There aren’t too many plants that can grow and survive at the altitude of 13,000 feet high in the Andes mountains. The icy coldness of the upper Andean plateau is not a place where most crops flourish. The wind, snow, and blustery temperatures make the Andes mountains less than an ideal place to grow anything other than a cold. However, Maca has been growing there successfully for more than 2,000 years.
Maca, (not to be confused with Macca which is the nickname for former Beatle Paul McCartney who seems like he has been around for 2,000 years), has long been considered a quality nootropic and superfood. In fact, Maca has the highest nutritional value of any food grown at such an altitude. There is a reason why the people of the Andes include it consistently in their diet. They realize Maca’s abilities to improve several health conditions.
The History of the Maca Root
It is always interesting to hear how these beneficial plants became so well known over the centuries. Maca root mostly grew in areas around Peru and Bolivia. It was often referred to as the “Lost crop of the Andes” or as “Peruvian ginseng”.
Maca is a root vegetable just like the radish or turnip. It has a leafy top to it as well just like the other vegetables. The only difference is that it can grow at really high altitudes.
Back in the day, Maca was used as currency or a trade item by the ancient Peruvians. It was recognized as a valuable and powerful plant that could be used for medicinal purposes. When the Incas ruled the Andes region, use of Maca was restricted to only the royal family as they didn’t want the mere commoners to have access to the benefits of what Maca could supply.
Over time, it was brought to Spain as well, as people were recognizing it for its abilities to provide needed nutrition. However, as can happen, Maca became the amazing plant that time forgot… until recently.
Maca as a Nootropic: Give Your Brain a Needed Boost
Whether you are a student trying your best to improve your memory while studying or simply someone that is concerned with decreasing cognitive abilities, nootropics are a way to ensure that your brain is firing away on all cylinders.
There is nothing worse than watching a loved one lose their memories as age-related decline creeps up on them. With the use of nootropics, perhaps this decline never has to happen. Nootropics may be drugs, supplements, foods, or liquids that improve memory, motivation, creativity, and overall cognitive functioning. These can help those experiencing current cognitive issues and may even prevent problems from ever surfacing if added to your daily routine early enough. .
Maca is a promising nootropic that has been researched by respectable sources. For instance, in a 2006 research study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science, Maca was shown to increase concentration by stimulating the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
In addition, in the research article Preservation of Cognitive Function by Lepidium meyenii (Maca) Is Associated with Improvement of Mitochondrial Activity and Upregulation of Autophagy-Related Proteins in Middle-Aged Mouse Cortex by authors Shan-Shan Guo and Xiao-Fang Gao, demonstrated through their study that Maca is effective in mice for slowing down age-related cognitive decline, improved spatial learning, and strengthening memory. They theorize that it could very well have the same results for humans as well.
Ease Anxiety and Depression Without Medications
We all face anxiety and depression at various times in our lives. There is no way around it. The key is to get out of this mental anguish in one piece and as quickly as possible. It is no fun going through life feeling anxious about everything or having sadness that can spring up out of nowhere.
Rather than rely on prescription medications that have enough side effects to make you second guess ever taking them for your mental health, Maca may be exactly what you need to kick out of these doldrums. An all-natural alternative to chemicals that you couldn’t pronounce in a hundred years.
In the December 2008 issue of the journal Menopause, it discusses the study conducted to see if Maca could help postmenopausal women with psychological problems and issues. The concluded results showed that Maca had a beneficial effect on reducing anxiety and depression in the majority of these women.
In Dr. Josh Axe’s Benefits of Maca Root YouTube video, he speaks about how Maca can lower cortisol levels which is known as the high stress hormone. (It’s nice to know the science behind it all.) With reduced cortisol levels, it would make perfect sense for a person to feel much better about their life in general. When a person is feeling stressed, their chance for depression and anxiety increase and they can go back to leading a more normal and happier life.
Combat Poor Nutrition with Maca
The truth is that many health conditions form because of a lack of proper nutrition. In today’s society, it is pretty easy to suffer from a lack of nutrition as heavily processed foods really do not have much benefit at all to them. In a world where nearly 40 percent of all adults in first world countries are clinically obese, Maca could be of great assistance.
Maca comes from the same cruciferous vegetable family as other highly packed superfoods like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Each of these vegetables is spoken about in reverence as they are amazingly perfect for your body.
By including Maca in your diet, you are basically taking a supercharged supplement. It is rich in calcium so your bones will remain strong and healthy. Maca has a good amount of copper which enables the body to form red blood cells. Plus, it can do so much more. It has 20 different fatty acids, 19 amino acids, fiber, protein, choline, GABA, iron, potassium, niacin, manganese, and Vitamins B1, B2, and B6. Almost everything you need for a healthy diet can be obtained through Maca.
Let’s Get It On! Maca Increases Your Sex Drive
As we all get older, our desire for sex usually diminishes. Or, what can happen for many of us men, we may still desire sex constantly, but while the mind is willing, the body is weak. It just seems to go hand in hand with aging.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. In fact, Maca has been proven to increase both men and women’s sex drives. We no longer have to tolerate the crash of our libido or make embarrassing excuses to our partner. It works in creating more sexual desire and can even benefit erectile dysfunction as well. Perhaps with Maca, even Stanley Roper would have enjoyed having sex more often with his wife Helen on Three’s Company.
Two authors set about researching 17 databases where Maca was compared to a placebo in clinical trials dealing with sexual dysfunction in healthy people. After at least six weeks of ingesting Maca, there were very promising results that showed an increased desire for sex and help with erectile problems. In all, there were 131 happy participants that had their results examined. Rather than investing in medications that need a prescription, Maca can be obtained over the counter.
Maca: Baby Maker!
