Adaptogens are a unique group of super herbs, which can actively improve the health of our adrenal system, the system that is responsible for managing our body’s hormonal response to stress and fatigue. And there’s one particularly special adaptogen that can also offer a myriad of other impressive health benefits when incorporated into a healthy balanced diet – organic maca powder.
Much ado about maca
Organic maca powder is a nutrient-dense superfood made from the root of the maca (Lepidium Meyenii), a tuber crop that belongs to the crucifer family and is native to the high Andes of Peru. This hardy vegetable, which thrives at extreme altitudes (it can even grow at 4300 metres) and is thus especially suited to organic farming, is known in South America by its Spanish and Quechua names of maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira and ayal willku, and is often referred to as the ‘aphrodisiac of the Andes’ (for reasons that will soon become apparent) and ‘Peruvian Ginseng’. Cultivated by the Pumpush, Yaro and Inca people for more than 2600 years, maca was once so treasured that it was used as a form of currency and a method for settling taxes.
By far the most valuable part of the maca is its root, which is dried and ground into organic maca powder. Organic maca powder boasts a variety of different colours, from white and yellow to red, purple and even black, and is brimming with wholesome nutrients, including vitamins (B1, B2, C, E), minerals and trace elements (calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, tin, iodine, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon and bismuth), naturally occurring enzymes and essential amino acids – a heady combination that offers seven compelling health benefits.
7 great reasons to munch more maca
Organic maca powder attracted renewed interest after a number of important studies by one of Peru’s leading biologists, Gloria Chacon de Popovici, Ph.D, in the 1960’s, and it is now poised to become one of the major players in the global superfood market. Below are just some of the reasons for its growing popularity.
1) Organic maca powder acts as a powerful adaptogen
Organic maca powder has both a balancing and regulatory effect on our hormone levels, glands, muscles, nerves and circulatory system. Although organic maca powder does not actually contain any hormones, its distinct blend of nutrients actively nourish our endocrine system, which consists of the following key components:
- Pituitary gland – located in our brain, the pituitary gland manages other glands and keeps our hormone levels in check
- Thyroid gland – releases the thyroid hormone (T4 and T3) and is required for a healthy metabolism and homeostasis (the regulation of temperature and acid / alkaline balance)
- Parathyroid gland – controls the amount of calcium in our blood and bones
- Adrenal glands –produce a number of important hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol, aldosterone and sex hormones
- Pancreas – manufactures female sex hormones, such as oestrogen
- Testes – produce male sex hormones, such as testosterone.
Taking proper care of our endocrine system can help us to avoid a number of unpleasant diseases, including diabetes, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), hypercalcemia (raised calcium levels in the blood) and tumours.
2) Organic maca powder actively boosts energy
Whilst organic maca powder is not a complete source of protein, its high hormone precursor and amino acid content means that it delivers an almost equal performance to that of high-quality proteins. During Inca times maca was often supplied to warriors prior to battle, in order to increase alertness, energy and strength, and today many top performing athletes swear by this energy-rich superfood supplement. Furthermore, solid scientific studies have shown that animals directly benefit from significantly increased energy levels after the administration of maca.
3) Organic maca powder strengthens immunity
Organic maca contains a number of ingredients that are known to strengthen our immune system, including:
- Over 20 different fatty acids – which boast antiseptic and antifungal qualities
- Vitamin C – which helps to protect our cells and keep them healthy, as well as heal wounds
- Zinc – which helps to make new cells and enzymes and also heals wounds. (The 2011 Cochrane review into zinc and the common cold suggests that zinc can help speed up recovery from colds and lessen the severity of symptoms)
Organic maca powder can also provide effective relief from the symptoms of a variety of conditions including anaemia, chronic fatigue, depression, aches and pains, poor memory and mental stress and tension.
4) Organic maca powder supports women’s health
Some 8 out of 10 women suffer from at least one of the unpleasant symptoms associated with the ‘change of life’, including tender breasts, irregular periods, hot flushes, fluid retention, Candida, an increased instance of migraines, and lethargy, and more than 50% of women experience mood swings, which left unchecked can lead to chronic depression. In fact, the hormonal fluctuations experienced around this time can cause symptoms so severe that they seriously impact the quality of life for around 20% of women. As already discussed, organic maca powder helps to balance our endocrine system and actively restores hormonal imbalances, which can demonstrably improve the situation for many women before, during and after their menopause. A study on bone mineral density also found that maca was effective in the prevention of oestrogen deficient bone loss that occurs after menopause, and clinical studies indicate that it has a positive effect on mood, increases libido and improves fertility. Please note, however, that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking organic maca powder.
5) Organic maca powder champions men’s health
Organic maca powder is an ancient and revered aphrodisiac for good reason – indeed, its consumption is directly correlated to an increase in men’s testosterone levels, allowing them to maintain their sexual virility for longer. A 2001 study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, by Dr. Gustavo Gonzales, revealed that men who received maca for four months, witnessed an increase in seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility. Further research by the same team suggests that maca can actually increase sexual desire in men, and improve their state of mind, whilst simultaneously decreasing stress and anxiety levels. In addition, organic maca powder is believed to help prevent erectile dysfunction and prostate problems.
6) Organic maca powder promotes beautiful skin
The British Skin Foundation estimates that around eight million of us suffer from some type of skin condition, such as acne, eczema or psoriasis, and many more of us are plagued with unwelcome fine lines and wrinkles. They recommend that we “look after our skin from the inside by eating well” – organic maca powder, which is increasingly touted for its ability to encourage a healthy, radiant complexion, is thus a ‘must-have’ superfood on the shopping list of those wishing to benefit from beautiful skin. Research shows that maca structurally enhances the firmness of skin and strengthens its inherent protective abilities, whilst laboratory studies demonstrate that it can also stimulate the proliferation of fibroblasts in vitro, resulting in visibly younger looking skin. Rather unsurprisingly, maca is now a standard ingredient in many of our best-selling skin care products!
7) Organic maca powder improves mental wellbeing
The UK Mental Health Foundation asserts that good nutrition is essential for our mental health and plays an important role in the development, management and prevention of conditions such as depression. They also intimate that we can achieve a balanced mood and encourage feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of certain nutrients. According to David Wolfe, author of ‘Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future’, organic maca powder can proactively ‘counter adverse sources of stress and allow the body to adapt to stressful conditions’. That’s because adaptogens like organic maca powder have a normalising effect on our body’s physiology, helping to manage the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and subsequently combat stress, which is one of the major contributors to ill health.
Maca on the menu
Organic maca powder can be stirred directly into your favourite smoothies, shakes and protein drinks, or used as an additional ingredient in your preferred rawfood snacks and meals. Organic maca powder is particularly delicious when mixed with raw cacao products, as this pairing really brings out the best in both flavours.
It is recommended to abstain from consuming organic maca powder for one week in every month, in order to optimise its benefits.