What is Maca?
Maca is a root vegetable that grows in the Andes at elevations near and above 14,000 feet (4200 m). It’s an extremely hardy plant that thrives in high wind, intense sunlight and freezing temperature and is in fact the world’s highest grown agricultural crop. Maca’s rich nutrient profile along with its unique energy boosting and hormone balancing characteristics have improved the overall health, fertility, strength and stamina of countless people for thousands of years.
The History of Maca
Ancient Incan sources confirm that Maca was first cultivated around 500 B.C.E. It was originally used to boost the fertility of livestock and then later to boost fertility and energy among the people indigenous to the high Andes. 2000 years later, by the time of the Spanish conquest of South America, Maca was so prevalent that it was often used as currency and so potent that it was sometimes banned by Spanish generals in order to maintain calm and discipline among the troops. Over the centuries that followed, Maca was continually grown and used in the high Andean mountains. At first it was limited primarily to the populations living at altitude, but by the 19th and 20th centuries Maca was in common use throughout what is now Peru and Bolivia.
Maca first drew attention outside of the Andes in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that Maca gained popularity worldwide. Since then recognition and research on Maca has grown exponentially. As more and more people have discovered the amazing health benefits of Maca, the production of the root has grown to the point where it is now Peru’s second leading export crop.
Mark Holding Freshly Picked Black and Red Maca at the Farm in Peru
The Benefits of Maca
The benefits of Maca are far reaching and really quite extraordinary. Here is a list of the major confirmed health gains attributed to regular Maca use by both research and individual experience.
- Increased energy, strength and stamina
- Muscle building (natural anabolic)
- Enhanced fertility
- Reduced depression
- Increased mental function including memory, focus and concentration
- Enhanced libido
- Hair growth and stopping of hair loss
- Balancing hormones
- Reducing the effects of menopause
- Support for thyroid health
- Improving skin tone
- Increased bone density and strength (reducing osteoporosis)
How Maca Works
This partial list of the benefits of Maca can be understood better by appreciating how unique Maca is.
Maca is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It contains 13-16% protein, 8.5% fiber, 19 amino acids, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D, minerals iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, calcium, and 20 free fatty acids. This alone makes Maca a nutrient powerhouse, but it also contains special glucosinolates called macaenes and macamides. These compounds are responsible for producing a unique effect in the endocrine system; stimulating hormone balance like no other food or herb in the world. Even more remarkable is that Maca works equally well for both men and women, helping each find proper hormone balance. Finally, it’s interesting to note that Maca is also one of a very few plants considered to be “adaptogenic” (ginseng is another example). Adaptogens have the characteristic of boosting the overall life force and vitality of those who take them.
What kinds of Maca are there?
Maca roots grow in a range of colors from white to dark gray. The breakdown of the harvest is about 60% white to yellow colored roots, 25% pink to red colored roots and 15% light to dark gray colored roots. Until about 15 years ago most Maca powders contained a combination of these roots. But since then research has been done suggesting that different colored roots have different benefits. It’s not in the scope of this article to go into depth about each kind of Maca, but in a nutshell here are the differences:
Cream Maca – white/yellow roots. The least expensive Maca good for general health and energy boosting.
Red Maca – pink/reddish roots. The most nutrient dense of all Maca colors, Red Maca is the only one that works to reduce size of the prostate. It is also very good for increased energy and for female fertility and hormone balance. Also good for bone health
Black Maca – light to dark gray roots. Black Maca increases sperm count and motility and is great for Male libido and fertility. Also the best Maca for muscle building.
Gelatinized Maca – combination of all colors usually. Gelatinized Maca has been cooked to remove the starch. This does destroy some of the nutrients but because the starch is gone it is very easy to digest. It is the best Maca for anyone with digestive issues.
Premium Maca – combination of all colors. Premium Maca is processed more quickly after harvest than standard Maca. This special treatment preserves more the the glucosinolates responsible for hormone balance.
Various Colors of Maca
Tips for Using Maca
- No matter which Maca you choose, its effectiveness can be enhanced by following a few guidelines.
- Start with 1-3 teaspoons daily and work up from there. Maca is a food and you can’t really take “too much.” But the maximum recommended dose is 4 tablespoons (usually for very athletic people).
- Stay consistent with Maca. It’s best to take it in the morning about 20 minutes before eating. You can mix it in water, nut milk or even a smoothie. Avoid taking Maca with fruit if you have digestive sensitivities.
- Make sure to take Maca for long enough. Everybody is different in how he/she responds to Maca. It can take 3-6 weeks of regular use at the dosage levels above to see benefits. Make sure to give yourself enough time.
- Store Maca out of light and out of oxygen. In humid climates the freezer is the best.
- Insist on organic quality and freshness. Some Maca farms do use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, so make sure to get organic. Also, Maca potency declines over time. The total shelf life is 2 years, so make sure you get the freshest possible.
Want Some of this Awesome Superfood?
For more detailed information on all the different types of Maca plus high quality Raw Organic Maca products please visit Mark’s Maca Company, The Maca Team, website: http://www.raworganicmaca.info