The history, uses, and nutrition benefits of maca in your life.
The History of Maca
There’s a Peruvian root called Maca that has actually been cultivated for thousands of years. Its use actually goes back to around 3800 B.C. when the native Peruvians acknowledged it as a vital component for their health and used it not only for its nutritional value but also as a medicine. Many years later, a Spanish explorer recorded receiving maca from the Peruvian natives as a gift. Then, by 1572, the health promoting benefits of maca began to become better known among other cultures, and used as barter for trade. Though the natives used it for centuries for its health promoting properties, it wasn’t until 1843 that scientists began to study it.
Today maca root still grows in Peru, high up in the mountains. In fact, it’s grown so high (between 7,000–11,000 feet) that no other plant in the world grows in so high an altitude! Maca is related to the potato family and looks similar to a radish-like root. It comes in four types and can be yellow, light pink, dark purple, or black in color. The red or black varieties are higher in nutrition than their yellow or light pink counterparts.
Health Benefits of Maca
Some of the highlighted benefits of maca root include its ability to help with energy, fertility, hormonal dysfunction, depression, circulation, and mental acuity. Maca has significant amounts of amino acids, complex carbohydrates, fatty acids, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, and iron, and vitamins like B1, B2, C, D, and E.
A primary benefit of maca root is its ability to enhance and strengthen the function of the endocrine system. The endocrine system of the body is vital; it includes all of the body’s glands, as well as the hormones they secrete. These glands and hormones control a number of critical processes, including sexual function, fertility, digestion, brain and nervous system functioning, and levels of energy. Maca can affect these processes by regulating hormones in the body responsible for these actions. Furthermore, because maca root acts as an adaptogen—which means it increases the body’s capacity to defend itself from weakness, both physical and emotional—it is able to help support and enhance the healthy function of the adrenal and pituitary glands, which are also key for healthy and proper endocrine function.
Traditionally women used maca to help relieve the symptoms associated with PMS and menopause. Many women have reported that they noticed a significant drop in hot flashes and night sweats after consuming maca. Men have also reported benefits from taking maca, particularly fertility enhancement and healthy sexual function. Both men and women have noted an increase in libido, energy, and stamina, and an overall feeling of wellness from consuming maca.
Maca has actually recently been used by athletes who wish to gain muscle, as a substitute for steroids. Replacing these harmful steroids with maca is a great move as maca has no chemicals, is natural, and doesn’t have a stressful or negative impact on the systems of the body.
Maca Used for Energy over Other Stimulants
For those hooked on their coffee or other stimulants to keep them going, maca is a great alternative. Coffee and other stimulants give energy to the body by stimulating the adrenal glands, similar to when the body experiences the fight or flight reaction. This gives the body a rush of adrenaline and all of the associated effects, including increased mental alertness. However, the body was not designed for this to be the norm; it was meant to be used in times of danger.
With each sip, the adrenal gland is being taxed. Over time the adrenal gland is not going to be able to function optimally, and fatigue and eventually adrenal exhaustion and its associated problems will be the result. If, instead, a non-stimulating agent can be used, this will not occur. Maca root has a nourishing, rather than a stimulating, effect on the adrenals. This means the energy provided from consuming maca root will be clean and sustainable. Because maca root is boosting and nourishing the adrenals, it will not tax this important organ, and it will be able to continuously provide the body with lasting energy that will not eventually lead to exhaustion.
The Top Benefits of Maca Include:
- Increased energy
- Increased libido
- Hormonal balance
- Increased stamina and endurance
- Mental clarity
- Increased fertility
- Decreased PMS and menopause symptoms
- Decrease in depression
How to Add Maca to Your Diet
Maca typically comes in either a powder or capsule form. The maca root powder can easily be added to smoothies, baked goods, or foods such as oatmeal. Maca has a slightly nutty flavor that can add an appealing flavor to different foods.
Simple additions to the diet, such as adding a tablespoon or so of maca root to your morning smoothie, can go a long way to improving your health. Instead of seeking an energy boost from a cup of coffee in the morning, aim instead for a nourishing green smoothie with a bit of added maca; it will go a long way in boosting your health and vitality!