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In Peru , where it is grown, maca is consumed as a food. Once placed on the endangered plant list, it is now grown on thousands of acres as a commercial product. The maca root is dried and ground, then used to make everything from soups to alcoholic beverages. The leaves are normally brewed for tea.

Maca has been used by Peruvian consumers for many centuries, since before the time of the Incas. The Incas found maca so potent that they restricted its use to their royalty's court. Upon overrunning the Inca people, conquering Spaniards became aware of this plant's value and collected tribute in maca roots for export to Spain . Maca was used as an energy enhancer, increasing male potency or improving other hormonal functions.

Aguila Calderon , MD , the former dean of the Faculty of Human Medicine at the National University of Federico Villarreal in Lima uses maca for male impotence, erectile dysfunction, menopausal symptoms and general fatigue, and claims good results. Arizona physician Gary F. Gordon, MD, former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, is also a maca supporter. He calls it "nature's Viagra".

The supposed mechanism of action is by normalizing steroid hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. It acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido. Maca may boost desire but does not share Viagra's erection-enhancing properties.

Peruvian medical doctors say that maca root works in a fundamentally different way than HRT, promoting optimal functioning of the hypothalamus and the pituitary, thereby improving the functioning of all the endocrine glands.

They isolated four alkaloids from the maca root and carried out animal studies with male and female rats given either powdered maca root or the alkaloids. Females receiving either root powder or alkaloids showed multiple egg follicle maturation, while in males, significantly higher sperm production and motility rates were noted than in control groups.

They established that it was the alkaloids in the maca root, not its plant hormones, that produced fertility effects on the ovaries and testes of the rats. "These effects are measurable within 72 hours of dosing the animals," they said. They deduced that the alkaloids were acting on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which explains why both male and female rats were affected in a gender-appropriate manner. This also explains why the effects in humans are not limited to ovaries and testes, but also act on the adrenals, giving a feeling of greater energy and vitality, and on the pancreas and thyroid as well.

Implications of the discovery of the pituitary-stimulating effects of maca are enormous. What it means is that hormone replacement therapy - even the natural varieties - will no longer be the gold standard for optimizing health from a holistic point of view.

Scientist Gustavo Gonzales of Peru 's Cayetano Heredia University , who led what the scientists say is the world's first study into maca's effect on humans, told a news conference the three-month trial involving 12 volunteer men pointed to an 180-200% lift in libido and up to a doubling of sperm production. Maca produced an increase in sex drive within two weeks. The study, funded by Peruvian pharmaceuticals company Hersil, also found maca reduced blood pressure and had no adverse effect on the heart.

Recommended intake of Maca should be between 3,000-5,000mg per day of maca (approximately 1-2 teaspoons), but one can certainly take more. The more maca or maca extract that is consumed, the more the likely benefit. Toxicity studies conducted on maca in the U.S. showed absolutely no toxicity or adverse pharmacologic effects. In animal studies, the more maca animals consume, the stronger and more sexually active they become.

Today many doctors recommend maca root for the treatment of various illnesses.

Jorge Aguila Calderon , MD and 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.

Hugo Malaspina , MD , Works with Maca. Now practising complementary medicine with an emphasis on the use of medicinal herbs, one of the modern pioneers in the therapeutic use of this ancient herb for an urban population is Hugo Malaspina, MD, a respected cardiologist in Lima . Dr Malaspina has been using the maca root in his practice for a decade and makes the following observation: "There are different medicinal plants that work on the ovaries stimulating them. With maca, though, we should say that it regulates the ovarian function." Dr Malaspina, who uses maca therapy for both his male and female patients, recalls that he first heard about this extraordinary herb through a group of elderly gentlemen who, while well along in years were still lively and interested in enjoying sexual activities. "One of this group (they were all over 70) started taking maca and found he was able to perform satisfactorily in a sexual relationship with a lady friend. Soon everyone in the group began drinking the powdered maca as a beverage and enjoying the boos that the root was giving their hormonal functions. " I have several of these men as my patients and their improvement prompted me to find out more about maca and begin recommending it to my other patients", Dr. Malaspina stated. What makes maca so effective, according to Dr. Malaspina, is that rather than introducing hormones from outside the body, maca encourages the ovaries and other glands to produce the needed hormones. The cardiologist said, "Maca regulates the organs of internal secretion, such as the pituitary, the adrenal glands, the pancreas, etc. I have perhaps 200 female patients whose pre - menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms are alleviated by taking maca."

