Are you familiar with maca? In this post we are going to learn all about maca and then give it a try in a yummy Strawberry Mango Maca Smoothie!
It was only recently that I started seeing mentions of maca pop up in blog articles and in my Facebook feed. A couple of the claims caught my attention right away: maca can help with Adrenal Fatigue symptoms (particularly low energy and low libido) and maca can help improve hypothyroid symptoms.
Wow, major claims right? I thought so and was skeptical. And when I’m intrigued by something, but hesitant to jump on the bandwagon and try it, I read. A lot. So here’s a summary of my findings and why I decided to give maca a try.
Before we get started though, I need to say that I am not a doctor. I’m a real food and natural health blogger and a physical therapist. Before you decide to try maca or any other herbal supplement, I strongly urge you to consult with your trusted health care professional and to do your own research.
What is maca?
Maca is a root tuber and a relative of the radish. It’s also known as “Peruvian Ginseng”. Maca is grown mostly in Peru, but is also grown in the high Andes of Boliva. This root grows in areas where little else can grow so it is very rare to find pesticides used in it’s production. (1)
Maca is most often dried and sold as powder or capsules, although Peruvians have access to fresh roots and may prepare it in various traditional dishes. Raw maca is very fibrous and difficult to digest. (1)
What is an Adaptogen?
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of an Adaptogen is “any of various natural substances used in herbal medicine to normalize and regulate the systems of the body.”
Adaptogens are pretty cool. They help you to normalize your hormones without pushing you too far in one direction or another. In other words, they help where needed and when needed. Neat, right?
So how does Maca work as an Adaptogen?
According to an article on NaturalNews.com, “Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the master glands of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.” (2)
Maca does not act as a hormone, it contains the nutrients necessary to assist your body in boosting production of a hormone you may be low in or decreasing production if you are producing too much.
With regards to adrenal function, maca helps to regulate cortisol production and blood sugar levels. (3)
Individuals dealing with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s may find that the adaptogenic effects of maca can give their thyroid a little boost as well. (4)
Maca is possibly best known for it’s effects on fertility and libido. It can be beneficial to both men and women in balancing the sex hormones and therefore reducing symptoms of PMS and menopause, increasing fertility in females and sperm production in males. (2)
Many of the articles I read noted that the reported improvements were anecdotal and that few studies exist at this point in time. It was noted that there is very low risk in using maca in small amounts. I saw one report of increased jitteriness after a week of use. I saw numerous mentions of avoiding maca during pregnancy or while breast feeding as there are no studies on it’s effects during these times.
Are there any nutritional benefits to Maca?
In small doses, the nutritional benefits are probably minimal, but here is what I uncovered. Decent amounts of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium are present. It also contains vitamin B1 and B2 as well as many essential amino acids and sterols. (5)
Why did I decide to try Maca and what effects have I seen?
I decided after a few weeks of research, that maca appeared safe in small quantities. As someone who has dealt with severe Adrenal Fatigue and mild hypothyroid symptoms, I figured it might just give me a little boost to keep my body chugging along in the right direction.
I decided that 1 teaspoon a few days a week was a good starting dose for me. I have seen supplementation recommendations ranging from 1/2 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons. I tend to do a few days on and a few days off with supplementation, just to be safe.
I’ve noticed a little boost in energy since starting supplementation and a general calm throughout the day. I’ve had some really good sleep on days when I have supplemented, but have also had the occasional restless night (daily stress most likely playing a roll in that).
How does it taste?
I actually enjoy the taste of maca. I think is smells a little sweet and has a slightly malty and butterscotch-like flavor. My favorite way to use it is in smoothies, like the one I’m going to share with you now!
- 1 cup of homemade almond milk or coconut milk
- 1/2 cup frozen mango pieces
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- 2 Tablespoons gelatin
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean to make this smoothie SCD legal)
- Pinch of Celtic sea salt
- Place all of the above ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a glass and enjoy!
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