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The Benefits of Maca Root for Hormonal Health & Vitality – Episode 90

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In this week's episode...

Tune in this week and learn about a root that helps manage hormone health! More than two centuries ago, Peruvians discovered that a tuberous vegetable growing high in the Andes mountain range had some noticeable benefits for their health and endurance. Men going into battle or performing other physical feats would take maca because they observed that it gave them stamina, strength, and virility. Meanwhile, women who consumed maca had better reproductive health, energy, and focus. 

Empowering You Organically – Season 11 – Episode 90

Title: The Benefits of Maca Root for Hormonal Health & Vitality

Hosts: Jonathan Hunsaker, TeriAnn Trevenen

Description:  Tune in to learn about all the benefits of this adaptogen; Maca! More than two centuries ago, Peruvians discovered that a tuberous vegetable growing high in the Andes mountain range had some noticeable benefits for their health and endurance. Men going into battle or performing other physical feats would take maca because they observed that it gave them stamina, strength, and virility. Meanwhile, women who consumed maca had better reproductive health, energy, and focus. Loads of benefits in this root!

 

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What Is Maca?

Growing at an elevation of 12-14,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains of Peru, maca grows in extreme weather conditions. Thriving in a habitat of intense sunlight, cold temperatures, and strong winds, this tuberous plant is a part of the brassica family. Just like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, maca is a cruciferous vegetable.

Nutrients Found in Maca

Maca contains plenty of healthy fatty acids, the most abundant being linoleic, oleic, and palmitic acids. Maca contains vitamins A, C, B2, B6, and niacin, as well as minerals – zinc, iron, iodine, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Nine amino acids are considered essential for optimal health, and maca contains seven of them [1].

Maca is also a rich source of plant sterols, which are part of what makes it so beneficial for hormonal health. Plant sterols are (chemically speaking) structurally similar to the body’s own hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Maca Is an Adaptogen

So how exactly does it work? Maca is an adaptogen, meaning that it works to strengthen, balance, and help the body respond to internal and external changes and stressors. It regulates the production of hormones to maintain healthy organ function. Maca feeds the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, known as the Master Glands (more on that later).

Maca’s plant sterols appear to stimulate changes in the action of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Maca also seems to exert an influence on the ovaries, pineal gland, and thyroid.

How Maca Can Aid Fluctuating Hormones

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is one of the most common complaints among women of reproductive age. When out of balance, estrogen – the hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system – can cause a wide range of symptoms and annoyances for women (and their men!).

Mood swings, water retention, fatigue, food cravings, irritability, headaches, irregular menstrual periods, painful cramping… all can be attributable to estrogen imbalance.

Maca can help ease the rapid rise and fall of hormones in menstruating women due to its adaptogenic properties. Also, by improving the connection between the brain and the pituitary gland, maca’s ability to help balance levels of circulating hormones is further enhanced. Most PMS sufferers taking maca report a marked improvement in symptoms during their first menstrual period after commencement of maca.

Other times when maca may be of benefit to women is after coming off birth control pills, and after having a baby and breastfeeding has ceased. At such times, endocrine system function can be depleted, and maca’s adaptogenic properties mean it can help the body right itself again.

Maca can also ease many of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. For those harried by hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and lack of energy, maca can provide some much-needed relief. Maca does not appear to mimic estrogen in the body but it can help to increase the body’s production of estrogen if levels are too low. That’s the beauty of an adaptogenic herb: it adapts to what the body needs.

In a 2006 clinical trial, 34 early-postmenopausal women were given a supplement containing either maca or a placebo twice per day for four months. Those receiving the maca had increased levels of estrogen, suppressed levels of FSH, T3 thyroid hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol (the hormone secreted in response to stress). Body mass index also decreased. Iron levels increased, however, as did bone density markers, and maca relieved many of the symptoms of menopausal discomfort such as hot flashes and night sweats [2].

Another small 2014 clinical study found that maca reduced blood pressure and depression in postmenopausal women [3].

Can Maca Can Also Benefit Men?

Maca can also be helpful for male health. Recent studies have indicated that maca may assist male health by helping to increase sperm count and motility, increasing sexual desire, protecting the prostate and reducing the incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia, reducing stress and depression, boosting energy levels, and easing mild erectile dysfunction [1, 4].

