Have you ever heard of maca? I stumbled upon this mighty root a couple years ago the way I stumble on most things these days: social media. A friend had mentioned to another friend (yay, voyeurism!) that they took maca before a workout to help them push harder in the gym. As I was recently getting back into the gym at the time, my ears (eyes?) perked at the mention of this mysterious substance. As I am wont to do, I began scouring the Internet for anything and everything I could find about this “maca” the guy spoke so highly of. What I found turned out to be (for me at least) life-changing.
So what is maca? According to WebMD:
Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in Peru for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine.
While you traditionally won’t find maca outside of South America in veggie form, it is often sold in Western countries as a powder, a liquid, or in capsules.
What is maca good for?
In short, everything! No, I kid, but it sure seems like it. Maca is an adaptogen, which is a unique type of herb that helps your body respond to stressors. Adaptogens get their name, fittingly, “because of their unique ability to‘adapt’ their function according to your body’s specific needs.” You are probably already familiar with another popular adaptogen, ginseng. In fact, maca is sometimes known as “Peruvian ginseng,” or in some other circles, as “Peruvian Viagra”! So let’s get into maca’s purported benefits, starting with its most popular:
- Increased Sexual Function: They don’t call it Peruvian Viagra for nothing. Maca is primarily used to promote sexual function of both men and women, and boosts both your libido AND your fertility. In fact, many people, including Wellness Mama, have used maca to help conceive.
- Improved Women’s Health: Maca helps to relieve menstrual issues and menopause. It has been known to alleviates cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, and depression. Could this be the end of PMS? Bonus: Some people even say it helps women develop that coveted hourglass figure!
- Energy and Strength: AKA, the original reason I looked into maca. Many athletes swear by maca, which is known for increasing stamina and muscle mass in conjunction with a good workout. In addition, many people completely forgo coffee in favor of a smoothie with maca, because the energy boost is just that good. Legend has it that Incan warriors would take maca before going into battle to increase their chances of victory!
- Clear Skin: Maca has been reported to help clear up acne, decrease sensitivity, and according to Crunchy Betty, help your skin glow.
- Balanced Mood: If you’re often stressed, anxious, or often feeling like you’re under a storm cloud, maca could be the answer. Maca has been known to balance mood swings and help lift depression, and we already know it helps your body (and mind!) develop a proper response to stress. In addition, some say it increases mental focus.
I honestly can’t attest to all the benefits mentioned above— I’m definitely not currently trying to get pregnant, and when it comes to curves, I already get em from my mama —but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid! I can, however, speak HIGHLY of maca’s ability to improve mood and decrease PMS symptoms, and thank God for that. I used to get the tissues and Midol out a full ten days in advance of my cycle rearing its ugly head, but for the past two months, Aunt Flo has completely snuck up on me! I think I speak for everyone around me when I shout a rousing,“Hooray for Maca!”
How do I take this stuff?
I used to take maca in its powdered form; I dropped some in my smoothie or morning tea and continued on my merry way. It has a mild buttery, malty flavor that complements (in my opinion) sweeter things. These days though, I prefer to take it in capsule form along with my other vitamins. Maca can be expensive in health food stores, so I buy mine (like everything else) from Amazon.
Has anyone else ever tried maca or plan to after reading this? Let us know!