Maca is grown in the mountains of Peru and is most commonly used in powder form. It is related to the radish family and the edible maca root is grown underground. Maca is widely known as the Peruvian Ginsing. “Maca has been used by traditional cultures living in Peru for thousands of years as an aphrodisiac and to combat living in the harsh mountainous climate. Inca warriors consumed maca for strength in battle.”
Maca actually grows in 13 different color forms and depending on what color the roots are, they are named accordingly. Some suggest that the different colors of maca can enhance differing biological effects. The most commonly studied colors are yellow, red, and black.
One ounce (28 grams) of maca root powder contains:
- Calories: 91
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
RDI: Recommended Daily Intake
Health Benefits Of Maca:
Menstrual Cycle and Menopause Imbalance
Unfortunately, hormone imbalance is a common thing. For women, oftentimes the imbalance comes throughout her menstrual cycle and/or when she is going through menopause. During menopause, a women’s body is releasing less estrogen which can significantly affect a women’s brain, nervous system, heart, bones, skin, and urinary system.
Brain and Nervous System:
“Estrogen depletion can bring on a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations that can lead to changes in your brain and nervous system. You may experience mood swings, memory loss, problems focusing, irritability, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, stress, anxiety and depression. Physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, mixed with cognitive changes, such as irritability and memory loss, can create more opportunities for emotional changes and mood swings.”
“Due to estrogen depletion, women are put at an increased risk for cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, or other heart-related problems.”
“After the age of 30, the creation of new bone cannot keep up with the rate of bone loss in your body. The estrogen depletion that comes with menopause results in an increased risk for low bone mineral density, osteopenia, and osteoporosis.”
“As with the vagina, estrogen depletion can cause the lining of your urethra to become drier, thinner and less elastic. This can lead to feeling the need to urinate more often, an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and involuntary leaking of urine (incontinence) when coughing, laughing or lifting heavy objects.”
Maca on the Mend
For women who are experiencing menopause: There was a review done of four studies in menopausal women which found that mace helped alleviate menopausal symptoms, including interrupted sleep and hot flashes.
A study was done that concluded when maca powder is taken for 2 months it helped to lowered follicle stimulating hormone (a hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland that promotes the formation of ova) and luteinizing hormone (which triggers ovulation) and increased estrogen and progesterone in a study of 20 postmenopausal women.
For women who have their menstrual cycle: Maca helps to normalize the menstrual cycle, both in terms of the number of days in a cycle, the amount of blood flow and it can help to greatly reduce any pain related to PMS.
Benefits for all women:
- Increased energy levels due to improved adrenal and thyroid function
- A halt in regards to sugar cravings
- Reduced fluctuation in blood sugar levels, less light headedness and/or irritable
- Improved sleep patterns because of improved pineal gland function
- A decline of rapid heartbeats because estrogen receptors in the heart are filled
- Improved bladder function due to filled estrogen receptors
“Maca has long been used to promote healthy sexual function for both men and women. It’s thought to boost libido and increase endurance.” A study was done where maca extract was taken by 50 men with mild erectile dysfunction and after 12 weeks they had increased erectile function and better sexual well-being. Another study was done and successfully found that black maca increased sperm count, quality, and volume in 9 men. A third study was done with animals that had enlarged prostates due to excess testosterone. This study concluded that when the animal took red maca extract it ultimately reduced the prostate size.
As stated earlier, the color of the maca root can have various health effects. The darker the maca root, the more iodine present. The body does not make iodine, so it is a critical component that needs to be in our diets. Iodine cannot be found on the ingredients list within packed foods in the U.S. According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 40% of the world’s population remains at risk for iodine deficiency.
Iodine Rich Foods:
- Sea vegetables
- Navy Beans
- Dried Prunes
- Tuna Fish
- Green Beans
The other good news beyond eating iodine-rich foods is knowing that maca can help. “Iodine is very important for thyroid health. One teaspoon contains .025 milligrams (mg); 4 teaspoons contain 100 percent of the RDI. It’s also important to note that maca:
“Is essential in helping the thyroid gland to produce hormones. Beyond that, iodine supports healthy metabolism, balanced moods, healthy blood pressure and may also be useful in preventing cancer.
A lack of iodine in your diet can lead to goiters, hypothyroidism, low metabolism, problems in pregnancy, depression, mood disorders, fatigue and other conditions resulting from hormonal imbalance.”
Protect and Promote Healthy Skin
We’ve been told all of our lives that Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage (and burn) skin that is not protected, and over time this can cause unwanted wrinkles and increase the risk of skin cancer. There has been evidence that applying maca extract (specifically from red, black, and yellow root maca) to the skin may help protect it from unwanted UV radiation.
There was a study done on five rats over a three-week period. They applied maca extract to their skin and it did help to prevent skin damage from UV exposure. “The protective effect was attributed to the polyphenol antioxidants and glucosinolates found in maca.” It important to remember that maca extract only protects the skin when applied to the skin, not when eaten.
Higher Quality Learning and Memory
“Natives in the central Peruvian Andes attribute the use of maca with improved school performance.” Experimental studies have concluded that specifically black maca has had a positive impact on learning and memory in mice. Black maca improved the general learning and memory in mice and also in memory impaired in mice.
Overall Brain Health
“Researchers are finding promising results of maca’s protective effect on the brain, specifically with the levels of fatty acids found in the root,” says Dr. Petre. “Fatty acids, such as omega-3s, support brain function, cognitive skills, rational thinking, and analytical skills.”
There is research which shows that omega 3 fatty acids may even be powerful enough to aid in the treatment of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Increased Energy Levels
Maca acts like a stimulant, but doesn’t actually contain any stimulants like caffeine, explains Paul Salter, M.S., R.D. “It’s thought that maca has a positive impact on stabilizing blood glucose levels, which is why people often report an increase in energy after enjoying,” he says.
When blood sugar spikes, the body typically tries to correct it by producing more insulin, which results in an energy crash. But when sugar levels are more stable, you can prevent peaks and crashes and maintain more consistent energy throughout the day.
As if the significant hormone impact in both men and women was not enough, maca may boost your overall health in many different ways. Maca supplies iron and helps restore red blood cells, which aids in avoiding anemia and cardiovascular diseases. It is nutrient rich, full of fiber, protein, vitamin c, iron, copper, potassium, vitamin b6, and manganese. It helps brain health, which results in improved memory and learning and keeps your energy in check so you can be more efficient throughout the day. Seriously, is there anything maca cannot do?
Maca is easily found online and in stores. It is not unreasonably priced either. Wherever you do most of your shopping, keep an eye out for maca next time you’re stocking the pantry. Eventually try yellow, red, black and even other colors of maca to experience different health benefits. Add maca to smoothies or make the powder into pills for easy, simple digestion.
Trying maca could have an impact on health issues you may have been experiencing for years. If your sex drive has decreased, you’re going through menopause, or you just desire consistent energy throughout the day this Peruvian Ginseng could be just the thing your body is craving.
It’s easier to try something natural, to do it in moderation, and to see if any positive changes occur rather than going to the doctor and getting medicine that normally causes other unwanted and unnecessary side effects. If maca has any positive impacts on your health make sure to spread the word! You never know how it could change someone else’s life.
Watch this video to learn more:
Sources: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root#section8, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root#section2, http://www.vegkitchen.com/nutrition/maca-root/, http://nutrientjournal.com/maca-improves-learning-and-memory-in-animals/, https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19544647/maca-powder-benefits/, Source: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/03/13/maca-health-benefits.aspx, Source: http://menopause.northwestern.edu/content/how-hormone-depletion-affects-you