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The Magic of Maca

What is Maca?

Maca is a tuber that grows in the Andean plateaus of Peru, at an altitude as high as 14,500 feet. It is the only food plant that is able to survive this high elevation, full of the climactic challenges presented by an oxygen poor environment, freezing wind and intensive sunlight. It has been used by Peruvians, as far back as the Incas, for food as well as for fertility rights and strengthening of warriors prior to battle and endurance sports. Since the 1960’s, however, Peruvian scientists have through research come to a greater understanding of the science behind its medicinal and nutritional potency. This has led to Maca’s growing, world wide acceptance as a supplemental and alternative therapy for many conditions normally treated with pharmaceutical drugs.
How does Maca work?

Maca is adaptogenic, therefore it responds to the needs of the body into which it is absorbed according to the age and gender of the individual. It stimulates the glands of the pituitary-hypothalamus axis to produce needed hormones, thus its effect is not merely over reproductive hormones but also over those secreted by the pancreas, adrenals and thyroid glands as well. This is very important because very few natural products have been proven to have a positive effect on hypothyroidism.
Nutritional Supplement

Maca root is a nutritional powerhouse containing high amounts of amino acids, beneficial complex carbohydrates, vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E, numerous minerals including calcium, iron, phosporus, zinc and magnesium. It also has significant amounts of fatty acids such as linoleic, palmitic and oleic acids. The presence of tannins, saponins and four alkaloids may also explain Maca’s ability to regulate hormones.

Hormonal Regulation

The sterols in Maca rather than adding hormones to the system help the body to produce its own natural hormones according to its needs. Maca has been shown to alleviate Premenstrual Syndrome, perimenopause, menopause, and erectile dysfunction in men. It also increases libido in both sexes, raises sperm count for men and enhances the ability to conceive for women. It has even been used on young adults with ADD and ADHD with positive results.

Energizer

Maca’s positive effect on the adrenals accounts for its good reputation as an energizer. Most athletic users of Maca report an increase in both power and endurance during cardiovascular and resistance exercise. It is known to reverse lethargy and studies show many patients suffering from chronic fatigue have found some relief from their condition with sustained daily use of the plant.

Anti-Depressant

What is most surprising about Maca are its properties as an anti-depressant. Even though, working in the holistic environment, I had heard about its potential in that area, I was stunned when I experienced its power first hand. I had already been taking Maca daily for energy and hormonal regulation. Upon doing a Whole Person Healing (a 3-day comprehensive holistic and medical work up) with Dr. Helen Ross at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, she prescribed that I double the dosage that I was currently taking. Within 24 hours of making that change my depression was gone, and I felt more emotionally equipped to handle the daily challenges of my demanding job. It was a miraculous transformation that was immediately noticed by myself and my co-workers. The same resilience that maca demonstrates in the wild, is the same hardiness that it brings to the human organism; creating a “can-do” feeling out of what would have been a “can’t cope” circumstance. This is part of the magical chemical signature of the plant. The reason for its ability to regulate depression is not yet fully known, but scientists and holistic physicians postulate that it could be related to both its hormone balancing power and nutritional potency.

Sources of Maca

Maca is most accessible for western users in either powdered or capsule form. The best source of Maca comes from plants that have either been wild harvested or traditionally cultivated (meaning organically and without pesticides) between the altitudes of 13 000 and 15 000 feet above sea level. Plants grown at lower altitudes have been found to be nutritionally and medicinally inferior in lab analyses. It is crucial to make sure that the powder is derived from sun or air dried plants and not from those baked in an oven. Heat has been shown to significantly alter the nutritional content of Maca. Also avoid irradiated sources. The germ count at the high altitude at which the tuber grows is so low that such sterilization is neither warranted nor beneficial. Maca powder can easily be purchased from the internet or at a health food store. Online, I would recommend that you purchase maca from www.rawfood.com or www.treeoflife.nu .

Because Maca is actually a food plant, and not an herb or isolated nutritional supplement, so negative effects of taking the powder have not been reported. This aspect of Maca also makes it possible to take Maca alone, (without food), if preferred.

It is easy to see why Maca was and is revered by ancient and modern Peruvians alike. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before the rest of the world fully succumbs to the magic of maca.

Fadzo Chanakira is a freelance writer that divides her time between Arizona and California, where she both lives and works. In addition to having written holistic articles for print and the internet on a variety of topics, she has a holistic business specializing in nutritional supplementation and truly natural beauty products called Alchemy of Beauty. Her undergraduate studies were in Kinesiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. Fadzo also authors a free bi-monthly e-newsletter called The Alchemical Beauty News. She is currently working towards her Masters in Spiritual and Live Food Nutrition with the College of Living Arts in Patagonia, AZ. She can be reached through her website, http://www.alchemyofbeauty.com or through the Ezine author contact email.