Maca is a root from the Andes mountains of South America which can be found in powdered form and in capsules. As it’s botanical name Lepidium peruvianum, suggests, it can be found in Peru, and is in fact the highest altitude crop in the world, growing well over 3000m above sea level. This environment is extremely hostile, receiving searing hot sun, little water, and freezing cold and windblown winters. As a result, it comes to no surprise that maca is one of the best adaptogens, meaning it offers support for our body in resisting various stresses.
Maca has an incredible amount of benefits, and has been used by indigenous cultures in the Peruvian mountains for thousands of years as both food and medicine.
The top 5 uses of this root crop:
Maca contains some serious nutrition. It contains a rich source of B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as the elements iron, iodine, zinc and calcium. The protein content of maca root is roughly 10% and contains 7 out of the 9 amino acids essential for life in high amounts. For a plant source of protein this is quite impressive. Maca also contains starch, fiber, sugars, and essential fatty acids. Consuming this plant daily in the form of a shake or capsules makes sense simply from a nutritional point of view, let alone the other benefits we will get into further.
2. Resisting stress
Maca is an adaptogen, which means it increases the body's ability to adapt to and resist stress. This makes sense since maca can be found thriving in some of the most stressful locations in the world. Most of macas effects are “bidirectional”. This means that if a certain process in the body is deficient, and not working strong enough, maca will make it work harder, and if something is working too hard, maca will slow it down again. This suggests that maca works by balancing the normal function of the body, rather than stimulating a specific process to go in one direction like most pharmaceuticals do. This is one of the most amazing aspects about maca, and how it accomplishes many of these actions are still unknown, though it is believed that it is due to some of the alkaloids contained in maca that influence the HPA-axis of our brains which is responsible for the balancing and proper functions of various parts of our body.
3. Sexual Function
The high levels of zinc contained in maca has a positive influence over sexual function in both men and women. This element is needed for many of the processes involved with both arousal and fertility. Also contained however, are a set of alkaloids that influence the hypothalamus of the brain, which then goes on to signal various endocrine glands throughout your body to produce sex hormones, this can help to balance, or increase your sex hormones throughout your body, which will ultimately have a positive effect on your sexual function. Maca has long been used as a sexual and fertility tonic, and to provide energy and endurance in the bed room.
4. Energy and fatigue
Another of macas traditional and common uses is to increase energy levels. This happens both from the high level of nutrition contained in maca, as well as the overall adaptogenic effects this plant has on the whole body. It is slightly stimulating, and users tend to noticed an increase in energy levels in as little as a few days after they start taking it. Athletes incorporate maca into their nutritional regime and often note noticeable changes i their athletic performance.
5. Female health
As women age, and reach the age where menopause begins to take effect, a lot is changing inside the body hormonally. Due to the same benefits maca has on stimulating hormones for sexual function, it can positively influence menopause as well including hot flashes and osteoporosis. Maca is commonly used to combat the negative side effects of menopause, as well as menstrual pains, cramps and body pain. If you are pregnant however it is suggested not to take maca.
How to use maca:
Maca is one of the most well rounded, and safest herbs you can take. The traditional use of this plant actually involved consuming it daily as a food source, so you can really take as much as youd like and recent studies have shown that the more you take, and the longer you take it, the better it is at producing all of the above benefits. Maca would be a great thing to incorporate into your daily life by adding the powder to a smoothie, taking in capsules, or following one of these recipes.
You can find maca here to get yourself started.
For a full analysis of maca, and the references for this post, check this out.
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