If you have spent any time learning about how to get healthy, increase your stamina, boost your energy or strengthen your immune system, then you’re bound to come across thousands of rave reviews about “Maca”. Maca has been highly regarded for centuries as a miracle food so it’s no surprise it has become a recent addition to the “must have” nutrient list for smoothies.
It belongs to the cruciferous family and looks like a very large radish, it has an earthy taste with a nutty flavour and is naturally low in calories.
Native to the Andes Mountains, it is extremely hardy and can survive at very high altitudes and very low temperatures where little else will grow. The root is a storage organ for nutrients and when taken from the earth comes in a variety of colours.
If you do take high doses it’s important to make sure you get plenty of water. While taking the recommended dose can increase your energy, high doses can sometimes cause fatigue due to dehydration and heightened potassium levels.
What do scientists know about maca?Scientists know maca contains many chemicals such as fatty acids and amino acids; however, there is little scientific research into how maca might work inside the human body. Some scientific evidence indicates that maca may be effective in enhancing sexual desire in men and improve semen quality. Though maca has exhibited oestrogenic activity in vitro, so far clinical studies have not identified any oestrogenic effects. One theory suggests that maca can alter sex steroid receptor dynamics.
A review by researchers at the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, in which randomised clinical trials that studied the effects of maca on menopausal symptoms were compared, decided that the size and number of the trials were too limited to establish a final conclusion, although some of the trials demonstrated that maca could have favourable effects. The researchers stated that larger studies were needed to test the efficacy and safety of maca.
Conditions that maca is claimed to help, but for which there is insufficient scientific evidence such that these claims remain scientifically unproven, include:
Health Benefits of Maca
You’ll often hear various terms, such as “phyto-chemical”, or “adaptogen” used when describing Maca. Here is a list of the most common terms and what they mean:
Phyto-chemical – Phyto means “plant,” and “phyto-genisis” is the study of plants and “phyto-chemical” is the study of the chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. For instance, the substance that gives blueberries their dark blue color is a phyto-chemical. Scientists generally use the term to refer to those plant chemicals that may have a biological significance, but are not yet established as essential nutrients.
Adaptogen – An adaptogen is a new class of metabolic regulators (such as maca) which increase the ability of an organism (people or animals) to adapt to environmental factors (stress, diet, toxins, disease etc) and to avoid damage from such factors without causing any side effects from its use. Ginseng, a very popular root herb around the world, is another example of an adaptogen. The concept and name is accepted and used among mainstream researchers as well as many medical professionals.
Where to buy Maca
I would recommend (and regularly use) Maca by either Greens Organic or Naturya.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!