Does Maca Offer True Menopausal Health Benefits?
By Dr. Anna Cabeca
As a women’s health specialist, I am often asked about menopause. This transition in a woman’s life can be distressing. It comes with some very specific symptoms that can make life miserable for women moving through the transition. And menopause seems to be occurring at earlier ages for many women. If you’re one of those women, you probably have plenty of questions:
- What’s happening in my body?
- Should this be occurring at my age?
- What should I expect next?
- Is there anything I can do about the symptoms?
In this article, I want to talk to you about the research into maca and discuss whether it can help with the symptoms of menopause. I will also go over the findings and research of other physicians. I believe maca can make a difference. It’s all-natural and it can improve your overall quality of life.
What is Maca?
I first heard about maca after a series of tragedies had pummeled my own life. I was diagnosed before the age of 40 with early menopause and told that I was in complete ovarian failure and would never have any more children. This news was devastating to me and my first instinct was to fight back. Maybe the doctor was wrong. Maybe there was something I could do. I’m sure you’ll agree that as women, we often need strong survival instincts. We’re fighters. And that’s how I responded.
I took time off work and eventually went on a trip around the world searching for answers. I had heard about Peruvian Maca and there were some really amazing claims about the maca root. If you go back hundreds of years, you’ll find tribes of people in South America who have used this for a wide variety of ailments. The indigenous tribes were harvesting only the root and allowing the leaves to fall on the ground for livestock to eat. They would mash up the root to cook as a vegetable or dry it to use as flour.
What Is In Maca That Makes It So Great?
I was in Peru on my Journey of Discovery because I wanted to know how ancient cultures had dealt with sickness and disease. Some tribes across the world have existed for thousands of years and yet they had no doctors, pharmacies and certainly no prescription drugs as we know of today. So how did they survive?
Like all human beings, eventually, you’ll get a cold, the flu, a toothache—you’ll strain your back or break your ankle. How did these people stay healthy with no doctors, hospitals, and medicines around? I knew there had to be an answer. Perhaps more than one answer.
Then in Peru, I made a startling discovery. It’s called Lepidium meyenii and it is a species of maca. Interestingly enough, this particular maca species is protected by the Peruvian government as an important national heritage crop. It grows in the central Andes at extremely high altitudes and under challenging conditions.
In this area of the Andes, the soil is rocky, there’s low humidity and extreme temperatures. There are harsh winds and solar radiation. It’s the kind of environment where almost nothing can exist for long. Against all odds, maca grows.
It wasn’t long till the local tribes found this root and began harvesting it. They tried cooking it and found that it didn’t taste too bad. But they also realized that it had strong nutritional value. Eventually, they discovered other unique properties of maca. For example, they believed it helped with fertility and libido.
In spite of the advances in science and farming, Peruvians still today harvest and eat maca in much the same way as they did hundreds of years ago. It’s one of the staples of their diet. They still believe it holds a great deal of medicinal and therapeutic value.
I recall my time in Peru fondly even today. It seemed anytime I would enquire about a medication or treatment for indigestion, stress or fatigue, I was always told to “try maca.” So I did. I not only tried it, but I began to research the maca root and found it to be an amazing superfood.
It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, essential amino acids, glucosinolates (found in cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables) and it’s a good source of fiber. Just this one root found in a remote part of the world contains so many minerals that are often missing from the American diet like iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
In addition, it contains fatty acids that are helpful in stabilizing blood glucose levels. Maca has other beneficial alkaloids and unique compounds known as macamides. To date, these have only been found in the maca plant. This unusual root is a good source of phytonutrients and it is alkaline so that it supports the Keto-Green® diet for optimal health.
As it has been studied, researchers have found that maca contains arginine. It is sometimes called Peruvian Viagra because it stimulates the production of nitric oxide, producing similar benefits as Viagra.
Eventually, I developed the Mighty Maca® Plus superfoods drink because I believed that it could benefit women suffering from things like hormonal imbalance, PMS, fertility and libido issues, lack of energy and menstrual irregularities. As the years have rolled by and so many women have tried the product, I am pleased to announce that Mighty Maca has helped with all those issues even including fatigue, hot flashes, and depression.
