Maca Discover How This New Phytonutrient Can Ease Menopausal Symptoms

by Amy Nancarrow Excerpted from Nature & Health , December 1999/January 2000

Rather than hormone replacement therapy (HRT) millions of women are putting their faith in a remedy which has been used for 10,000 years, which is safe and amazingly effective: a cruciferous root vegetable from Peru called maca.

Now women have an alternative to hormone replacement therapy drugs. Maca works in an entirely different and more satisfactory way for most women than phytoestrogen herbs like black cohosh and licorice root. And men too, find that maca can counteract the difficulties they may experience in maintaining good sexual relationships as they age, due to a general slowing down in the output of the endocrine glands.

Alternative to HRT

It is important to remember that maca does not itself contain any hormones, but its action on the body jogs the pituitary into producing the precursor hormones which ultimately end up raising oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels, as well as helping to balance the adrenal glands, the thyroid and the pancreas. But this occurs naturally, not with time-bomb drugs which throw the entire body into a dangerous state of confusion.
Dr Jorge Malaspina, a respected cardiologist, has been using maca in his practice in Lima, Peru, for over a decade. He says, “Maca does not cause the ovaries in women to atrophy, as conventional hormone replacement therapy does.” This means that maca may be discontinued at any time without danger.

He adds, “Different medicinal plants work on the ovaries by stimulating them. With maca, though, we should say that it ‘regulates’ the ovarian function, as well as the organs of internal secretion, such as the pituitary, the adrenal glands, and the pancreas. He has also found maca to be effective even on women who have undergone complete hysterectomies. He describes one patient who had a serum oestradiol level of 15, which is very low. After two months on maca it went up to 75. He says that a level above 60 is an adequate postmenopausal level. “Maca enables the adrenals to make sufficient hormones to avoid symptoms,” he says.

Dr Malaspina adamantly prefers maca therapy to HRT. “The presence of outside hormones circulating in the system sends a message to the pituitary and the hypothalamus that there is a sufficient quantity of hormones in the body and so they stop producing them. When menopause arrives, then, the ovaries are atrophied and do not produce the oestrogen and progesterone which the body requires minimally to function.

For this reason I encourage women to start with maca before menopause. It seems to help the endocrine system to stay in balance.”

‘Natural Viagra’

Doctors also have good news for men who are suffering age-related sexual dysfunction. They can forget expensive, possibly dangerous Viagra. Maca works extremely well, and safely.

Dr Jorge Aguila Calderon, Dean of the Faculty of Human Medicine at the National University of Federico Villareal in Lima, prescribes maca for a wide variety of conditions, including osteoporosis and the healing of bone fractures in the very elderly. He says, “Maca has a lot of easily-absorbable calcium in it, plus magnesium, and a fair amount of silica, which we are finding very useful in treating decalcification of bones in children and adults.”

Dr Calderon has also helped patients overcome male impotence, male sterility, and female sterility by employing maca therapy. Additional problems he treats with maca are rickets, various forms of anaemia, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, climacteric and erectile difficulties in men, premature ageing, and general states of weakness, such as chronic fatigue.

Another health professional using maca is Dr Garry F. Gordon, President of the International College of Advanced Longevity Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. He said: “Using maca myself, I experienced a significant improvement in erectile tissue response. I call it ‘nature’s answer to Viagra’.

“What I see in maca is a means of normalising our steroid hormones like testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen. Therefore, it has the facility to forestall the hormonal changes of ageing. It acts on men to restore them to healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido. Lots of men and women who previously believed their sexual problems were psychological, are now clearly going to look for something physiological to improve quality of life in the area of sexuality.

Of course, as someone interested in longevity, I’m aware that mortality comes on much sooner for those individuals whose sexual activity is diminished or nonexistent. I believe that people who engage in sex twice a week, or more, live longer. I’ve found sexual activity to be a reliable marker for overall ageing.”

Maca at a Glance

What it is

Maca is a dehydrated, cruciferous root vegetable and not a drug, so it is imported without any problems. It is a benign, medicinal food which has been in use for 10,000 years, possibly more, and has had ample time to be judged effective. It is also easily affordable, costing less than $12 per month.

What’s in it

Proteins, as polypeptides, make up 11 per cent of the dry maca root; calcium makes up 10 per cent and magnesium and potassium are present in significant amounts. Other minerals include iron, silica and traces of iodine, manganese, zinc, copper and sodium. Vitamins in maca are thiamine, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. The amino acid proteins in maca include aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, histidine, glycine, threolline, cystine, alanine, arginine, tyrosins, valine, methionine, isoleucine, lysine, hoproline and sarcosine.

Benefits

According to doctors in Peru and the USA, maca may be of benefit for:

  • Menopausal symptoms: Hot flashes, tender breasts, sleeplessness and emotional upsets, “brain fog”, vaginal dryness
  • Osteoporosis: Significant bone rebuilding, improvement in bone density
  • Energy booster: Balances the endocrine system: thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands
  • Male impotence
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Period problems: Pain, PMS, flooding and/or scant flow

Prominent health professional, Grant Woolven, says about this natural remedy:

“Maca could be called a ‘miracle of nature’ because it has such remarkable effects on the body and mind. Because it is a food, as opposed to a medicinal herb, it can be taken every day without any negative side effects. From an Ayurvedic viewpoint, it effectively strengthens the nervous system and brain, via its effect on the kidney energy. It regulates the liver energy, resulting in a harmonising of all endocrine functions, especially the ovaries, testes and pituitary glands. Because of these effects it is excellent for catalysing emotional stability and a deep sense of psychophysical wellbeing and integration. It is no wonder some people call it the ‘happiness herb’.

“Because it is ‘vata-reducing’ it is excellent for people who are rundown, depleted, undernourished or emaciated. It is a ‘rebuilding tonic’ with the added benefit of being warming energetically, which facilitates the digestive fire (agni) and good circulation. Although it is excellent for those people with endocrine imbalances, it is also excellent, when combined with rosehips, for the rejuvenation of tissue and immunity in any person at any age.”

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