What is maca?

Maca, alternatively known as maca maca, is a root vegetable native to the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru.

Though still considered by the USDA to be a member of the species Lepidium meyenii, the variety most recognized today is more commonly referred to as Lepidium peruvianum by scientists.

Maca has been considered an important traditional food and medicinal plant in its native growing region for approximately 2000 years, and due to its high concentration of minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids, it’s easy to see why.

The benefits of maca root are similar to the ginseng family. And even though not related, it’s due to this similarity that maca has been dubbed Peruvian ginseng.

In the West, however, maca root is enjoying quite a bit of notoriety of late due to its purported use as an aphrodidisiac. No surprise there. But I think what’s far more important is its use as an adaptogen.

What exactly is an adaptogen?

An adaptogen is a nontoxic substance that enhances the body’s natural resistance to environmental stressors, thereby improving our ability to adapt to all kinds of stress.

Adaptogens function by normalizing and balancing the body’s systems, especially the endocrine and immune systems.

What I find most amazing about these substances is their ability to calm systems that are running too hot, while at the same time strengthening systems that are not responding as well as they should. In other words, adaptogens have the ability to bring both the overactive and underactive immune or hormonal system back into a state of healthy balance.

What is gelatinized maca?

Gelatinized maca is created by removing the starch from the root via the use of heat and pressure, resulting in a more concentrated and more bioavailable product.

Is it better than powder?

It depends on who you ask, but some studies do indicate that gelatinized maca is more potent than other forms. As with most things, however, I find it’s always helpful to try a little personal experimentation. Though the risk of side effects with maca (and other adaptogens) is low, higher doses may cause insomnia, so some people may find the powdered form more appropriate.

My advice? Try both and see which works best for you.

Maca root for stress and tension

The use of maca for relief of stress and for maintaining a sense of balance in a hectic world is documented both by a growing number of studies as well as a traditional use which dates back almost 2000 years.

While not a cure-all, maca root is a remarkable adaptogen with many health benefits, and should be considered for inclusion in your personal arsenal against stress.