8 Additional Health Benefits of Maca

#1. Boosts Energy and Endurance

A 2009 study of male cyclists found that maca supplementation did indeed improve cycling time performance, as well as sexual desire (a perk for many) [5].

#2. Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) Gland Nourishment

HPA glands are called the “Master Glands” because they regulate other glands (you may also hear it termed the “HPA Axis”). When HPA is well nourished, other glands of the body benefit as well. When under stress, the adrenal gland takes a big hit, especially if the stress moves from acute (short-lasting stress) to chronic (long-lasting stress).

Maca feeds all three glands by supporting the body’s production of hormones, either increasing or decreasing levels according to the need. As a result, maca may help prevent or repair adrenal exhaustion and all of the unhealthy follow-on effects this has on the body and mind.

#3. Libido Booster

Maca has been used traditionally by Peruvians to boost virility and libido. Science has not yet determined how maca does this, but it has been called “Nature’s Viagra” for good reason.

Some health experts believe maca’s effects on libido may be caused by its long-chain fatty acids known as macaenes and macamides, which are unique and have not been found in any other plant.

A 2008 clinical study followed women suffering from sexual dysfunction caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression. The study found that three grams of maca per day gave significant improvement in libido for the women taking it [6].

#4. Cardiovascular Health

Maca’s phytosterols – campesteroland beta-sitosterol, act to interfere with the absorption of LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), making maca beneficial for the cardiovascular system [7]. Phytosterols have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects, which assist in balancing the immune system, and, as an added bonus, help to protect the body from abnormal cell growth.

#5. Anti-Cancer

A 2015 study found that phytosterols interfere with many different pathways in the carcinogenesis (cancer beginning) process [8]. In addition, an animal study found that beta-sitosterol decreased levels of circulating estrogen and inhibited the growth of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer tumors [9].

#6. Boosts Immunity

The phytosterols in maca stimulate the immune system and increased levels of interleukin-2 and natural killer cells [7] which the body needs to fight abnormal cell growth.

#7. Liver Support

Being a cruciferous vegetable, maca contains glucosinolates which, when chewed and digested, change into health-promoting chemicals that help protect against cancer. Sulfur-containing glucosinolates form bonds that help the body’s enzymes do their work better.

Both sulfur and plant sterols are required in the production of a master antioxidant called glutathione which boosts liver function and helps the liver with detoxification [10].

#8. Healthy Bones

Maca’s vitamins and minerals can help to build strong, healthy bones. A 2006 clinical trial found that maca increased bone density markers for the early-postmenopausal women taking it [2].

How to Take Maca

Look for organic maca powder grown in Peru. Maca can be added to juices, oatmeal, inside sandwiches, sprinkled on salads, and added to raw food recipes. Just keep in mind that it is best not to heat maca powder to high temperatures which might diminish some of its nutrients. If you use it in recipes, add it after cooking, just before serving.

A gentle approach is generally the best way to begin taking maca.

Recommendations are to start with a small dose of 1 teaspoon per day. If that is well tolerated, gradually increase the dose to 1 tablespoon, or more. If you haven’t noticed any improvement, remember one trial had women taking 3 grams per day.

It can take two or three weeks before you may notice the full benefits of maca. It is also recommended to only take maca daily for a few months and then take a break from it for a month or so before resuming consumption again.

Some health experts recommend avoiding maca under the following conditions. Please consult with your own healthcare provider if:

  • you are between the ages of 15 and 35, have a good, mainly plant-based diet, and don’t have mood swings, fluid retention, or any of the symptoms of PMS
  • you have an allergy to iodine
  • you have Hashimoto’s disease or hyperthyroid condition

If hormonal fluctuations are creating havoc in your life, consult your natural health practitioner to see if maca might be right for you.

 

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Jonathan Hunsaker:

Welcome everyone to another episode of Empowering You Organically. I’m your host, Jonathan Hunsaker, joined by my cohost TeriAnn Trevenen.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Hey everyone.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Today, we are going to talk about maca. Yes, maca. Maca is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, like cauliflower. We’re going to talk about its eight benefits. If you are not consuming maca on a regular basis now, by the end of this podcast, you likely will be heading straight to your local grocery store to grab some yourself. TeriAnn, let’s talk for a second, what is maca?

