For the past couple of days, I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to figure out the first time I heard and tasted Maca root.
I believe, I came across Maca in my herbal books when I began exploring adaptogens. Adaptogens is a category of plants that I always felt was gifted by Mother Nature to us, especially this generation, to protect our health and well-being.
Adaptogens work on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, modulate hormones and protect your adrenal glands, the organ responsible for providing support whenever you’re dealing with a stressful situation.
If you’re wondering about Maca (or Lepidium meyenii), it’s a nutritious root that looks like a radish. It has been quickly gaining popularity all around the world.
Maca grows at high altitudes of Peruvian Andes. It’s a superfood containing essential amino acids, vitamins (C, E, B1 and B2) and minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus).
Maca is typically used as a powder, and traditionally added to breads and other baked goods in Peru. Today, Maca powder is sold in many health food stores. I usually get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Considering its history in the native Peru, it should come as no surprise that Maca helps people to adapt to high-altitude. Additionally, Maca’s complex sugars are known for their anti-fatigue activity in human body.
Many adaptogens are respected for their effects on reproductive organs and sex drive in general. Your body expresses sexual desire and pays attention to reproduction only when it has full stores and overflows with energy. Adaptogens are there to help you replenish those energy stores and as a result enhance sexual function.
Maca in particular is considered an aphrodisiac, a plant capable of increasing sexual desire. There is quite a bit of Maca research that looks at the well-being, sexual function, and fertility. Researchers explored fertility-enhancing effects in men (via sperm quality and count and reproductive hormone levels.) Maca also seemed to reduced the size of prostate gland in cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia, and helps patients with mild erectile dysfunction.
Scientists noticed that while Maca increases libido, it reduces blood pressure, depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women. In addition to this, Maca has been studied in antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women.
If you are not sufficiently impressed, Maca’s constituents have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer effects and overall activity on your immune system.
A pharmacology colleague of mine shared his research. Native of Peru and originally trained in pharmacognosy (plant chemistry), Alejandro Pino-Figueroa studied how Maca could protect your brain against damage from stroke. If you’re curious, here’s his published manuscript describing neuroprotective effects of this fascinating plant.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Maca is just an aphrodisiac!
Now, let’s look at how you could actually consume Maca.
Maca has a rich malty flavor. It works very well in many of your smoothies or breakfast bowls. Add a teaspoon-tablespoon of Maca powder and enjoy the plant’s supportive effects. Here’s one recipe, but there are many other combinations that work well.
An easy place to incorporate Maca is your oatmeal. I consider my oatmeal a perfect vehicle for getting spices into my body. You can add cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla, black seed, coconut oil and much more.
If you are a lover of herbal truffles, Maca is easily added to nut butters and honey in these delicious balls. They are easy and fun to make and store well.
Maca combines very well with another superfood, cocoa. This lovely recipe of Hot Maca Chocolate is perfect for winter months. You can substitute it for coffee, and even add spices.
During my apprenticeship at the Goldthread Apothecary an extremely talented herbalist and formulator William Siff made Maca honey with us. He would combine maca with coconut oil creating a paste and thinned it out with a beautiful local honey. Addition of some vanilla to this preparation created a unique and healing caramel-like sweetness.
Questions: Have you ever tried Maca root? What are your favorite preparations?
I'm a college professor, drug information pharmacist and herbalist. I teach young professionals and students how to be less stressed and more focused with the right herbs and food.