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We have talked about adaptogens on the blog, and the benefits they can have on regulating our hormones, nervous systems, and adrenal functions – amongst other things. (If you aren’t sure what an adaptogen is, check out this post. ) Maca is one such adaptogen that has been touted as a superfood. I wanted to get to the bottom of this buzzword “superfood” and see if Maca really has standing power in the world of verified and beneficial adaptogens.
I have seen several people in the paleo community rave about Maca, but what is it really? How is it used? Does it taste earthy like a lot of adaptogens? Well loves, I did the lifting for you and have unearthed the truth regarding Maca.
What is it?
Maca Root is found in the Andes region of Peru; a common staple in Peruvian cooking. The Maca Root is amongst the same family of foods as kale, broccoli, and cabbage. Maca was used as currency and in trade for the Peruvians, and it is even believed the Incans may have used the root as a delicacy within the royal families.
A very interesting point to consider, Maca Root is used often when there is a disruption in the endocrine system or in the sex hormone systems of the body, or to increase overall sexual health and libido. It is important to note that Maca is not creating a libido for you (curious how to improve your overall libido? Check out this post). Maca is essentially allowing your body to move through stressful periods or less stressful periods as a way to ease the nervous system. It is actually working towards eliminating the stress that may be causing the libido system to be hindered.
What is it used for?
- Reducing Menopause Side Effects – Maca has been studied in trials regarding menopausal systems, with positive results. Overall, the women that were tested saw significant decrease in night flushes, nervousness, mood swings, fatigue, stress and depression, to name a few. These women also experienced higher energy and mood levels overall. It should be noted this study was conducted on a small handful of women.
- Overall Anti-Inflammatory Effects – Phytonutrients are found in Maca Root. Phytonutrients contain large quantities of anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to boost the immune system. Maca root also contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals including the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Fertility – There is a lot of speculation revolving around Maca’s true potential to support fertility and libido health. Mainly, most of these studies have been conducted on men, so the effects it may have on women are still unsure.
- Improving Learning and Memory – Those that supplement with Maca Root Powder have seen improved energy levels which may be associated with cognitive benefits (key word here is may). Increased energy levels are correlated to improved mood and also improved learning and memory skills. This is kind of a give-in, when you feel like you have the energy to conquer a task it can be a confidence and mood booster, especially if you struggle with fatigue.
- Improving Mood- Maca supports the HPA axis helping the body support its own production of hormones. This can help create a support system for your cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic and nervous systems. Instead of hitting a hard collapse or flight mode, your body is supported and the impact is less intense on the body, resulting in less inflammation and overall stress. There have been clinical studies showing a reduction in depression levels for those that take Maca, along with a reduction in blood pressure levels.
How do people use it?
Maca definitely has a very distinct taste. I have heard it be referred to as a malt-y taste, and the smell is definitely reminiscent of that. I have friends that add it to their morning coffee swearing it turns it into a milk-shake like taste. With most adaptogens, it depends on your biochemistry on whether or not you will be a fan of this creamy earthy adaptogen. If the taste is overwhelming, mix it with something that has a stronger taste base, like a peanut or almond butter smoothie. I have seen recipes containing Maca that vary from bars to smoothies to cookies or other treats.
Maca root has not been associated with an any ill advised side effects. Its apparent effect on the endocrine system though should be considered with caution, especially if you are in treatment for any types of cancer or hormone therapy. Definitely consult with your doctor before starting any adaptogens to make sure they are right for you.
I do not typically use adaptogens as I have had negative side effects and reactions to each adaptogen I do try. I hope to get to a point in the future where I am able to try out some of the milder adaptogens, but in the mean time I stay clear. Please let me know if you are trying these and what effects and reactions you have!
Favorite Brands & Recipes
I have three fantastic recipes that are easy and delicious below. Most of the recipes that Maca Root is found in are typically on the sweeter side as the malty notes in it play off of sweeteners very well. If you are looking for a particular Maca Root Powder to use, this one is a well-rated great option (will insert aff link).
So the long story short, Maca has a lot of mixed results. Some people swear by it, some people point to flawed studies on small demographics. I think the history and prevalence of Maca points to a lot of good theories, I am just not sure the science is fully there to support every claim at this point. I am curious though, have you tried Maca? If so, have you had any noticeable effects?