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Just like we talk about with so many incredible plants, herbs and beyond on the podcast, this dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. Peruvians discovered that it was growing high in the Andes mountains and it had some noticeable benefits for their health and endurance. I always like to think about these people back in time testing these plants and these herbs that they found, and it was like trial and error, right? It was like, hey, look at what we found. Let’s see how it goes. We don’t have to do that in this day and age, but I think it’s cool that they did it because we get to reap the benefits of their information and seeing what they did. Then that being passed on through generation after generation. The Peruvians had some awesome discoveries from using this particular plant. Men going into battle or performing other physical feats would take maca because they observed that it gave them stamina, strengthened virility.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Meanwhile, women who consumed maca had better reproductive health, energy and focus. Again, they found it at 12 to 14,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains, it was growing in extreme weather conditions. It’s a lot like cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage. They used it and found that it had incredible benefits.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

What’s really interesting is maca is also an adaptogen. An adaptogen just means that it adapts to help your body deal with stress. Now more than ever, and we’ve talked about adaptogens in the past, I think our society, our world is overstressed. Anything that we can take that’s really going to help our body deal with and process distress is a benefit.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely. There’s also the benefit of aiding and the fluctuation of hormones. I want to talk about something before we talk about this particular benefit. There are some powerful benefits to maca in the sense that it contains vitamins A, C, B2, B6, niacin, as well as minerals, zinc, iron, iodine, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. We’re talking tons of nutritional value, not to mention healthy fatty acids. As you know, healthy fatty acids are actually really beneficial to your health. The reason why I wanted to touch on more of the nutritional value is it’s also gotten seven of the nine amino acids that are considered essential for optimal health. Well, amino acids, two of the benefits that are really important for both men and women is protein in your body and the building of protein. Back to the fluctuating aids and fluctuating hormones is the fact that it synthesizes hormones, right?

TeriAnn Trevenen:

This is really important when we’re talking about all this nutritional value and how it plays into maca and why it’s important. Well, the benefit of aiding and fluctuating hormones is our hormones from our nutrition and the way we take care of our body can be completely out of whack. We also know that some people just come born with imbalance in their hormones. There’s a lot of natural ways that we’re finding we can support that hormone balance. One of the common complaints among women is premenstrual syndrome or PMS. When out of balance, estrogen, the hormone responsible for regulating reproductive system can cause a wide range of symptoms and annoyances for women. Not only can there be hormonal imbalances, this goes for men and for women, but women in particular when it comes to our menstrual cycle and our fluctuation of hormones, we can see a wide range of emotions happening.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Well, maca has this benefit in helping to ease the rapid rise and fall of hormones for women who are in the menstrual cycle. Again, back to some of those nutritional benefits of maca that speaks to why it supports and helps in that fluctuation of hormones. It also improves the connection between the brain and the pituitary gland because it balances the circulating hormones even more through that process. It’s a powerful, powerful plant when it comes to leveling out those hormones and really regulating that process in our system. Especially for women, that can be a major benefit if you’re experiencing that rise and fall of emotions that can come with your menstrual cycle.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Absolutely. It’s shown to help with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. If you’re having hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, lack of energy, I mean, maca can provide some much needed relief. It’s not just-

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah, throughout the lifecycle of women, really. Yep.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Absolutely. Maca is not just beneficial for women. It’s very beneficial for men as well. It can increase the sperm count, it can increase your sexual desire. It’s not just balancing the hormones of women. It can balance the hormones of men as well. Maca, I mean, it’s something that you should have in your house. Something that you are taking in supplement format or eating it, or working it into your diet, however, you can get it. It is very beneficial for men and women.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Well, another thing I want to mention too is in studies, it’s not shown to mimic estrogen because there’s information out there on that. What it has been shown to do is to increase the body’s production of estrogen if your levels are too low, which is what can lead to those hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and lack of energy. As a woman, if you’re experiencing those issues, you may want to try out maca because this can help to increase those levels of estrogen if they’re too low and support that. Again, as Jonathan mentioned, there’s also benefits for men when it comes to maca, again, increase in sperm count, increase in sexual desire. This is something that was so taboo to talk about still. It blows my mind that we still have such a big issue with talking about sex and sexual reproduction and hormones.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

