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Foods That Heal – Maca Root Healing Properties

Foods That Heal - Maca Root Healing Properties

Greetings friends. Today I am going to be informing you about a wonderful natural healing food that has been part of my family’s diet for many years. This wonderful food from South America is called Maca. Maca root (lepidium meyenii) is an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, but due to it’s unique properties it considered one of the world’s natural healing or medicinal foods.  Maca is grown high in the mountains of South America, mainly in high altitude regions of Peru. Not only is it a natural source of healing nutrition, but it also has a long history of being a safe healing food that has been consumed for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years in regions of the Andes Mountains. The pleasant tasting root is usually available in powder form after being harvested and ground down. The maca root benefits include increased fertility in both men and women, hormone balance, booster for the immune system, and  increased energy, stamina, improved sexual function, memory, and focus. It is very rich in nutrients (has a higher calcium level than milk) and is very nutrient dense generally. Maca is considered an “adaptogen”, a name given to certain herbs, plants, and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job, or illness, for example. Consuming maca often makes people feel more “alive”, energetic, and leaves them with a sense of well-being, all of which are thought to be due to its ability to restore proper hormone balance and elevate “feel good” endorphins.

Maca Nutritional Data

Maca root powder is comprised of approximately 18% protein, 76.5% carbohydrates, 5% fat, and 8.5% fiber (indigestible carbohydrates). Maca provides a powerful source of nutrition, including:

  • Over 20 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids
  • 20 free-form fatty acids (such as lauric, linolenic, palmitic acid, oleic , and steric acid)
  • Vitamins B-1, B-2, C and E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Sulphur
  • Sodium
  • Iron
Maca is also a rich source of phytonutrients. There is no particular recommended serving size of maca according to experts, however most people feel best when starting with about 1 tablespoon daily (in powder form) and possibly working their way up to 2-3 tablespoons, spread throughout the day. Because maca can help increase energy and stamina, many people like to consume it before exercising. In the Andes Mountain, locals may consume as much as a pound of dried or fresh maca root daily.  Most people supplement with 1g to 20g daily in powder form.

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Maca

Although maca itself contains no actual hormones, most of maca root’s benefits are attributed to its ability to help restore sexual, endocrine (hormonal), and mental health. Here is how maca may be able to benefit both men and women:

1. PMS, Menopause, and Women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Maca Root is well known to help with hormone balance that often contributes to improving the symptoms of PMS and Menopause. In females with PCOS, maca is believed to help by controlling estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen levels that are either too high or too low can make it difficult for a women to ovulate and become pregnant. Therefore balancing the amount of estrogen that a women produces, and in turn the amount of related progesterone produced, is very important for increasing reproductive health, fertility, and decreasing symptoms related to PCOS- like irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, and more.

2. Women’s Hormones, Fertility, and Sexual Health
A 2008 study from the journal Menopause showed that maca benefits had positive results on boosting menopausal women’s moods and decreasing levels of anxiety and depression.The same study also showed that the improvement in mood led to increased sexual libido.  A separate study done in 2008 by CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics showed that maca had the ability to increase sexual libido in women, likely due to its positive effects on serotonin levels, the “feel good” hormone. In one study done using animals and maca, it was found that in female animals taking maca, multiple egg follicles were able to successfully mature, which is important for ovulation and reproductive health. Maca is believed to restore women’s hormonal balance by supporting the endocrine system and aiding in the regulation of healthy adrenal and thyroid hormone production. The adrenal gland and thyroid gland play a major part in regulating many feelings – everything from stress levels to appetite. Restoring the health of these glands is paramount for someone wanting to feel their best.