Can Maca Help Regulate Hormonal Balance?
I discovered that the maca plant contains plant sterols that may be able to influence responses within the endocrine system. For me, this seemed like the answer that I was searching for. But as a doctor, I wanted to be sure. I wanted to do the hands-on research and verify all of those health benefits.
Is the Maca You Take Pure, Safe & Certified?
Now you may be thinking that if maca is so amazing, why not go out and buy a bunch of it? It took me some time to realize that there are quite a few maca products on the market that are not the real deal.
As with all great inventions and discoveries, we find numerous knockoffs on the market. Many of these are not pure. They may not be safe to consume. If it’s not certified Peruvian Maca, then it’s not the quality product that you need. And it may not produce the amazing results that you are looking for.
When we look for superfood blends and natural products, we often find quite a few on the market that looks authentic but are not. The Peruvian government has wisely banned GMOs in agricultural production. Genetically modified organisms have genetic material that’s been artificially manipulated in a lab. This was originally done by wealthy growers who were trying to find ways to make crops grow faster and larger.
As we’ve discovered in the last few years, foods produced by genetic engineering may be harmful to humans. That’s why so many food producers are now quick to put that “Non-GMO” label on their product. And that’s one of the dangers of purchasing random maca products that you find online. There’s no way to know whether these products are safe to use.
The maca that I use in my products is certified pure and organic. It’s the real thing and it will provide you with all the benefits that you’re looking for. As maca becomes more popular, we’re seeing countries all over the world, such as China, flooding the market with a sub-standard product.
Even today, there’s a growing black market industry for maca seeds and roots. Smugglers are bringing it into the U.S. to sell for distribution or production of maca products. Some of these growers have used herbicides, pesticides and even GMOs to increase their profits. But this type of maca can contain pollutants and heavy metals. It can actually do more harm than good.
That’s why I strongly advise my readers to scrutinize the label on any vitamin, mineral or supplement. Yes, some of these can be beneficial but not if the producers have allowed pesticides or GMO to be used. To be on the safe side, I even have the Peruvian maca I purchase tested for heavy metals, bacteria and fungi. I believe this is so important if we’re to avoid putting things in our bodies that can harm us.
There are so many small but important pieces of information to know about the maca root. And the average person will not have the time or the training to study, research and learn about these. For one thing, there are about 13 different color variations of the maca root. Only a few of them have been studied; primarily the black, yellow and red root. They all have substantial nutritional value, but some are associated with various other health benefits.
Black maca is known to aid with poor memory, fatigue, and spermatogenesis. The red phenotype has been connected with superior glucosinolates in at least one study.
Growing maca is challenging because cross-contamination is common. Growers in Peru often have a wide variety of root colors in their fields. But this is natural. Blended together, these organic roots can provide so many health benefits. Some research shows that the actual soil in Peru is part of the secret to the strength and improved benefits of Maca root. After all, Peruvian Maca has been growing in that same soil for centuries.
Another important aspect of taking Peruvian Maca is whether or not it’s safe to use long-term. I think the best answer is simply to look at the Peruvian people. For centuries, they’ve consumed all varieties of maca on a regular basis from childhood through adulthood. Of course, modern research has been done to verify the safety of taking maca long term.
The research concerning long-term consumption shows that those tested had lower rates of bone fractures and lower systolic blood pressure. There were also various health markers including lower scores of mountain sickness in those tested. The populations studied reported that they were eating a mixture of the root colors.
Some experts believe that the reason maca is so effective at helping us deal with stress and hormone imbalance is simply its growing environment. For centuries, maca root has survived some harsh growth issues. And yet, it has adapted and thrived.
As An Adaptogen, Maca Aids Your Body in Dealing With Stress And Hormone Imbalances
Maca contains strong adaptogenic properties, but what does that mean for you? It has survived centuries of environmental stress and it has resisted disease. It has survived. And it can pass on those properties to you. Maca root can help with chronic stress, hormone imbalance and other mental and physical stressors. Essentially, this plant passes on its strength and inborn resistance to those who take it.
That’s why I use and recommend Mighty Maca® Plus superfoods drink for women’s restorative health.
