PERUVIAN MACA: Hormonal Balance from within
A long-lost herb rejuvenates the endocrine system,
freeing women from dependence on hormones
By Elora Gabriel
The importance of hormones to our health and well-being cannot be overstated. Researchers of the aging process have repeatedly stated that it is caused, in large part, by the drop in all major hormones. Conversely, supplementing with natural, non-toxic forms of hormones can slow or even reverse some aspects of the aging process. However, obtaining everything we need in the correct amounts can be a complex balancing act. Many women end up taking estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, pregnenolone, and DHEA, in an attempt to replicate a youthful hormonal balance. And taking these substances can signal the master glands of the body, the hypothalamus and pituitary, to produce less hormones internally.
But what if there were a way to restimulate the entire endocrine system, starting with the master glands and proceeding to affect all the other major endocrine glands? What if those glands could be rejuvenated, as nature intended, so that we could produce adequate amounts of our own hormones once again? According to prominent researchers, there is a way to accomplish this seemingly impossible goal. By taking a product called Peruvian Maca, most women can release their dependence upon taking hormones.
Maca is a turnip-like root which grows at a high elevation in the Andes mountains. Prized by the Incas and later by the Spaniards, Maca is now emerging from obscurity and near-extinction to take its place among the most valuable herbs known to mankind. It contains large amounts of calcium and potassium, as well as iron, silica, and many trace minerals. For this reason it is used in Peru and elsewhere to treat and to prevent osteoporosis.
Most striking, however, is the fact that the maca root contains natural substances which stimulate the pituitary and hypothalamus. These glands in turn trigger the ovaries, adrenals, testes, thyroid, and pancreas to return to healthy functioning, thus producing normal amounts of hormones. This has been demonstrated with the sex hormones through the use of saliva hormone assays. In addition, a number of people taking thyroid medication have also found that they can cut down or stop taking thyroid hormone. Maca is also described as having “powerful energizing and fertility effects”. It can help couples who are trying to conceive a child, as it affects fertility in both sexes, often increasing sperm count in a matter of days.
Maca is used and endorsed by prominent doctors such as Gabriel Cousens and Burton Goldberg. It is being prescribed by a number of doctors to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, adrenal exhaustion, and to restore energy and vigor to the elderly. Maca is sometimes described as an aphrodisiac for both men and women, undoubtedly because of its effect on testosterone levels. Several prominent medical doctors, including Dr. Burton Goldberg, have publicly stated that it greatly improved their sexual functioning. Also, the LA Dodgers use maca to increase their endurance and muscle mass.
An impressive article about maca, by Dr. Morton Walker, appeared in the Townsend Letter for Doctors in November 1998. Dr. Walker interviewed Dr. Viana Muller (an anthropologist who has studied the use of maca extensively) as well as several Peruvian doctors and scientists, to produce a fascinating and well-researched document on maca and its uses. Copies of Dr. Walker’s article may be obtained by sending an SASE to Tides of Life, 91-A Deer Run Rd, Black Mountain, NC 28711. I will continue by summarizing information obtained from Dr. Walker’s research as well as from extensive conversations with Dr. Muller.
No one product is effective for all women, but in most cases, maca works very well. Nurse practitioner Stephanie Smith says that 95% of the women in her practice have been successful in using maca under her guidance. Dr. Muller says that she would describe the figure as “at least 90%”. Women who have had complete hysterectomies usually have a more difficult time in using only maca to supply their hormonal needs, but in many cases this is still possible. Hugo Malaspina, MD, a respected doctor from Lima, describes the case of a patient who had her ovaries removed. The woman was taking HRT but still did not feel well. When examined, she had a very low estrogen level despite the hormone replacement therapy. Two months after she began taking maca, the patient was re-tested and showed adequate estrogen levels. “Maca enabled the adrenals to make sufficient hormones to avoid symptoms,” commented Dr. Mala-spina.
Thriving only in the high altitudes of Peru, the maca root is harvested, dried and powdered, then taken orally in either powder or capsule form. New World Botanicals, owned by Dr. Muller, produces an organically grown and processed version of maca, called Royal MacaTM. The active ingredients in maca are not phyto-estrogens, nor are they hormone-like substances such as are found in wild yam. Instead, they are naturally occurring alkaloids. Dr. Gloria Chacon, a biologist from Peru, states that the alkaloids in maca act “on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which explains why . . . the effects in humans are not limited to [the] 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.”
Maca is beneficial for all women from peri-menopause, through the ‘change’, and beyond. It is recommended for the peri-menopausal woman for two reasons. First, it will usually relieve the symptoms of peri-menopause because it has a balancing effect on the hormones. For example, if you are estrogen dominant, maca will increase progesterone levels so that your hormones will come into balance with each other. Secondly, taking maca from peri-menopause on will help to keep your endocrine system toned and healthy, making it likely that you’ll sail through menopause.
Menopausal women will find maca a safe and completely drug-free alternative to using hormones. Women who have been using estrogen and progesterone of any sort will need to make a gradual transition to using maca. This may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months and is done gradually so that the body naturally adjusts to producing its own hormones. Usually, women also find that they no longer need to supplement with other hormones such as pregnenolone or DHEA.
Post-menopausal women who are not currently using hormones will also benefit from maca. Not only will maca help to increase hormones to healthy post-menopausal levels, but it will assist in preventing osteoporosis. In Peru, maca is prescribed by several prominent doctors for osteoporosis and the healing of bone fractures. Stephanie Smith, RN, says that “One patient who has been taking maca for more than a year had a series of bone-density studies done that showed increased density in the spine.” Osteoporosis is a serious and potentially dangerous condition. Taking a small amount of Peruvian Maca daily is an inexpensive and effective way to support bone health.
Maca can also help with chronic fatigue syndrome and general fatigue brought on by aging. It is being prescribed for people with CFS and in many cases it does help, because it raises DHEA and cortisol levels. Most people with CFS have adrenal fatigue, and maca is very effective for rebuilding exhausted adrenal glands. This will take time, if the adrenals are very low, although in some cases noticeable increases in energy can occur within a couple of weeks. Maca is also prescribed by doctors to increase vigor in the elderly.
In addition to balancing hormones, maca can work on a gradual, continuous basis to improve allover health. Maca is known as an “adap-togen” which means that it works in harmony with the body, regardless of age or sex.
In a conversation with Viana Muller, we discussed her belief that somewhere on the planet, there is an herb or plant to meet every need of the human body. Maca, coming from the rarefied airs of Peru, is the royal road to endocrine health and hormonal balance. The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.
Elora Gabriel is a writer and researcher who has published numerous articles on women’s health, both nationally and internationally. She currently resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. For further information, she may be contacted through Tides of Life, 91-A Deer Run Road, Black Mountain, NC 28711; (828) 669-2515; or at www.naturalhormones.com .
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