Maca root, a tuber native to mountainous regions of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia, is best known for providing a caffeine-free boost of energy. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng.” However, along with its energy-enhancing properties, maca root has many more benefits to offer.
This ancient ingredient comes from the tuber of the Lepidium meyenii plant, which is a relative of the radish. Many athletes and gym-goers are familiar with maca root supplements for increasing endurance and performance. When coupled with regular exercise, maca has the potential to boost muscle mass.
Maca root can provide mental energy as well as physical energy. It has been traditionally used to help reduce stress, as well as to reduce depression and anxiety. Maca root can help to increase focus, and has also been linked to boosting overall cognitive function.
The energy enhancing (and other) properties of maca root may be attributed to its wide range of vitamins and minerals. It is rich in B-vitamins, and is a great vegan source of vitamin B12. It also contains vitamins C and E, along with the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. For those who are mineral deficient, maca root is a great dietary addition to replenish these nutrients.
One important benefit of maca root is its adaptogenic nature. This means that it functions as an “all-over” tonic, responding to the individual needs of the body. To accomplish this function, maca has a stimulating effect on the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which help regulate other glands throughout the body. This root can also help the skin to adjust to extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures.
Another well-known traditional use of maca root, one which has been embraced since ancient times in Peru, is to stimulate optimal sexual performance, especially in men. For this purpose, it has been nicknamed “nature’s Viagra,” as it may help to boost male libido. In addition, it may have benefits to female sex drive, as well. Maca root is also traditionally used to promote fertility.
For women, maca may greatly ease the uncomfortable symptoms that go along with both menstruation and menopause. It has been shown by some research to have a balancing effect on mood swings, hormones and hot flashes, and can also provide soothing relief from cramps and other menstrual aches and pains.
Although maca root can be found in capsules and liquid tincture form, the best form for use in meals and beverages is powdered. To ensure quality, it is important to get yours from a source you trust, and to choose organic whenever possible.
The flavor of maca root is earthy, and slightly nutty. One great way to use it is to add a spoonful to your favorite herbal teas – just be sure that the tea is not too hot, as high heats may compromise some of maca’s benefits.
You can also add maca root powder to soups, stews and sauces just before serving, or blend it into your favorite fruit and vegetable smoothies. If you are creating a dessert topped with raw, organic chocolate sauce, whisk a teaspoon into the sauce before drizzling it on the dish.
Note: When supplementing with maca root, start slowly and gradually increase your intake. To determine how much is just right for your individual health needs, talk to a natural health professional.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume maca root, and people with hypertension or liver disease should speak to a doctor first, as too much may lead to complications of these conditions.
-The Alternative Daily