Which kind of Maca is right for me? US consumers enjoy a rainbow of super food options

big maca root

Maca root, used for centuries in Central and South America, has become increasingly popular in the U.S.  Personally I believe the reason that it is becoming popular is because it has energizing health benefits you can really feel! I don’t mean ‘energizing’ in that it contains caffeine or other stimulants, because it doesn’t.  Maca root provides energy because it is an adaptogen, and in particular it can help to balance our endocrine system which manages hormones in the body.

In recent months a wider variety of Maca root has come to market here, expanding to the culture use of different varieties or ecotypes – Red Maca, Black Maca and the more common Yellow Maca, as well as more specific varieties.  The color refers to the outside of the root hypocotyl (that bulbous stem which looks sort of like a radish); the inside of the plant is usually sort of tan or beige in color.

Scientific research has compared the activities of these different phenotypes of Maca and found that in addition to different appearances, they also have different chemical makeup and properties. I have provided the PMID numbers after the studies mentioned so that you can do your own research on PubMed if you choose.

Red Maca – There is a doctor in Chicago who has had great success recommending Red Maca specifically for women with menopause.  This is not surprising considering Maca’s strongest ability to balance hormones with its natural and safe steroidal saponins. Studies have also indicated that it specifically works to protect the prostate where there is dysfunction.

Black Maca – Black Maca is well-known as an aphrodisiac, and has been shown in studies to be the strongest spermatogenic.  This may be useful for women trying to conceive a child, as well as their partner, to know!

Yellow Maca – This is the most widely available type of Maca, and like the others, has been studied for promoting endocrine system (endogeneous hormones) balance.

How do they compare?  Researchers at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Herediam in Lima Peru found that both Black and Red Maca could be protective of the uterus without having an estrogenic effect. (PMID:20616517)  The same researchers found that Red Maca reduced prostate size and zinc volume in animals with BPH (enlarged prostate). (PMID:2176218).  In another study, researchers found that both Black and Yellow Maca, but not Red Maca, could increase the production of sperm. (PMID:17683465)

In another research review, the overall experimental results were summarized this way “There are different types of maca with different colors ranging from white to black. We have studied the pharmacological effects of 3 types; yellow, black, and red maca. Evidence from experimental studies indicates effects of maca on nutrition, fertility, memory, and mood. Black maca has better effects on sperm production than yellow maca which has only moderate effects. Red maca, however, has no effect on sperm production. However, red maca has been shown to reduce prostate size in rats in which prostate hyperplasia had been induced with testosterone enanthate; yellow maca has shown moderate effects here, whereas black maca has not shown any effects. Randomized clinical trials have shown that maca has favorable effects on energy and mood, may decrease anxiety and improve sexual desire.” (PMID:20090350)

All of this evidence supports the idea that, while there is difference between the different ecotypes; Red, Black and Yellow Maca are all adaptogenic foods which can be used by anyone.  Remember Maca is traditionally used as a FOOD, and we should think of it as a FOOD first. This is not a drug in the pharmacological sense. One may favor the results from taking a certain variety, and many anecdotal reports from super food users support this.  For anyone looking for better health, and hormonal balance, the best Maca is the one you personally enjoy the most. Cheers!

Bold New Botanical Beverages

Hey! If you spend half your life in the aisles of health food stores like I do (yes, even on vacation) you may have that certain sensation when you spot something NEW that you want to try, and potentially share with others, on the shelves.  Sometimes these discoveries may also come through travel, business connections or just through plain old happenstance. It is always really exciting to find something new you haven’t seen before.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the really cool botanical beverages I have come across of late (and yes these will be family friendly soft drinks here folks, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for Dandelion wine and fine Hoppy microbrews…)

Since we all know how important it is to stay hydrated, Coconut Water has become really popular. It has a wonderful refreshing sweet taste, and lots of natural electrolytes to recharge your system.  But what kind of Coconut Water are people getting?  I’m here to tell you that the best product I have come across on the market is Harmless Harvest‘s 100% Raw Coconut Water

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I met these folks at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim earlier this year. Really nice people and a really wonderful unique product.  Best Coconut Water on the market in my opinion.  A little goes a long way, and your body feels naturally refreshed with just an 8 oz. bottle.

Another really cool line of beverages I came across recently in Northern California Whole Foods is by Drinkwell Softers.  Made by the folks at Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA their beverages start with organic yogurt whey to which they add sugar, filtered water and flavor ingredients in the form of botanical hydrosols.

They come in four flavors Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Rose Geranium and Rosemary.  The botanicals are from Eatwell Farm, and they nicely compliment the tart living flavor of the yogurt whey.  If you’re a fan of kombucha or other fermented soft drinks, you really should give these a try.

Speaking of Komubcha, if you are a fan of this beverage you have no doubt become familiar with GT Dave’s.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you have to go out and find their new flavor Third Eye Chai.  The wonderful blend of traditional Chai botanicals is a great way to spice up your day, and like all GT’s products contains wonderful healing probiotics, enzymes, acetic acid, l-Theanine and many other synergistic microcomponents that work together in harmony.

Until next time … be well and stay hydrated!