8 fertility benefits of Maca

8 fertility benefits of Maca

Maca has been known for thousands of years by the Inca’s as  a fantastic plant medicine to support fertility, balance hormones and invigorate.   Found on top of the Andes Mountains in Peru,  maca  is also planted amongst root veggies to repel pests and other pathogenic nematodes and parasites.  So what exactly is Maca? Maca is a plant and we eat the tuber, which grows underground.  This cruciferous vegetable is loaded with  fatty acids, plant sterols,  vitamins A, C, B2, B6 and niacin (B3).  It also contains minerals – calcium, magnesium (a woman’s essential), phosphorus, selenium (great for the thyroid and hormone balance), zinc (immunity and sperm health)  potassium (for electrolyte balance and heart health) and copper. Without these essential nutrients we are unable to effectively communicate & regenerate never mind procreate!

8 fertility benefits of Maca

1. Energy and adrenal stress:

Like licorice, Holy basil and ginseng, the maca root is one of the plants classified as an ‘herbal adaptogen’. This means it  stimulates hormones to help you adapt to stress and illness . Your endocrine (hormone) system is in the front line when it comes to handling the effects of stress on your body. When it is alarmed it kick starts a cascade of stress hormones including cortisol & adrenaline which affects everything including  fertility, hormone balance,  the nervous system, immunity, kidney function, metabolism, digestion and mood. Being  alarmed and working under pressure is part of life  these days but not so good during the fertility journey.  I see so many  clients display symptoms of burn out & adrenal fatigue (disturbed sleep, nightmares and  insomnia, chronic fatigue,  anxiety, depression,  digestive disturbance, weight gain and sub-fertility / infertility and sexual dysfunction)  to name but a few symptoms.

So back to maca  –  the alkaloid and polysaccharide components of the plant root support the hypothalamus/pituitary gland and reproductives.  In the past warriors would take maca root before  going into battle to boost stamina and strength.  As we generally are not going into direct battle these days we can use it as  a “pick me up”  when we need some adrenal support.  Even better, unlike caffeine maca gentle stimulates and energises but  has the plus of being able to be drunk or eaten in the evening as it doesn’t  interfere with sleep and is safe to use even during the two week wait.

So, the  natural stress relief abilities of maca help to

elevate energy levels,  increase  libido and stamina, enhance mental clarity and

help you cope with  fertility and everyday stress

 

2. Maca helps balance hormones

Due to its ability to influence the reproductive system, this great root supports hormonal balance in both men and women.  It has been shown to

Improve fertility;  Increase and improve sexual stamina  for both men and women; increase sperm count and sperm motility for men; Reduce anxiety and mood swings; boost immune system; increase energy and endurance generally; promote balance  within the body; reduce painful menstrual cramps,

Improve PMS symptoms

3. Reduce food cravings

Supper Brekkie Maca is high in fibers, such as cellulose and lignans, which improves gut health. As we already know choosing correct foods and a healthy fertility lifestyle is essential to help you achieve your dream of a baby.  Fibre is an effective tummy filler, which can reduce hunger between meals and also helps reduce constipation (food cravings during assisted conception seems to be standard and as for constipation – well I see many ladies who suffer with this due to progesterone medication during assisted conception or naturally during the second half of their cycle).  Maca powders generally contain between 11% to 18% protein.  Protein is essential to support fertility health.  Your body needs protein to build healthy cells, muscles, edometrium, sperm, support ovarian function plus supports cell division of a fertilised egg,  Nine amino acids are considered ‘essential’, to your health and the optimal function of your body. Maca contains 7 of them and many others that are non-essential. According to the ‘protein leverage theory’, your body keeps signaling you to keep eating until you eat enough protein. When it registers it has enough, your brain switches off your hunger pangs. So as a high protein food maca can help you  feel full PLUS stop that “sweet craving” as well!. Recipe for this super brekkie is below!

By the way, don’t forget

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 4. Fertility superfood!

