People think I’m down on drugs. It is true, I have been critical of the medical industry, and of ‘big pharma’ hijacking science. But I know there are some pharmaceutical drugs which are important and life-saving; I would never dispute that.
The contrast for me is between the mediocre results most folks get from their pharmaceuticals, say antibiotics, corticosteroids or hormone replacement, without any diet or lifestyle changes. Conversely, using whole foods as therapeutic agents, we see more general vitality being restored, rather than the body being forced into a limited chemical pathway. Nowhere is this contrast between isolated chemical and dynamic whole food agent more striking to me than with Maca.
Maca Root, scientific name Lepidium meyenii, has been used in the Andes mountains for thousands of years. It is a staple food for villagers, as well a reputed medicinal tonic and dynamic endocrine system balancer. It is a member of the Brassica vegetable family, also shared by Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage, etc.
You may have heard of Maca, or even tried it in smoothies or other preparations. Perhaps you are one of its devotees, as I am, who starts your morning off with healthy doses of it on a daily basis. It is really excellent when combined with Raw Cacao… the pungent high notes of the Red Maca combine very nicely with the bitter finish of the raw Cacao (or even regular Cocoa powder).
Researchers at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima Peru did research and concluded “Maca is a plant with great potential as an adaptogen and appears to be promising as a nutraceutical in the prevention of several diseases.” When those same researchers tested a variety of Maca, called Red Maca, they found that it was extremely effective for reducing prostate size in animals with an enlarged prostate.
Surprisingly, though, fewer of us in the States are as familiar with Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii), which is known in its native Peru to be among the highest grade of Maca available. If you are interested in ordering certified organic Red Maca from Peru please consider the Food Movement, a company that donates 11% of its sales to hunger relief around the world.
Dating back to the ancient Incans, Maca has been known to increase sexual libido. Published scientific research has demonstrated that of all of the ecotypes of Maca are spermatogenic, meaning that they increase semen quality in males.
Another study done at the Department of Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital found that Maca root did have a beneficial effect on libido. The list of published research goes on and on, here, folks.
A study in Australia at Victoria University found that “Preliminary findings show that Lepidium meyenii (Maca)[3 .5 grams per day] reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.”
What all of the effects are suggestive of, from a naturopathic point-of-view, is that Maca promotes hormonal balance. Unlike drugs, or even many nutriceuticals, which can push the body in a specific direction and therefore have only a limited effect. Maca’s position as a whole food adaptogen gives it a really amazing profile of being very safe to take, yet very effective in correcting hormonal imbalances.
Foods which promote balance in the endocrine system, rather than synthetic hormone replacement therap are inherently safer. Furthermore, because all of the hormones in our body act in a feedback loop, hormone therapy can have the opposite ffect that is desired therapeutically, long term. If we want to achieve balance in the endocrine system, we would do well to consider a therapeutic food like Red Maca.
Because adaptogenic whole superfoods are nourishing, therefore naturally supporting the body’s own processes, the results of consuming them can be tonifying to the entire body. By giving it the building blocks it needs to reach its own homeostasis, adaptogenic effects do more to benefit more different systems. Increased energy, vitality, better hormone balance in our bodies, antioxidant protection… these are the kind of ‘side effects’ I think we can all get behind!