We know how dangerous stress can be. It affects us in ways that we don’t see right away. Stress can affect our adrenals, exacerbating hormone imbalances in your body. It can impact thyroid health and even trigger diseases like Hashimoto’s.
Can You Improve Menopause Symptoms Without Worrying About Estrogen Activity?
I often get questions about whether maca is estrogenic in nature. Today, women are opting for natural alternatives as opposed to HRT (hormone replacement therapy). They’re suffering from hot flashes, brain fog, weight gain, and fatigue, but they don’t want to put artificial substances in their bodies.
I think it’s amazing that so many of us are concerned about eating hormone-infused meats. Even men today are reaching for all-natural products to deal with various issues. We understand the importance of avoiding environmental endocrine disruptors (the estrogen responsible for man-boobs!).
But the research shows that maca is not estrogenic. Just the opposite is true. Though we don’t yet understand why or how maca seems to be able to regulate estrogen levels. It balances hormone levels and alleviates those common symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats.
Compounds like plant estrogens and phytohormones found in plants like soy, stimulate estrogen and can be a problem for those sensitive to it. Maca is just the opposite. It helps to balance and regulate hormones. It promotes the healthy function of the hypothalamus and pituitary. The results? Improvement across the endocrine glands.
In a wide range of men and women of all ages, maca exhibited hormone-regulatory properties. It appears to induce hormone balance for any individual. And it’s specific to a given person’s age, gender, and metabolic stage.
Another unusual aspect, some studies that used rats suggested that this hypothalamus/pituitary theory explains why maca root effects more than just the sexual hormones (ovaries and testes). It acts on the adrenals and the pineal gland. This results in better energy levels and better sleep. The endocrine glands work better, including thyroid.
When I think about all the exciting studies that have been done and the potential with maca root, I still recall what the locals told me in Peru. They said, “Try Maca!”
In a world where access to hospitals, medicine and a wide range of treatment options is very limited, the people of Peru have found something that works. They’ve used maca for centuries and heard stories about how it worked for their grandparents. They know it works from personal experience.
Maca can work for you too. It can address both physiological and psychological symptoms experienced by women in perimenopause and in menopause.
One interesting study done with perimenopausal women indicated that maca was responsible for some significant changes in their hormone levels. The study showed improvements in diastolic blood pressure, body weight, and HDL. The study assessed the discomfort levels and showed that perimenopausal symptoms improved by 74%-87%. Improvements were seen in the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. Sleep patterns improved, along with depression, heart palpitations, and nervousness. Researchers concluded that maca showed potential as an effective non-hormonal alternative to HRT.
Does This Peruvian Viagra Really Work?
Are you suffering with low libido or fertility problems? Maca could be the solution you’re searching for. Its adaptogenic profile and ability to regulate estrogen have been shown to improve sexual function, libido and improve fertility. Numerous studies have been done that back up these claims.
I love research myself but know that all human beings are different. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. But with maca, good results have been reported in participants of all different ages and genders. So this leads me to believe that maca is consistent in its benefits. You might be a 50-year-old man or a 20-year-old woman, but maca can help with whatever you’re dealing with. (“Try Maca!”)
What I tell my patients is: Do what works for you. Each of us is different. Your specific body and hormone needs may vary from someone else’s. I believe in trying the simple things first. It they don’t work, then we move on to something more complex.
Whether you’re dealing with pre-existing estrogen sensitivities or other health issues, talk to your physician. Ask her/him whether maca could improve your symptoms. Your doctor may want to monitor your hormone levels to see how maca affects them.
Please note that we do NOT recommend Maca for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
Over the years, I’ve provided my superfoods blend to other physicians and asked them to try it or even offer it to their patients to see what feedback they get. The results have always been positive. Plus, this is part of my Keto-Green diet and lifestyle program. It’s an easy way to kick-start your new healthier lifestyle program.
As far as sexual health goes, we’ve done some studies and the results have been very positive. Maca treatment was able to improve libido in groups of women with sexual dysfunction. This group was also taking selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication. Women experienced more enjoyable sexual experiences, along with more frequent sex. So that’s a definite win!