Gabriel Cousens , MD , uses Maca. Physicians in the United States believe this herb has the potential of a balanced answer to the effects of aging on the endocrine system. Many who have tried phytoestrogens and/or precursor hormones such as DHEA or pregnenelone, or even natural hormone replacement therapy and have been dissatisfied, are getting excellent results from their use of maca root. Gabriel Cousens, MD, practicing internal medicine in Arkansas , says: "Whenever possible, I prefer to use maca therapy rather than hormone replacement therapy because HRT actually ages the body by diminishing the hormone-producing capability of the glands. Maca has proven to be very effective with menopausal patients in eliminating hot flashes and depression and in increasing energy levels. To find the right dosage level, sometimes I started the patient on maca treatment with a half a teaspoon of powder or three capsules a day. In some cases I have raised the dosage to a teaspoon or six capsules a day for full effectiveness."

Henry Campanile , MD , offers Adrenal Balancing Maca root. In keeping with its mode of acting through the hypothalamus and pituitary, maca has a balancing and nourishing effect on the adrenal glands. Henry Campanile, MD, a 50-year old specialist in internal and family/complementary medicine practising in Florida states: "I happen to have been born with only one adrenal gland just like my father. I started taking cortisone in my late twenties to relieve the fatigue which I was already feeling. Knowing the dangers of long term cortisone use, I looked around for an alternative, and this circumstance is what got me interested in complementary medicine. I started using pregnenelone about 10 years ago and it has been fairly satisfactory. But one of my patients told me about Maca and I started taking it about a month ago.

It is phenomenal! I haven't felt this good since I was 20 years old. I have so much energy and look so well, my patients have remarked on it and told me how rested I seem. I've got so much energy now, that I've started an exercise program". After trying it on himself, Dr Campanile began using maca with his patients. My first patient to take maca capsules was experiencing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. She started feeling much better after using this herb for only four days. I'm also employing it with patients who have a low adrenal function."

Harold Clark, MD , makes Maca a Key Treatment. Another American doctor who has recently begun to use maca therapeutically for some patients is Harold Clark, MD, of New Rochelle , New York . Dr Clark, who utilizes chelation therapy and ozone therapy in addition to herbs, b vitamins and minerals in his practice stated, "I'm amazed at how fast maca worked on two patients that I have been concerned about for some time." He described one patient as 55 year-old Mary T., a postmenopausal woman. Mary T was possessed of numerous sugar, hypertension, atrial fibrillation and hypomagnesaemia. She had been acutely ill for two months with osteomyelitis and generalised sepsis. Unable to work, she was suffering from great fatigue and depression and feeling "worse and worse" over the last five years. "Within just four days of taking the maca capsules, Mary T. went through an enormous turnaround," said Dr. Clark. "She has gone out to shop in the stores; she's cleaned her house; she feels strong and vigorous; and her depression is gone."

Garry P. Gordon, MD , uses Maca as an Anti-Aging Herb for both Men and Women. Dr Gordon, former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, now Founder and President of the International College of Advanced Longevity Medicine, located in Chicago , Illinois , bases his appreciation of maca on his own experience with it. Dr Gordon says: "We all hear rumours about various products like maca. But using this Peruvian root myself, I personally experienced a significant improvement in erectile tissue. I call it "nature's answer to Viagra." "What I see in maca is a means of normalizing our steroid hormones, like testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Therefore it has the capability to forestall hormonal changes of ageing," Dr Gordon believes. "It acts on men to restore them to a 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", says Dr Gordon. "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 non existent. In other words, 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."