A lot of men out there, we talk a lot about women’s hormones and we say, women are so moody and women are so emotional. Well, the reality is that men, based on their hormone levels, based on their hormone production, they also suffer a lot of issues related to their bodies, the sexual reproduction cycle, sexual desire based on their certain levels in their body. That can impact their health, their emotions, their happiness, their relationships. A lot of men, if they were to be honest, would tell you they have low sexual desire, low libido. If you’re in a relationship and you’re wondering like, what’s wrong with me? Why is this happening to me? We still have such a huge issue talking about this as a society. Here’s the facts, women and men both have body parts, women and men both have sexual desires. Women and men both have hormonal functions in their body that support our overall health.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

In fact, they are critical to our health and wellbeing. A lot of men and women suffer issues from stress, depression, and anxiety, because they’re too afraid to go and address these issues. Looking at something like maca that you could put into your diet and seeing how it impacts you on your hormonal level, both for men and women, there is no shame in that. There is no shame in this conversation. Again, it’s just part of our overall health and wellbeing. It’s a conversation that has got to be more commonplace in our everyday conversation because people are literally suffering in silence when things like this can be corrected through diet and nutrition. Sometimes you need more serious help than that, but imagine if you tested out something like maca and maybe it makes you feel a little bit better and you’re like, wow, I’m so glad I had that conversation. We got to break the stigma around talking about sexual reproduction, menstrual cycle, sexual desire, and libido. These are all just parts of our normal life.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Well, I mean, it’s what helps keep us healthy, right? I mean, often men don’t talk about how stressed they are. Often they’re not talking about the depressions that they feel, the stresses they feel as a man. There’s all kinds of things that we’re taught to hide those emotions, to not share those emotions, that they’re weaknesses and things like that. I’m not here to say men need to cry more or anything like that, but they are suffering silently as much as women are. If you’re listening to this and you’re a man, definitely try out maca and see if it really helps because it will boost your energy levels. It will increase your libido. It will increase your sexual drive and it can even help with mild cases of erectile dysfunction. If you’re a woman listening to this and your man is not as sexually active as you would like him to be, or is not as aggressive sexually as you’d like him to be. He may be suffering from stress and depression and different things like that. I highly encourage you because it’s a lot harder for men to reach out and ask for that help that they need. I highly encourage you to work maca into his diet in supplement form or another form, and see if that helps.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Well, the word hormone is still running parallel with the word woman. The fact is hormones are something that impact men and women. As a woman, if you’re experiencing some of the stuff we talked about, check out natural plants and herbs that can benefit you. We’re not doctors, we’re not here to treat you. We’re not here to tell you what’s wrong with you, but you can try these things out and see if they help you. Sometimes people need to take that leap and go and get even more serious help because it really can be an even bigger issue than you can handle on your own. Back to men, I really want to drive this home one more time. If you have a man in your life or you’re a man that’s listening, hormones are not only a word for women.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

You may have a hormonal imbalance that could be leading to your anxiety, to your stress, to your depression, to your overwhelm, feeling like why do I not have more sexual desire in my life? Like I love my partner. I love my relationship, but that’s just not there for me. Any of those reasons, low energy for men too. Hormones are not just a word that are set out there for women. We both have that impact in our body. I think it’s super important. I just want to touch really quickly again on some additional health benefits for maca, it can boost energy and endurance. It is a libido booster as we mentioned. It is for cardiovascular health as well. It’s also been shown to be very strong in preventing cancer, boosting your immune system, supporting your immune system, liver support, healthy bones. There are so many benefits to the maca and as you can see, a lot of them are tied to your hormonal balance in your body. It’s just really strong when it comes to synthesizing your hormones and keeping them level.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

