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An adaptogen plant is a substance (food or nutritive herb), which brings the body to a heightened state of resistance to disease through physiological and emotional health. Plants known as "adaptogens" are known to raise the non-specific resistance to disease, be capable of normalizing functions in the body, be non-toxic and harmless to any organ of the body, and be safe for ingestion for long periods as a nutritive for preventative purposes.

The word 'adaptogen' was first used by the Russian scientist Dr. Nickolai Lazarev in 1947. He reported on several indigenous plants that helped increase the body's natural resistance to environmental stresses and later coined the term "adaptogens".

Lazarev was especially intrigued by a group of herbs that ancient medical traditions referred to as 'elite' or 'kingly.' In traditional Chinese medicine these herbs were classified as effective for increasing physical and mental capacity, reducing fatigue, improving resistance to disease, and promoting life extension. In China these herbs were used by soldiers directly before battle. In Siberia they were used by hunters before long and dangerous journeys. Despite countless legends, thousands of years of use by people in China , Russia , Japan , Korea and Europe , the benefits of these plants had never been scientifically studied.

In 1948 Lazarev and his protégé, Dr. Israel Brekhman, undertook the challenge of researching the utility and effectiveness of this group of plants. Lazarev named this group of supplements 'adaptogens.'

To be considered a true adaptogen, a plant must conform to the following criteria:
  1. The plant must be non - toxic and totally harmless to the body. It must allow the continuing normal physiological activity of the individual.
  2. The action it exerts must be non - specific and should maintain normal body functions despite a wide range of onslaughts to the body (i.e. stress).
  3. It should normalize body functions irrespective of existing pathological conditions. Unlike allopathic drugs which carry with them the possibility of side effects, adaptogens must benefit the body without disturbing it or doing it harm. Not many plants possess adaptogen properties. In fact it is estimated that only one in 4,000 plants is classified as an adaptogen.

Maca is one of the more powerful adaptogen plants known fulfilling all the above criteria. Maca effect on the body is two-fold. First, it nourishes the endocrine system, second, normalizes the nervous and hormonal systems in the body when they are adversely affected by stress and aging changes.

Although adaptogens generally function in the same way, and have a great many health-giving properties, they are not all the same. What makes maca so unique is the wide variety of therapeutic effects that scientists have demonstrated through their research.

As an adaptogen, maca can help balance, strengthen and support any area of the body under compromise due to stress. Stress, either mental or physical, affects the hypothalamus, causing the adrenal glands to increase the production of Cortisol (the stress hormone). As we were not designed to function under long-term stress, continued high levels of Cortisol have a detrimental effect upon our health.

Cortisol has a negative effect on numerous areas in the body including digestion, glucose and fat metabolism (causing weight gain), sleep (interferes with deep sleep known as REM sleep) and memory. Stress is known to have a negative effect on sexual function, libido, frigidity, fertility, sperm count and mobility, symptoms of menopause, andropause, PMS, etc.

When it comes to dealing with stress effectively, proper functioning of the adrenal glands maca is the best. The adrenals are among the most beleaguered glands in the endocrine system, as they must endure the brunt of our emotional health on a daily basis.

It's critical that the adrenals remain vital and healthy as they are great providers of many hormones and as they're heavily relied upon during menopause and times of stress. As an adaptogen, maca effectively tones and strengthens the adrenal glands and thus the entire body, giving us the ability to resist disease and to effectively combat stress.

Rebuilding exhausted adrenal glands will take time according to the degree of exhaustion of the adrenals. In most cases, noticeable increases in energy occur within a few weeks. maca is also recommended by doctors to increase energy and vigour in the elderly.

Other adaptogen benefits include increased energy, stamina, and libido, sexual function, immune function, mental clarity and a sense of well-being.

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