Burton Goldberg MD , President of Future Medicine Publishing in Tiburon , California , whose latest book, An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to cancer, is another enthusiast of maca. He says that when he tried maca he was very pleased with the results and began taking it regularly. "I'm a 72-year old man and this maca has taken 25 years off my ageing sex life", "That's pretty important to me!, declares Dr Burton Goldberg.


On Our Way to Balanced Health

By Carmen Mattes, MH
This article appeared in Vista Magazine, issue 35, July/August 2004.
“Although Maca (also called Peruvian Ginseng) was once a well kept South American secret, today the plant has aroused the interests of baby boomers and scientists alike. Maca's aphrodisiac-like properties have made it a highly desirable and sought-after plant, and studies show that maca has earned its reputation as a "rekindler of the lost fires of passion" honestly.
Indigenous to the Andean mountain plateaus of Peru , this turnip-like tuber packs quite a punch, featuring an impressive array of phytonutrients, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Grown at an elevation of up to 14,000 feet (where no other crop will survive), maca's ability to endure extreme weather conditions, from scorching sun to heavy frosts, is unequalled in the plant kingdom.
For centuries, native Peruvians have known of maca's nutritive and healing powers, along with its ability to increase energy and stamina, enhance fertility, and promote healthy sexual function. Wise Peruvians have used maca extensively as both medicine and food for thousands of years.

Maca Rejuvenates the Endocrine System

The most exciting news about maca is that it strengthens and balances the endocrine system of both sexes in the appropriate gender-specific manner. Its action focuses on the hypothalamus/pituitary axis, which, in turn, governs the intricate and very delicate hormonal system of the body.
Not only can the reproductive system be reenergized by maca, other important glands of the endocrine system also benefit from its use. Maca has a positive effect on the thyroid, parathyroid, the pancreas and the adrenal glands. Each gland, in and of itself, becomes balanced and stronger as it reaps the benefits of excellent glandular nutrition. With the supplemental aid of maca, symptoms such as impotence, infertility, frigidity, PMS, and menopausal hot flashes can all be corrected in a safe, natural, and affordable way.
The human hormonal system is extremely vulnerable and easily offset. Judging from the widespread popularity of Viagra and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatments, it is apparent that this delicate system of ours is suffering like never before. Luckily, maca acts as an excellent counterbalance in the recovery of good hormonal health for both women and men.
Stress and the Adrenal Glands
When it comes to dealing with stress effectively, proper functioning of the adrenal glands is paramount. 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 are heavily relied upon during menopause and times of stress. As an adaptogen, maca tones and strengthens the adrenal glands (and thus the entire body), giving us the ability to resist disease and to effectively combat stress.
Safe, Effective Alternative to HRT
Today, many health practitioners are prescribing maca as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. Using maca is a safe and effective way to alleviate symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and loss of libido), as well as a good method to help prevent osteoporosis.
Dr. Hugo Malaspina, MD, a respected cardiologist from Peru , was of the earliest modern pioneers in the therapeutic use of maca. Having successfully used maca in his practice for over a decade, the cardiologist-turned-holistic physician says, "Maca regulates the organs of internal secretion, such as the pituitary, the adrenal glands, the pancreas, etc. I have had perhaps 200 female patients whose perimenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms were alleviated by taking maca."
Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MD, a practicing physician in the United States adds, "Whenever possible, I prefer to use 'maca therapy' rather than hormone replacement therapy because HRT actually ages the body by diminishing the hormone-producing capability of these glands. Maca has proven to be very effective with menopausal patients in eliminating hot flashes and depression as well as in increasing energy levels."
Maca works differently on the body compared to estrogenic herbs (e.g., black cohosh) that are also used in treating symptoms of menopause. Instead of introducing weak phytoestrogens into the body, maca regulates and balances the entire endocrine system, strengthening and toning the reproductive glands to promote a heightened sense of wellbeing, and provides the body with higher levels of energy and vitality.
Male Menopause
Only very recently have we discovered that men have a menopause of their own, known as "andropause." Commonly affecting men between the ages of 40 and 55, andropause is characterized by a decline in testosterone or the inability to use existing testosterone.
Testosterone is a very important male sex hormone that aids in defining a man by acting as a source for masculinity, virility, and energy. When a man's testosterone levels become depleted, the results can be physically and emotionally devastating. Low levels of testosterone are responsible for an array of symptoms. Common disturbances associated with andropause include low sex drive, impotence, depression, irritability, fatigue, muscle loss, and fat accumulation.
However, there is no need to despair! While we once thought andropause was an inevitable part of growing old, we now know this to be untrue. Today, we know that we can, in fact, turn back the hands of time and restore men and women's hormonal balances to healthy states that previously seemed reserved only for the young.
Dr. Garry F. Gordon, MD, founder and President of the International College of Advanced Longevity Medicine in Chicago , IL , bases his appreciation of maca on his own experience with it. He states: "Using this Peruvian root myself, I personally 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 normalizing steroid hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. Therefore, it has facility to forestall the hormonal changes of aging." Maca is the natural answer for hormonal deficiencies!
Maca for Athletic Performance
Due to maca's high concentration of natural sterols, it's an excellent supplement for bodybuilders and athletes. Used to promote lean muscle mass, greater strength, and increased endurance, maca provides a non-toxic alternative to dangerous and illegal steroids. The head trainer of a major league u.s. baseball team reportedly ordered maca for the entire team as part of their sports nutrition program after his own energy-enhancing experience with the plant.
Anti-Aging & Other Benefits
One of the biomarkers of aging employed by anti-aging experts is the health of the hormonal system. A healthy sex drive exudes youthfulness and is, in essence, an expression of our vital life force. Maca slows the decline of an aging hormonal system, thereby preserving hormones such as DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone, which are responsible for keeping our libido intact.

