Feeling Energized

Vitality-promoting maca can help you realize your New Year’s resolutions.

January 2015

by Lisa James


What is it this time? Another attempt at weight loss? Or perhaps you’ve decided to get back to the gym, or to attend yoga classes, or to…

It’s your annual try at making resolutions for the new year—and not making it to the finish line. You always intend to follow through. But between work and playing family chauffeur and doing everything else in your hectic life, you run of steam by the third week in January.

Making healthy changes in life isn’t easy, especially if your personal fuel gauge is trending towards E. The good news is that there are natural substances that can help you find extra energy, in particular a Peruvian herb called maca.

Endless Exhaustion

Stress, poor diet and a lack of sleep and/or exercise can combine to knock you off balance by disturbing the hormonal interplay that coordinates all bodily functions. Both men and women are subject to fatigue caused by these factors.

In addition, women at midlife are affected by perimenopause, when levels of female hormones such as estrogen begin to fluctuate. This can lead to not only fatigue but also night sweats, memory lapses, loss of sex drive and an overall lack of vitality.

Adapting with Maca

Peru’s high plains region, called the altiplano, confronts its residents with physical stressors such as reduced oxygen and cold temperatures. So it is not surprising that they grow a tuberous plant called maca (Lepidium meyenii). Maca is an adaptogen, a plant that helps the body deal with stress. Traditional healers credit it with increasing energy, sex drive, mental clarity and overall well-being.

Part of maca’s healthful effects can be attributed to its rich supply of nutrients, including amino acids, calcium, fatty acids, iron and potassium. In addition, it contains “plant sterols that have the ability to strengthen your entire hormonal system,” say naturopathic physician Laurie Steelsmith and her husband Alex, authors of Great Sex, Naturally (Hay House). “It supports your adrenal glands, helps lower your stress hormone level and increases your sex drive.” The Steelsmiths add that maca’s hormonal effects make it “effective in treating menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia.”

The hormone-balancing effects of maca have been borne out by research. In 2006, one high-quality study—double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized—found that women who took maca not only saw improvements in hormone levels but also lost body mass, increased bone density and experienced greater relief of symptoms associated with menopause (International Journal of Biomedical Science). In another study, maca improved memory in an animal model of menopause (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011).

Maca’s energy-promoting capacities are bolstered by the effects of other herbs. For instance, Mexico’s damiana is used to ease anxiety and enhance libido (a usage supported by the amino acids L-arginine and L-histidine). Dong quai is used in Chinese medicine as a tonic for the female reproductive system, while ginger is a traditional remedy for cramps. Alanzeebium, an herbal blend from India’s Ayurvedic healing tradition, helps promote healthier hormonal balance. So do special fibers in flax called lignans, which may also play a role in breast cancer defense.

Looking to make good on your resolutions this year? Maca may help you find the energy you need.

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