3. Male’s Testosterone Levels and Fertility
In clinical studies, serum levels of testosterone were not shown to be affected by maca. Black maca however, has been shown to have positive effects on sperm production, more than yellow maca and red maca. Red maca has its own benefits for male hormonal health.  It has been shown to reduce prostate size in studies done on male rats. This points to the conclusion that maca may possibly help improve human prostate health as well. In other studies, maca has also been shown to improve sperm production, mobility, and volume, all important factors of increasing fertility. In another 2010 report summarizing the results of 4 clinical trials carried out by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, maca was able to show benefits related to improving sexual dysfunction and sexual libido in adult men and women. However the other two trials did not show the same positive results, so more formal research is still needed to determine the exact power of maca on fertility.

4. Energy, Memory and Mood
Those who regularly use maca powder report that it makes them feel more awake, energized, and driven, often relatively quickly after beginning to use it. A positive attribute of using maca for increased energy compared to using caffeine is that maca does not give most people “jitters” or a sense of shakiness like high levels of caffeine can. Clinical trials have shown that maca has positive effects on energy, stamina, and mood. Maintaining positive energy levels is related to having lower levels of anxiety and depression, both of which maca has been shown to positively help achieve. Exactly how maca increases energy is still unknown, however it’s believed that it may be able to do so by helping to stabilize blood sugar levels (which decrease energy spikes and dips), and to maintain adrenal health through it’s adaptogenic properties(link), which regulates mood and energy throughout the day. Maca benefits also include regulating the hypothamlus, helping the pituitary gland to properly function, which is another key element in balancing focus and energy. An increase in focus, energy and mood enables people to concentrate better and therefore to improve memory and ability to complete tasks.

5. Antioxidant Booster
Maca root acts as a natural antioxidant, and boosts levels of glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase). These are two major disease fighters in the body. Results from recent studies demonstrate that maca root has the ability to help prevent the development of chronic human diseases that are characterized by high levels of “bad” cholesterol, high antioxidative states, and impaired glucose tolerance. Because maca root increases the glutathione levels in the body, it not only improves your immune system and disease resistance, but also it is helps balance proper levels of cholesterol in the body.  Plus, it significantly improves glucose tolerance, by lowering levels of glucose in blood. This is especially important for those who need to worry about heart health and conditions like diabetes or metabolic syndrome and obeisity. While more research is still needed to reveal how exactly maca benefits the body’s hormonal and nervous systems, initial studies that have been completed have shown promising results for use of maca.

Cautions

Maca does not generally produce harmful side effects in those that use it and it has been safely consumed for thousands of years. Because of maca’s effects on hormone levels, physicians believe that maca should not be consumed by people who rely on hormone-altering medications for treatment of illnesses like breast cancer or prostate cancer, for example, or for other serious conditions. People who have high blood pressure are also advised to not consume maca. More research is still needed on whether or not maca is safe for use in pregnant or nursing women. So, until it is confirmed to be safe, it is best for these women to avoid maca.

Where to Buy and How To Use Maca

Maca can be purchased freely within Australia from many health food stores throughout the country. It usually sold in powder form and it is great to use in healing smoothies(link), baking of foods like slices, loaves and cakes as well as just being sprinbkle over museli or cereals or just about any other way you can think of. It has a nutty, caramel type of flavour so it is quite versatile. Personally due to it’s ability to give you a lift in energy, I prefer to eat it early in the day, say with breakfast or morning tea.

Well there you have it friends, Maca is one of nature’s best healing foods, why not give it a try today!
Until next time, be well, naturally.

Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner & Remedial Therapist

 

 

Sources:

www.draxe.com/top-5-maca-root-benefits-and-nutrition/
My own clinincal knowledge

 

 

Alternative & Natural Health Disclaimer:

The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. The information provided on the various natural health subjects from this website of www.craighitchenstherapies.com is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as any form of medical advice. The information in the article this disclaimer is linked from is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your health professional before taking any products or following any advice that you believe may conflict with other forms of health care. Always consult your health care professional before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed. Certain herbs and holistic remedies are unsuitable to take if you are pregnant or nursing and must always be cleared by your health professional before use.

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