Maca is a  fertility superfood and safe during the TTW.  Whilst  the mechanisms are unclear as of yet, maca has been shown to reduce erectile dysfunction, increase sperm count, and increase sex drive. The reason for maca’s strong influence on improving fertility is it’s amazing effect on the hormones and the pituitary gland, including its stress relieving properties . In the Peruvian Andes the native people and animals traditionally used maca to enhance fertility

5. Libido Stimulation

Maca has been used for centuries in Peru to boost libido and virility. Though its aphrodisiac affects are not fully scientifically understood yet  we understand that it has an ability to stimulate sexual sensation and desire. Some consider its libido lift is caused by maca’s unique long chain fatty acids  which have yet not been found in any other plant. They have been shown to increase sexual activity and correct erectile dysfunction in animals. And they are similar in structure to endocannabinoids, chemicals that stimulate hedonistic hotspots in our brain, triggering pleasure. Best to read my date nights article!

Embrace picture by Andrea Barbieri

6. Liver and Enzyme Support

Optimising liver function is absolutely essential to boost fertility and help women suffering from oestrogen health conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, a short of long luteal phase, recurrent miscarriage  and much more.   Maca is a cruciferous vegetable which means it contains glucosinolates. In nature, glucosinolates are stored in cells of plants and act as natural pesticides to protect the plant. When  we digest maca the  glucosinolate properties  change   into health-boosting chemicals.  Sulfur (also found in garlic and onions) helps your body produce a master antioxidant called gluthionine. This is an amazing hormone boosting and detoxifying enzyme which supports liver function (essential for hormone balance and  your pre-pregnancy cleanse) plus it’s a fantastic anti-ageing enzyme.  You may also want to read my article 7 healing foods to nourish fertility cytokines

7. PMS Relief

As we have already established maca is a herbal adaptogen.  This means it can help  pre –menstrual mood madness At the start of the menstrual period, there is a very low level of oestrogen, but by mid cycle it has increased 10-fold before steeply plummeting again.  For some women this  hormonal rise and fall  causes  MOOD SWINGS, FLUID RETENTION, BREAST TENDERNESS. 

8. Skin

Hormonal imbalances can adversely affect skin health including production, hair growth, sensitivity to light, hydration, and even oiliness resulting in acne. Changes in hormones levels often are reflected in skin health  (we see this during puberty, the menstrual cycle, PCOS, acne rosacea, menopause and during pregnancy) but regular maca  supplementation through diet seems to help stabilize these hormonal changes and many of my cliens has reported noticeable skin improvements.

 

How to  use Maca

Though we usually consider maca as creamy/yellow in colour there are 13 different  types of maca with varying colours.

Research has established some of  the individual health benefits of different maca colours and so far this is what has been established:

Yellow:  shown to help protect against UV radiation from the sun when applied directly to the skin in a liquid form

Red maca appears to be good for bone strength.

Black: has been shown to promote bone strength and improved brain function, such as memory and cognition. In men, it can help increase sperm count and reduce issues like enlarged prostate in men.

Purchase high quality Peruvian maca powder online or in health food stores.  Some is raw and some has been gelatinised.  This is a  process breaking down the starch in maca.  Just for you information traditionally it is always cooked before eating which removes the starches and fibres that make it hard for some people to digest.

Don’t over dose: If you start a dose that’s too high it could make your symptoms worse so I would recommend you start with half dose. Begin with half a teaspoon of maca  daily for one week.  Then  take a week off. The following week take 1 teaspoon per day for a week – then a week off. MACA is powerful and dosage will vary dependent on YOU!

Take with food.

If you are on the FODMAP or Hunter/Gatherer/Paleo aka Caveman  diet : Maca contains carbohydrates called polysaccharides, you might not want to take maca  or only  take a low dos.

Remember – we are all individual.  Everyone reacts differently to nutritional supplements. If you experience side effects  which don’t settle after a few days from maca then your particular system may be too sensitive to tolerate it.  For some women maca  may stimulate the body to produce more oestrogen.  If you suffer with  oestrogen-sensitive conditions such as oestrogen receptor positive breast, ovarian or uterine cancers, endometriosis or uterine fibroids  or if you know you are oestrogen dominant use maca with caution!  (I recommend using functional lab tests ). 

Some women find that maca causes unpleasant side effects including stomach bloating, cramps, nausea (or a gurgling tummy) and also heart palpitations or the jitters. These side effects may occur partly because they  are using raw maca which is non gelatanized.

