Maca is an exceptionally hardy root plant native to the Andean mountain plateaus of Peru. Traditionally, Maca is best known as an adaptogenic plant, which simply means that it balances the body’s response in dealing with all different types of stressors. Adaptogens are among the most useful medicinal herbs, helping individuals to better cope with fatigue, anxiety, stress, depression, and sleep problems. Maca is also amazingly rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Maca does not affect human hormones directly. Various studies even show that the herb does not contain plant estrogens or hormones. Rather, it has hormone-normalizing effects, which may be due to the root’s unique nutritional profile. The plant provides optimum levels of nutrients utilized by the body’s endocrine system. This action regulates metabolism, energy levels, growth, sexual development and the sense of well-being and attitude.
More specifically, Maca has been known to nourish and calm the nerves with calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B1 and B12, and fatty acids, all of which work beneficially on the nervous system. At the same time it supports the adrenal glands so they don’t have to rely on damaging corticol steroids to fuel the body. The sterols, calcium, and vitamin C found in Maca help build muscle mass and it contains starches that aid in physical endurance.
Of particular importance to menopausal women is Maca research on the production of sex hormones, enhanced sex drive, stimulation of body metabolism, control of body weight, and increased energy, stress reduction, antidepressant activity, and memory improvement.
Recent research shows that Maca has actually stimulated estradiol levels, suppressed follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and increased HDL. In addition, Maca significantly reduced both the frequency and severity of hot flushes and night sweats. Furthermore, studies on Maca are now showing a significant reduction in psychological symptoms as well, including anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction. As such, Maca tends to treat menopausal symptoms as a whole; it doesn’t treat any one specific symptom of menopause (such as hot flashes) alone.
In Peru, Maca flour is used in baking as a base and a flavoring. The supplement industry uses both the dry roots and Maca flour for different types of processing and concentrated extracts. Gelatinized Maca is stronger than powdered root, and is employed for mainly for therapeutic, medicinal and supplement purposes. There is also freeze-dried Maca juice, which is a juice squeezed from the macerated fresh root, and subsequently freeze-dried. Gelatinized Maca can be found at your local health food store. The recommended dose of gelatinized Maca extract is 1,000 mg twice daily.