Maca is one of the lesser-known members of the cruciferous family (which includes broccoli, kale, cabbage and others) and is a high-altitude plant which grows in the mountainous regions of Peru. It has been consumed for its health benefits by native peoples for thousands of years and was later used by the Spanish settlers as well. In this country, is usually available in powder form, after the root has been harvested and ground.
It is now gaining more attention though, as word of its medicinal properties have spread and its combination of nutrients and active phytochemicals make it one of the truly great superfoods. Read on to find out more about the benefits of maca and the number of different ways it can improve your health.
Helps Treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
For women who have difficulties with polycystic ovarian syndrome, taking a maca supplement every day can great ease these issues. Maca root is thought to work through the mechanism of controlling the amount of estrogen a woman’s body is producing: too much or too little estrogen can cause fertility problems, but maca seeks to alter this by restoring the balance between the estrogen and progesterone. This can regulate the menstrual cycle and induce ovulation, making maca a great fertility herb.
Eases Menopausal Symptoms
The hormonal changes of menopause can bring a lot of unwanted side effects, including mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats and low libido. In one study published in the journal Menopause, maca was proven effective for mood elevation and a decrease in depression in menopausal women. With this mood elevation also came an increase in libido. Researchers believe this is like due to maca’s ability to stimulate levels of serotonin, a “feel good” hormone.
Increases Male Fertility
Maca is also good for enhancing male fertility. Black maca, for instance, has been shown to have a positive effect on sperm production, mobility and volume, all of which are important factors for male reproductive health. Red maca has its own benefits for men, the most important of which is reducing the size of the prostate gland, a problem which can affect around 50% of men over age 50.
Enhances Energy and Lifts Mood
Clinical trials have shown a link between maca and an increase in energy level along with an elevation of mood. Again, this is most likely because of maca’s effect on serotonin levels. The great thing is that it can help energize without jittery side effects that are a frequent problem with caffeine and other stimulants. It has also been linked to an improvement in depression and/or anxiety levels.
Maca has also been found to strengthen the immunity through a number of mechanisms. It is a natural antioxidant, but it also boosts the production of glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD), both of which are compounds which help to fight off infection and disease. This also has the effect of improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels, thus lowering chances of heart disease and diabetes.
Because of its increasing popularity, maca can be found in most health food stores. Especially if you are experiencing fertility problems or would like to enhance your mood, this is a great herb to try to boost the energy levels and even make it easier to conceive!
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