 

Maca Recipes:

I suggest you add a teaspoon to smoothies, yoghurt, porridge or as an ingredient within your protein bars or fertility truffles.

Maca Smoothie

  • ¼ cup frozen berries
  • ½ frozen or fresh banana
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa content) or raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp maca powder
  • 2 cubes of frozen wheatgrass or frozen coconut oil (optional)
  • 1 cup of milk (unsweetened oat, hemp, cashew, almond or coconut milk, or cow/goat/sheep milk)

Directions: Add all ingredients to blender and blend until perfectly smooth then drink  immediately.

 

Nourishing Maca  Drink (enough for 1 mug.  I love this after a brisk cold walk or relaxing after yoga)

1 mug of milk – I use cashew because I love the creaminess but you could use coconut, almond, oat, hazlenut or whatever you fancy. I am not a fan of dairy milk but please choose whatever rocks your boat

¼ to half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder

½ tsp ground or freshly  grated nutmeg (you could add this at the end of top to make it look special and because nutmeg smells so divine!)

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp – 1 dessertspoon  maca powder

half a teaspoon organic  coconut oil

Squidge of maple syrup or  raw local honey

small pinch of black pepper (optional but helps turmeric synergy)

Instructions

Place the milk, maca powder, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg to a small blender and process on high speed to combine.  Transfer to a saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently. Heat until hot but not boiling. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir to combine.  I like  to vary the strength of the flavours dependent on my mood.  Please feel free because every time I make it it tastes different!.  Please note that extra spices will settle to the bottom of your cup. If you prefer a smooth tea without the remaining undissolved spices you can filter the tea through a small mesh strainer prior to serving.

Supper BrekkieMaca  SuperBrekkie 

1 sachet chia seeds

1 dessertspoon maca powder

200 ml fresh kefir

Handful blueberries or any fruit

Place  handful blueberries in a glass.  Pour half the kefir  into the glass then add a maca layer.  Pour the remaining kefir on top.  Finally layer the chia seeds on top.  Leave to soak in the fridge for a short while and then gently mix together and eat with a spoon.

 

Justine Evans ND is a Hormone Alchemist, Fertility Expert and fertility doula. She is a degree qualified nutritional therapist and registered naturopath (ND). Passionate about female health and fertility, Justine integrates a mind/body approach to women’s health but integrates functional medicine . Justine is the founder of Creation Fertility and it’s products.  Justine can be contacted on 07747 133170

Disclaimer: This article has been written as personal opinion and guidance only and should not be construed as medical advice.  I am not a medical doctor.

 

Sources for this Article Include:

1.     Gustavo F Gonzales, Vanessa Vasquez, Daniella Rodriguez, Carmen Maldonado, Juliet Mormontoy, Jimmy Portella, Monica Pajuelo, León Villegas, Manuel Gasco. Effect of two different extracts of red maca in male rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia. Asian J Androl. 2007 Mar;9(2):245-51.

3.     Mark J S Miller, Salahuddin Ahmed, Paul Bobrowski, Tariq M Haqqi. The chrondoprotective actions of a natural product are associated with the activation of IGF-1 production by human chondrocytes despite the presence of IL-1beta. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 Apr 7;6:13.

4.     Julio Rubio, Maria Caldas, Sonia Dávila, Manuel Gasco, Gustavo F Gonzales. Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 Jun 23;6:23.

5.      Rostislav Vecera, Jan Orolin, Nina Skottová, Ludmila Kazdová, Olena Oliyarnik, Jitka Ulrichová, Vilím Simánek. The influence of maca (Lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2007 Jun;62(2):59-63. PMID

6.     9. G F Gonzales, A Córdova, K Vega, A Chung, A Villena, C Góñez, S Castillo. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002 Dec;34(6):367-72.

7.     10. Christina M Dording, Lauren Fisher, George Papakostas, Amy Farabaugh, Shamsah Sonawalla, Maurizio Fava, David Mischoulon. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall; 14(3):182-91.

8.      Marc Sklar: Is Maca Good to Get Pregnant?