Maca

Maca (Ma Ka Gen)Maca (Ma Ka Gen)

Botanical Name: Lepidium meyenii

Maca is native to the high mountain plateaus of the Andes Mountains in Peru where it has been grown for thousand of years as a vegetable crop and for its medicinal properties. A relative of the radish it has an aroma similar to butterscotch and is highly nutritious. Medicinally it is used to treat anemia, chronic fatigue, build stamina, and improve fertility.

Below is an overview of Maca (Ma Ka Gen), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Maca (Ma Ka Gen).

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Western

Western Name: Maca

Also Known As: Peruvian Ginseng, Maca-Maca, Chichira

Organs/Systems: Reproductive System, Skin, Brain

Key Actions: Adaptogen, Aphrodisiac, Antioxidant, Nutritive, Tonic, Immune Enhancing.

Medicinal Uses: Anemia, chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, menopause symptoms (hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, night sweats), irregular menses, infertility, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, stomach cancer, premature aging, depression, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, female hormonal imbalance, build stamina, enlarged prostate.

Eastern

Pin Yin: Ma Ka Gen

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Spleen, Kidney

Key Actions: Builds Qi, Builds Blood, Tonifies Kidney, Supports Kidney Jing, Harmonizes Triple Jiao.

Medicinal Uses: Infertility, Impotence, Enlarged prostate, menopausal symptoms, menstrual disorders, poor memory, builds stamina, chronic fatigue, stress.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Maca is an edible herbaceous biennial in the Brassicaceae family, that also contains broccoli and cauliflower. It is a tuber whose fleshy hypocotyl is fused with a taproot, giving it the appearance of a turnip or radish. It has thin frilly leaves that sprout in a rosette at the soils surface and grow to be 4 to 8 inches in height. It bears off-white flowers that are followed by siliculate fruits that each contains two reddish-gray ovoid seeds. Maca is self-fertilizing. While there are 13 different root colors (or phenotypes) of Peruvian maca, traditionally, only four varieties of maca root have been recognized: cream-yellow, half purple, purple, and black. Today, the red phenotype is also popular. Each is considered a genetically unique variety. Cream-colored roots are the most widely grown.

Maca is native to South America and the high Andes mountains of Peru. It likes mineral rich soils, high altitudes (12,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level), and extreme weather conditions: winds, bitter cold, and harsh sunlight.

Maca (Ma Ka Gen)Parts Most Frequently Used: Root

Flavors/Temps: Cream-colored Roots: Sweet, Warm. Black Roots: Sweet, Slightly Bitter, Warm

Caution: Considered safe. Those with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids) should consult their healthcare provider before using maca as it has estrogen-like properties that could negatively impact these illnesses.

History/Folklore: Maca is an excellent herb for building stamina, treating a variety of infertility issues in both men and women, and preventing and treating anemia. It is an excellent tea or addition to a morning or afternoon smoothie to boost energy and mood. A powerful adaptogen, maca helps balance your hormones enhancing the bodies ability to adapt to stress and illness.

Maca has a long history of being used to improve sexual desire and fertility. Modern research is confirming these and other beneficial properties. Recent studies for example, are finding that using maca over a period of several months improved the quality of semen in both infertile and healthy men. The root also contains glucosinolates that are associated with reducing the risk of prostate cancer and reducing enlargement of the prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Studies have also confirmed that menopausal women suffering from hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and other conditions caused by the decline in estrogen can be helped by taking maca.

People suffering from an under-active thyroid will benefit from maca, those with overactive thyroid disorders may encounter side effects due to the glucosinolates found in maca, that may interfere with the normal function of the thyroid gland. In particular the goitrogens in maca are more likely to negatively impact you if you are already suffering from a weak thyroid. Otherwise, the herb is considered safe. The iodine levels in maca will also benefit proper thyroid function.

The powdered root is used to treat among other ailments: anemia, chronic fatigue and tuberculosis.

The flavonoids found in maca are being studied for their ability to reduce anxiety and depression, especially when associated with the hormonal shift experienced by menopausal women.

Traditionally, the various phenotypes (or colors) of maca roots where blended together. Today the various types are being studied for their particular compounds and properties. Yellow, is showing abilities for protecting against UV radiation when applied in extract from to the skin. Red is showing signs for aiding bone strength, and black maca is showing signs for particularly being effective in supporting brain function, memory, cognition, increasing sperm count, and reducing an enlarged prostate.

In Peru, maca is given to children to help improve their performance in school as the herb is associated with improving learning and memory. As mentioned above, studies are indicating that black maca may be more effective in this function than the more typically available cream-colored roots.

Maca is high in protein and particularly rich in vitamin C, copper, and iron. It contains 85% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) for copper, 133% of the RDI for vitamin C, and 23% of the RDI for iron. The fatty acids found in maca are beneficial for the heart, may help stabilize blood glucose levels, and help reduce inflammation.

In China, a maca craze swept the country as the herbs ability to treat infertility and build stamina became advertised. They imported it and began growing it in the high mountains of Yunnan province in Southwest China. This surge in interest has since calmed down, especially as the herb is not firmly based in the ancient traditions of Oriental medicine, and therefore is not a part of day to day clinical use, but rather a fad. The herb continues to be available in China with Peruvian maca remaining the gold standard versus the now locally grown maca.

While maca can be eaten fresh as a root vegetable, it is typically dried, and then ground into a powder or flour for baking or being made into dietary supplements. It can be roasted, baked, or made into a porridge. It is also used to make a sweet fermented drink called maca chica.

In agriculture, maca is used to increase the fertility of livestock.

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Key Constituents:

Fatty acids, Amino acids, Protein, Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Iodine, Glucosinolates, Polyphenols, Flavonoids, Goitrogens, Sterols.

Did you know?

Organic

Nearly all maca cultivated in Peru is organically grown as maca is seldom bothered by pests.

Facts

Protect Your Skin

Maca extract applied to the skin shows signs of protecting exposed skin from UV rays that can cause burns and aging.

Fun fact!

Smoothies

Maca is easily added into your diet by adding the powder into your smoothies and baked goods.

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