitive to testosterone production, because maca increases this male hormone in both men, and women. I also recommend you read our article on Maca Side Effects.
Dosage and How to Use Maca Extract
You can’t really overdose on maca.
Remember, it is a ‘food’ before anything else and has been used as such for thousands of years. However, as discussed above, a minority of cases have reported an increase in heart rate and ‘jittery energy’, like you can get with too much caffeine.
So, first consider your bodyweight, then take the smallest amount recommended on any product container.
Gradually increase the amount, if you need to, and remember as with coffee, different amounts affect different people. Also remember, if you are taking maca for a specific reason, for example, to increase libido or improve chances of getting pregnant, you may want to increase the recommended dose.
You can use maca in most foods, but it is quite delicious in smoothies and desserts. We have a list of maca recipes for you, in a different section of our site. Or, if you just want a supplement, there are a few options available to you.
Where can you get Maca as a Supplement?
You can buy maca in raw powder form, or you can get it in capsule and liquid, supplement form. Our recommended source for Maca is Good Health Naturally, because they are a proven source of natural supplements, who offer guarantees with their products.
1 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_system