In a follow-up study including men, there were significant improvements in their libido. Still another study showed an improvement in sexual desire. In a men’s study that concerned sperm production, consuming maca, improved both production and motility.
If you’re still on the fence about this, I hope you’ll check out some of the testimonials about my maca superfoods blend. There are quite a few good reviews on my blog as well that relate to Might Maca and fertility. I hope you’ll read a few of them.
Can Maca Help with Mood and Energy?
One of the most annoying things that women deal with each month is those awful mood swings. Depression is another difficult area where women sometimes struggle. A few studies have been done to assess whether maca can help with mood and energy levels. A small study concerning depression showed a reduction in depression for postmenopausal women. Another study showed a reduction in the symptoms of depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women.
Your Body Will Love Mighty Maca Plus!
One question I get all the time is which form of maca is the best to take. It comes in powder, liquid, tablets, gel and raw. In my opinion, this is largely just a matter of personal preference though I do think that the raw powder works better for my superfoods blend. It’s better at preserving the beneficial enzymes and nutrients.
In gelatinized maca, the product is heated to remove starch, but these high temperatures can affect many of the components including the enzymes. Glucosinolates are an important benefit found in maca but they are very sensitive to heat.
I haven’t been able to find any studies that measure the degradation of glucosinolates before, during and after gelatinization. I believe that we get the best results from raw maca and that is what you’ll find in my superfoods blend. It contains about 2.4% glucosinolates.
Please remember something that I go over at the beginning of this article. The quality of the maca is affected by factors like growing and harvesting conditions. If this is not done properly, you can lose quite a few of the important characteristics of the product. The amounts of sterols, macaene, macamides and glucosinolates can be decreased. For the best results, be sure to use a quality sourced maca.
Some have asked about whether the gelatinized form could aid with digestion or cause indigestion. Over the years, I’ve only had a few people who reported problems with the raw, organic maca used in our products. Even Celiacs have been able to use Mighty Maca Plus without problems. This product is gluten-free.
In those cases where people report digestive issues with maca, we always want to know where they purchased the product and whether it was harvested and processed correctly. If this isn’t done right, maca can contain impurities. My superfoods blend contains certified organic maca that has been tested for impurities so you can be sure that it’s safe to use.
Mighty Maca Plus contains 40+ ingredients that are beneficial and synergistic with maca. It contains specific digestive enzymes, including bromelain, which is a great digestive aid. There’s some evidence that it can help prevent diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Mighty Maca Plus contains powerful anti-inflammatories such as turmeric and mangosteen. It also contains flaxseed, which has been proven to be helpful with estrogen problems. The Omega 3 fats in flaxseed have so many benefits and of course, flaxseed is a good source of fiber. Some research shows that flaxseed may provide some protection against various types of cancer, especially in women who are post-menopausal.
After years of research and my own personal investigation, I believe that maca is not only safe but effective in the treatment of a long list of health issues. And it is the cornerstone in my superfoods drink, Mighty Maca Plus. This synergistic blend of ingredients offers us so much from aiding with digestive health to balancing blood sugar levels. It’s an antioxidant with over 40 ingredients that work in your body to produce anti-inflammatory results.
Dr. Anna Cabeca Bio
Dr. Anna Cabeca, a triple board-certified, Emory University trained physician and hormone expert was diagnosed with early menopause at age 38. Devastated, she set out on a personal wellness journey to reverse her menopause side effects, which resulted in her delivery of a healthy baby girl at the age of 41.
After experiencing her own health successes, Dr. Cabeca began counseling others, ultimately changing the lives of thousands of women across the globe. Her new book “The Hormone Fix” and other empowering transformation programs have helped women of all ages become their best selves again. Her successful line of all-natural products features the alkaline superfoods drink Mighty Maca® PLUS and the rejuvenating vulvar cream Julva®.
Recently, Dr. Cabeca was named “2018 Innovator of the Year” by Mindshare Collaborative, the premier community for health and wellness influencers and entrepreneurs. In 2017, the Age Management Medicine Group presented her the prestigious Alan P. Mintz Award for Clinical Excellence.
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