What is Maca?
Maca is a tuber that grows in the Andean plateaus of Peru, at an altitude as high as 14,500 feet. It is the only food plant that is able to survive this high elevation, full of the climactic challenges presented by an oxygen poor environment, freezing wind and intensive sunlight. It has been used by Peruvians, as far back as the Incas, for food as well as for fertility rights and strengthening of warriors prior to battle and endurance sports. Since the 1960’s, however, Peruvian scientists have through research come to a greater understanding of the science behind its medicinal and nutritional potency. This has led to Maca’s growing, world wide acceptance as a supplemental and alternative therapy for many conditions normally treated with pharmaceutical drugs.
How does Maca work?
Maca is adaptogenic, therefore it responds to the needs of the body into which it is absorbed according to the age and gender of the individual. It stimulates the glands of the pituitary-hypothalamus axis to produce needed hormones, thus its effect is not merely over reproductive hormones but also over those secreted by the pancreas, adrenals and thyroid glands as well Maca. This is very important because very few natural products have been proven to have a positive effect on hypothyroidism.
Maca root is a nutritional powerhouse containing high amounts of amino acids, beneficial complex carbohydrates, vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E, numerous minerals including calcium, iron, phosporus, zinc and magnesium. It also has significant amounts of fatty acids such as linoleic, palmitic and oleic acids. The presence of tannins, saponins and four alkaloids may also explain Maca’s ability to regulate hormones.
The sterols in Maca rather than adding hormones to the system help the body to produce its own natural hormones according to its needs. Maca has been shown to alleviate Premenstrual Syndrome, perimenopause, menopause, and erectile dysfunction in men. It also increases libido in both sexes, raises sperm count for men and enhances the ability to conceive for women. It has even been used on young adults with ADD and ADHD with positive results.
Maca’s positive effect on the adrenals accounts for its good reputation as an energizer. Most athletic users of Maca report an increase in both power and endurance during cardiovascular and resistance exercise. It is known to reverse lethargy and studies show many patients suffering from chronic fatigue have found some relief from their condition with sustained daily use of the plant.
What is most surprising about Maca are its properties as an anti-depressant. Even though, working in the holistic environment, I had heard about its potential in that area, I was stunned when I experienced its power first hand. I had already been taking Maca daily for energy and hormonal regulation. Upon doing a Whole Person Healing (a 3-day comprehensive holistic and medical work up) with Dr. Helen Ross at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, she prescribed that I double the dosage that I was currently taking. Within 24 hours of making that change my depression was gone, and I felt more emotionally equipped to handle the daily challenges of my demanding job. It was a miraculous transformation that was immediately noticed by myself and my co-workers. The same resilience that maca demonstrates in the wild, is the same hardiness that it brings to the human organism; creating a “can-do” feeling out of what would have been a “can’t cope” circumstance. This is part of the magical chemical signature of the plant. The reason for its ability to regulate depression is not yet fully known, but scientists and holistic physicians postulate that it could be related to both its hormone balancing power and nutritional potency.