One thing that you left out of your list there is how much it can really help with the adrenal glands. I think a lot of us suffer from adrenal fatigue because we are stressed so much in our adrenal. I mean, we’re constantly in fight or flight mode and we don’t slow down. Even though like a lot of times we’ll think, oh, I’m kind of chill. I’m just on my phone and this and that, but you’re not because you’re reading this stuff on the news. You’re reading Instagram and Facebook. Our idea of calm and relaxed is still a higher state than what we used to be years ago. I mean, if you really want to see what those levels can go down to, what a normal is, do some meditation, do some yoga, do some deep breathing and turn off everything and all of that. Give your body 10 minutes to actually go down to the actual resting level that it needs to be. Maca can really help with your adrenal glands and to help support your adrenals because again, I think that we are overstressed. Anything we can do to reduce stress and anything we can do to support our body in dealing with stress and healing from the overstressing, it’s going to make a world of difference in our happiness and in our health.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about how you can get maca. You can look for an organic maca powder that’s grown in Peru. Just like any other powder, you could add it to juices, oatmeal, sandwiches. You can sprinkle it on your food. So many ways to add it into your cooking. If you’re going to take it in powder format, generally the best approach, and this is a recommendation for any new thing you’re adding to your nutrition plan or to your supplemental regimen would be to start small and grow with it as well. Also, there’s some things to avoid. If you are between the ages of 15 and 35 and have a good, mainly plant-based diet and don’t have mood swings, fluid retention, or any of those symptoms we talked about today, being careful with taking maca. That typically means you have pretty healthy levels, but one place that can impact past that age is when the hormones start to drop off, you start to go into premenopause or menopause, all of those things.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Also, if you have an allergy to iodine, it says to stay away from maca. Then also, if you have Hashimoto’s disease or hyperthyroid condition to also steer clear of maca. We mention this often on the podcast, anytime you have, you don’t have issues, make sure that’s the right thing for you to be adding in. If you do have some issues where you’re concerned about it, and you’re already experiencing issues around your hormone levels and working with someone, make sure you consult with them. It’s always good to get an extra set of eyes with someone who has expertise when it comes to maca, plants, herbs, those kinds of things.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

A couple other pointers with maca. You said to start small. About a teaspoon a day is a good place to start. It can take two or three weeks for you to even feel a difference on maca. Don’t expect an overnight wonder to happen. Also, after you take it for two or three months, take a month off, it’ll allow the potency. You’ll be able to come back and stay with the smaller doses as opposed to constantly having to increase the amount of maca that you’re taking on a daily basis. A good cycle like that, taking it for a quarter, taking a month off, or taking it for two months and taking a month off. Again, listen to your body, see how you’re responding to it. Again, it’s a wonderful plant that we often don’t hear much about because it’s only grown in Peru. I think it can really help a lot of people reach healthier states of mind and body and hormonal balance.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely. In a selfish way, I’m going to plug that we also have an incredible product called E-Plexx. It is a favorite amongst the women who work for Organixx and also the women who follow and support Organixx, our customers, because it has massive benefits when it comes to supporting healthy hormonal balance. Not only does it have maca root in it, but we’ve got some mushroom ingredients in there. We’ve got milk thistle which we’ve talked about on the podcast before. Holy basil, ashwagandha extract. There’s just a lot of really powerful ingredients in there. It all goes to supporting women and their health. Mushrooms are anti-aging. Maca for hormonal balance. It helps reduce that stress and anxiety tied to hormonal imbalance. Just a wealth of benefits and ingredients that are blended together to support, and maca happens to be one of those ingredients in that product.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Again, women on our team rave about it. I will be honest, at one point we talked about moving away from the hormonal support products and we got some major push back from our customers and our team because the difference that they feel and the reviews and the testimonials that we get from women, they were begging us not to go away from it. True story. You can ask anyone on our team. You can email our customer support reps. They’ll tell you this has happened internally with the team and with our customers. Again, you can go out and get the maca powder. It’s definitely, if it’s something that you’re struggling with that can benefit you and your health in that way, we also offer it in a product as well that has multiple benefits for women through a blend that we’ve put together. Again, that product is E-Plexx. You can check it out if you’re interested.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Great advice, TeriAnn. Organixx.com. You can find out a lot more information, a lot of articles as well. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, go to iTunes and give us a five star rating, give us a review or give us whatever rating you want. We just want to hear from you. We want to know if you’re liking this or not liking it. Give us feedback. You can always email us and say, hey, I love your show, or hey, talk more about this or talk more about that. Anything that you want to tell us, we are happy to listen and take your feedback on it. Also, go to empoweringyouorganically.com. We have all of the show notes, the transcription of the show. You can watch the video over and over again. There’s also a wealth of information. If you go to empoweringyouorganically.com, you can also click a link at the top that says inspired health library. We have hundreds of articles, videos, and other absolutely free information and recipes for living the healthiest life possible. Thank you so much for tuning in to this week’s episode and we will see you again next week.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Thanks everyone.

 

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