It always surprises me when a botanical like Maca root helps countless people who get good results with it, and then for some reason just seems to get forgotten about.
Originally used as an adaptogen
When I first read about Maca in the 1990's it was discussed as an adaptogen and overall endocrine gland balancer, which includes, among others, the pituitary, pineal, hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenal and pancreas. Yet, as the uses for Maca developed it morphed more into being promoted as a sexual and hormonal tonic, which it primarily is, yet I think this kind of limits its applications.
What is Maca?
Maca is a tuber native to Peru where it grows at a particular altitude in the Andes. It has been dubbed "Peruvian Ginseng" and has been used by native populations as a nutrient-rich food, and as a tonic for increasing energy, libido, and fertility, in both sexes. [1, 2] Traditional use has applied this more to women, yet research has also shown it to improve male sperm quality and viability, and to be helpful for erectile dysfunction. [3,4,5]
What is it used for?
Traditionally, Maca has been considered useful for normalizing menstrual cycles, and sexual problems, stimulating the immune system, improving mood and memory, being helpful for anemia.[1,2]
Claims that are listed on the Health Canada NHP database for Maca include the following:
- Helps support healthy mood balance during menopause
- Helps to support emotional aspects of sexual health
- Source of/provides antioxidants
What are the different forms?
Maca comes in powdered and liquid forms, and the powder can be found either in a "non-gelatinized" raw version, or "gelatinized". The non-gelatinized version still contains the largely non-digestible starch which occurs naturally in the root. Whereas the gelatinized has been put through a heat treatment and had this starch removed, yielding a more concentrated product, richer in sterols and other active constituents, of which there are many. At Optimum Health we have always found that if a person is seeking sex hormone benefits, the gelatinized form is preferable.
Yet, even though many who produce gelatinized Maca will tell you that the raw form not as beneficial, we have found that if a person is looking more for an energizing effect, a blend of gelatinized and non-gelatinized Maca does a better job.
As for a possible reason why, even though the starch may not be able to be digested, if it can be broken down/fermented by our gut bacteria, this can have far reaching effects... just like beneficial non-digestible fiber in vegetables.
This was the rationale between the two kinds of Maca that Optimum Health offers
Our certified organic Warrior Maca is an organic gelatinized Maca (6:1 concentrate). and we have found that it is the preferable choice for those seeking hormonal regulation. Whereas our original Certified Organic Opti-Maca is a blend of gelatinized and non-gelatinized in a 3:1 ratio., and can be more effective for those seeking energy, stamina, strength, or even mental alertness benefits.
What I have seen working with Maca in my clients for over 20 years certainly is consistent with the above. Many women have found Maca to be particularly helpful for issues surrounding menopause, and PMS. And bodybuilders and men seeking help in the bedroom have also found it helpful. Yet for this you definitely need to be taking enough of it.
As an endocrine balancer and adaptogen, Maca has the ability to moderate an over-active stress response, and to provide adrenal support through its diverse nutrient and phytochemical profile. Moreover, particularly surrounding sexual and hormonal issues, I have found Maca to produce a sense of greater wellbeing, and satisfaction. People who use it simply seem happier in general, (particularly about their sex-life), and seem to handle stress better.
The Sleep Benefit
Many of my clients have also found Maca helpful for sleep, (taken right at bedtime), and this is again consistent with its general effects on the endocrine system, which includes the pineal gland that produces melatonin.
Maca has also been a regular inclusion in protocols I have put together to help couples conceive. (I say successful, because I have had the children brought back to me to be introduced!)
In general, as an adaptogen Maca can be an extremely beneficial addition to any protocol where you are seeking mood, stress, energy, sexual, or hormonal balance. So if you are one of the many who seems to have forgotten about it, remember to consider it as an addition to your quest for better health.
Until next time,
1. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 690−693. New Alkamides from Maca (Lepidium meyenii) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d8b3/8727b51fed49b8f4218ebd07866e30f15262.pdf
2. Maca: From Traditional Food Crop to Energy and Libido Stimulant. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/eda1/bf440c9bd4180da7fd31ac65801f036a265e.pdf
3. Andrologia. 2009 Apr;41(2):95-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x.
Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19260845
4. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 324369. Effect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4569766/
5. Herbal Gram, March 2012. Review of Maca – a Promising Adaptogen http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/444/111143-444.html?ts=1549849474&signature=d17a84a8b739478148e58d019d348df1