There is nothing worse for a married man that has a wife wanting to start a family and having your “soldiers” fail you. There are very few bigger ways you can disappoint your wife than not being able to provide them a child. Of course, having a low sperm count is certainly nothing you can control, but you don’t have to just live with it. Instead of heading into an IVF procedure, there are other alternatives and they are much less expensive as well.
In one study listed in the Asian Journal of Andrology from December 2001, men supplementing with Maca for a total of four months showed an increase in volume, count, quality, and motility of sperm. The motility part is important for those seemingly infertile couples out there. Even with a low sperm count, if the quality sperm is actively moving around, there is a greater chance of becoming pregnant.
Maca for Menopause
While it sort of sounds like a campaign rally cry, Maca has been shown to help women with menopause. Menopause, of course, happens when a lady reaches a certain age and her menstrual cycle stops. The decline in estrogen levels can lead to many unpleasant side effects such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep problems. Women may be dreading menopause when they start to climb up in years. Men also fear it as a more moody wife does not sound like it would make for a fun and lasting marriage.
A study from 2011 demonstrated Maca can help alleviate problems with hot flashes and sleeping difficulties. Plus, as osteoporosis can more readily strike women after menopause has set in, the calcium found in Maca will help combat this problem. If Maca can also help with the moodiness, every man in the world will be purchasing it for his wife.
Increase Your Energy and Performance
When most people need a pick up in energy, they immediately reach for something with caffeine in it. The problem with that is most products that contain caffeine also include heavy doses of sugar as well. This means that a sugar crash could be in your near future.
Maca has been known for centuries to promote an increase in energy and performance in individuals. In fact, both Incan and Spanish warriors would always consume large amounts of Maca before heading into battle to give themselves an edge in energy, prowess, and recovery time. Perhaps Lance Armstrong would have been better off relying on Maca instead of the crazy things he did to improve his biking performances.
In a way, the taking Maca tradition has continued for many athletes. In 2009, researchers from Northumbria University published a study where a group of athletes were given Maca powder for 14 days while another group was given a placebo. After this time, they all completed a cycling course. Those taking Maca had improved upon their previous best times while the placebo group remained the same.
Fight Off UV Exposure
Ultraviolet radiation is the main factor for most skin cancers and brings about heavy signs of aging as well. This is the price we all pay as the majority of people love to be out in the sun each day. While we enjoy getting all tan, those UV rays are playing havoc with our bodies.
There are specific sunscreen lotions and sprays out there that offer UV protection, but if you are ever in a pinch, Maca can be rubbed on the skin as well. It helped mice with the protection of their skin from damaging UV rays in one study from August 2011 in the International Journal of Dermatology.
Possible Prostate Problems?
Only men have a prostate as it is a walnut-sized gland (about four centimeters in length) located between the bladder and the penis. As we get older, our prostate can certainly act up. According to Cancer.org, about one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lives. This means about 11 percent of us men will hear a doctor tell us we have prostate cancer.
However, all of us seem to be affected by our prostate as we age. This is never more evident than at night. Do you get up a few times a night because of a feeling like your bladder is full but when you urinate, there isn’t an immense amount of urine at all? You may feel like you are going crazy, but this may be happening because of a large prostate.
Instead of purchasing adult diapers so you can sleep through the night without climbing in and out of bed, Maca could help alleviate the problem with your prostate. There are several studies that have shown that it can possibly reduce prostate size and help with these bothersome urination problems. Just think, you may be able to sleep until morning without stubbing your toe in the dark any longer.
Thinking of Adding Maca to Your Diet?
If you are wondering to yourself how you could add Maca to your diet, you aren’t alone. Many people would love to experience the health benefits associated with including Maca into their daily routine.
You have a couple of options on how to work the vegetable into your life. Be aware, though, Maca is well known to have an “acquired” taste to it. Meaning that most people who try it on its own may try to scrub their tongue clean.
Your best bet is to purchase the Maca powder and mix it in with your smoothie or protein shake first thing in the morning to camouflage the taste. As Mark Twain said in this quote, “If the worst thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.”
Possible Dosage and Side Effects
Depending upon what ails you, most people keep the dosage between 500mg to even five grams a day. If you are looking for nootropic benefits from Maca, take five grams a day and give it some time. Make certain you do your research before starting Maca as you want to get the right dose of the supplement without overdoing it.
The great news is that Maca is much safer than many of those prescription medications that your doctor may currently be recommending. It’s strange to listen to commercials for medications when the side effects listed seem to be much more dangerous than the initial health worry.
There are a couple of things to be aware of though. If you have been diagnosed with thyroid issues, then you should get your doctor’s approval before taking Maca. Maca contains goitrogens which can cause problems in the thyroid gland. If you and your thyroid are healthy, you should be perfectly fine supplementing with Maca. Plus, as always, if pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor if taking Maca is alright during this time.
Go the All Natural Route and Give Maca a Try
As more and more people are choosing natural alternatives for improving their health, Maca definitely is an option to be considered. When you think of the benefits such as an increase in energy, better mood, improved cognitive abilities, and the baby making possibility, it seems like Maca can do it all!
All in all, having a poor taste in your mouth is small potatoes compared to what Maca can do for you. If you experience even half the benefits associated with it, you should have Maca on your grocery list every week. In addition, maybe adding it to your family’s dinners could work wonders for all of your loved ones. After all, why keep Maca and its health advantages strictly to yourself?
Ryan Crawley is a journalist, educator, and health and fitness fanatic that currently makes his home in Illinois. With a Masters in Reading and Literacy and award-winning personal training results with his fitness clients, he is still reminded daily that he is not a doctor like his wife Katie. Ryan enjoys spending time with his dogs Flair and Smoosh and kitten Charlotte. In his free moments, he likes to write books for children that will hopefully be on shelves in the near future. If you would like to contact Ryan, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.