Originally published June 30 2010
Maca Root: A Compelling True Adaptogen Affects the Body and Mind
by Heidi Fagley
(NaturalNews) Maca has been cultivated and grown high in the Andean Mountains of Peru for thousands of years. Only recently, the many health benefits of maca have been brought to the awareness of the developing world. Also called "Peruvian Ginseng," this hardy root grows where no other cultivated crop can survive. With small leaves that hover close to the ground, this plant flourishes at altitudes between 9,000 to 14,000 feet in the extreme climate of freezing cold winds and strong sunlight.
Lepidium meyenii, maca's formal name, is a member of the cruciferous family; its radish-like tuberous roots have numerous health benefits. An annual plant, maca has been used medicinally for centuries in South America and is a known adaptogen. This simply means that it is a nutritive substance that raises the body's state of resistance to disease while remaining nontoxic to the recipient. Adaptogens increase immunity by improving the overall ability of the entire body to take on challenging and stressful situations.
The root is dried and has an amazing shelf life of about seven years. The powder made from the crushed root contains nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids and is about 60 percent carbohydrates, and a healthy 8.5 percent of one serving (about one Tablespoon) is fiber. In comparison to the potato, another root crop, maca contains five times more protein and about four times the fiber.
Maca is powerfully abundant in amino acids, phytonutrients, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. This superfood (foods that are nutrient-dense and offer tremendous dietary and healing potential) has the ability to increase energy and stamina, oxygenate the blood, support neurotransmitter production, and enhance libido.
Scientists and doctors are now finding maca to be one of the most optimal and natural ways to balance and support endocrine health by aiding in the regulation of healthy hormone production with its adaptogenic qualities.
While maca contains no hormones itself, it provides a rare set of nutrients that nourish the endocrine system and supports the adrenal glands and the thyroid to produce vital hormones in the proper dosages determined by the bodily needs of each individual. This unique blend of nutrients found in the powdered maca root can also contribute to regulating metabolism and to increasing energy levels, sexual development, and the sense of well-being and attitude.
Its ability to positively increase one's mindset comes from the fact that maca works directly on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. In addition, it has the beneficial power of rejuvenating exhausted adrenal glands, which helps the body in its ability to handle stressful situations.
This medicinal root can provide relief from symptoms of menopause and andropause and can slow down the aging process by enhancing hormonal system function that supports ideal levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and the human growth hormone.
Each hypocotyl root contains over 55 naturally occurring, beneficial phyto-chemicals that have a superb ability to elevate mood and energy - sometimes upon consumption. Maca can be added to your favorite foods if a slightly malted or graham-like flavor is desired. A wonderful emulsifier, maca blends and combines fats with starches and sugars to create a well-balanced flavor.
Maca root can be found in many health food stores and reputable online stores. Select organic brands researched for quality. As with any superfood, consume cautiously until your body has a chance to increase tolerance. It can be used over a long period of time with no side effects. Sometimes a break from using superfoods can actually enhance their effectiveness, so it is recommended to take a week off every month of consistent daily consumption.
About the authorHeidi Fagley is a Holistic Nutritionist and has two culinary arts degrees - one in Raw, Living Foods and another in Natural Foods. Educating others about nutrition and the benefits of using whole foods to heal and prevent disease is her passion.
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