Maca is a super food I use regularly. Maca is considered an adaptogen. An adaptogen is an herb with the unique ability to “adapt” to your body based on what you need. What this means is an adaptogen will calm you down if you are anxious or nervous or boost your energy if you are fatigued without a rush or jolt. Adaptogens are nontoxic.
Maca helps regulate and support endocrine health. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones essential for normal body functions.
Maca is especially good for the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the key gland used to manage stress. Maca helps normalize the body’s response to stress, modulate cortisol levels, reduce the exhaustion that follows a stressful event, and protects the body against the negative effects of stress.
Maca supports the thyroid which keeps up your metabolism. It also is known to improve your overall mood.
We used maca in a number of recipes on the Winter Nourishing Foods Cleanse to support our adrenal glands. We will continue to use maca for the health benefits it provides.
History and Legend of Maca
Maca is a vegetable that has been cultivated as a root crop since 1500 BC. It grows in the Peruvian mountains, 13,000+ feet above sea level on Andean plateaus, where no other food can grow. It is the highest altitude crop on earth. Its ability to grow in these conditions gives it its adaptogenic qualities. The indigenous people have used it for more than 3500 years. Maca is often termed as Peruvian Ginseng due to its natural stimulating qualities that are similar to the benefits found in ginseng-related herbs.
Legend says Incan warriors consumed maca before battle to make them strong and powerful. Legend goes on to say the Incan soldiers were forbidden to use maca after conquering a city to protect the women from their excessive sexual desire. This clearly indicates maca’s most acclaimed benefits – strength, endurance and heightened libido.
Health Benefits of Maca
The maca plant is a root vegetable in the radish family. The part of the maca plant that has the active nutrients is the flesh of the root.
Dried Maca powder is high in fiber and contains protein. Maca is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium in a form easy for our body to assimilate.
Its traditional use as a sexual tonic is well documented by modern medical studies. It can create an aphrodisiac-like response in both men and women. It increases the quality and quantity of sperm which helps to increase fertility. Richard Brown, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York says among natural therapies , “maca is the only thing I know that works reliably on libido,”
Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands to reduce menopausal symptoms. It does this by regulating the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas and ovarian glands. Hot flashes are one of the most troublesome symptoms of menopause. Maca’s adaptogenic nature helps bring the hormone levels back into balance without the use of hormone replacement treatments. It may also reduce symptoms of depression in post-menopausal women.
Many athletes report increased stamina after taking maca root. It may be because of the more stable blood sugar levels maca produces and the strengthening effect it has on the adrenals. Stable blood sugar levels and healthy adrenal function give your body increased energy and endurance.
Maca is also good for:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Improving sleep
- Reducing menstrual discomfort
- Depression and anxiety
- Poor memory
Note: Don’t use maca if you suffer from breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian or other hormone related cancers.
Buying and Using Maca
- Buy organic maca powder in your health food store or online.
- There are 2 types of maca, Raw and Gelatinized. Either one can be used in recipes.
Raw maca has never been heated above 100F/40C preserving it’s enzymes and nutrients but it may cause gas or indigestion in some people. If you have a sensitive stomach get the gelatinize maca powder.
Gelatinize maca is heated and the starch is removed. It is therefore more concentrated and easier to digest and absorb.
- Store maca away from light and humidity. It will keep well for two years at room temperature.
- Take between 1-3 teaspoons of powder per day. Listen to your body, if you experience too much energy use less.
- I like it in a smoothie or latte. It is wonderful to use when weaning off coffee. I was able to give up coffee by replacing it with Cacao Maca Latte. Click for recipe.
- Add it to energy bars to for an additional boost. My favorite one is Chocolate Hemp Maca Energy Balls. Click for recipe.
The popularity of maca continues to increase due to its health enhancing properties. Maca comes highly recommended as super food that has withstood the test of time.