Maca is also effective at treating infertility.
Animal studies conducted by Dr. Gloria Chacon, a Peruvian biologist, showed multiple egg follicle maturation in females and an increase in sperm production and motility rates in males who consumed maca. This is excellent news for couples desperately trying to conceive.
Furthermore, this super food has been successfully used to treat the symptoms of PMS, chronic fatigue, depression, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, anaemia, memory loss, and a compromised immune system.
Maca is Brimming with Nutrition One of the most appealing aspects of maca is that it is both a food and a medicine. Completely safe and highly nutritious, maca can be given to infants and even pregnant women, as well as people with chronic medical problems. The maca plant is brimming with major and trace minerals, vitamins, alkaloids, sterols, and essential fatty acids. It is high in protein, calcium, magnesium, linolenic and oleic acids, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B12, C, D, and E. In total, it contains over 60 phytonutrients and 31 trace minerals. Maca has been studied extensively for its nutritive and medicinal  properties and continues to be a plant of great interest to the scientific community.

Selecting & Using Maca
When shopping for a maca supplement, look for a brand that uses pure, certified organic maca originating from the Peruvian highlands. Make sure that only the root of the maca plant is used, as this is where the medicinal value resides. Choose gelatinized maca for greater potency and optimal absorption. Gelatinization is an extrusion process that removes the starch from the root, leaving a more concentrated powder that is easier to digest. Gelatinized maca was the form used in the first human clinical study on maca that yielded great results. Because Peru is a third world country, look for companies that employ fair trade practices with local farmers and support traditional farming and sustainable harvesting to ensure the long-term health of maca and its environment.
Maca is available in capsules, tablets, tinctures and powder. Suggested daily intake could be anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 mg daily, split into two doses. Remember, maca is a food; less than 1,500 mg daily probably won't deliver desired results. Maca root powder has a pleasant, malty, butterscotch-like flavour, perfect for smoothies.
Carmen Mattes is a Master Herbalist who has used maca personally and in her practice for over two years. She lives on Gabriola Island , BC with her husband and four young children. Their entire family takes maca on a daily basis.”
This article previously appeared in issue 27, March/April2003, of VISTA Magazine".

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