Every week it seems a new alternative treatment for menopausal symptoms hits the shelves. Recently, the hormonal benefits of Maca powder have been all the rage. Maca is an herb/root organically grown in the Andean Mountains of Peru. It is typically sold in a powdered form and commonly available in health food stores. Dense in nutrition, vitamins and minerals, Maca powder contains approximately 60% carbohydrates, 9% fiber, and 10% protein or higher.
According to Peruvian biologist Gloria Chacon de Popivici, Ph.D., Maca alkaloids act on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and the adrenals. She has theorized that by activating these endocrine glands, Maca is able to increase energy, vitality and libido. In addition, she claims Maca improves memory and blood oxygenation.
A team of researchers at Victoria University in Australia conducted a double blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial and concluded that while Maca may reduce psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lower measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women, these effects appear independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.
According to their findings:
“No differences were seen in serum concentrations of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and sex hormone-binding globulin between baseline, Maca treatment, and placebo (P > 0.05). The Greene Climacteric Scale revealed a significant reduction in scores in the areas of psychological symptoms, including the subscales for anxiety and depression and sexual dysfunction after Maca consumption compared with both baseline and placebo (P < 0.05). These findings did not correlate with androgenic or alpha-estrogenic activity present in the Maca as no physiologically significant activity was observed in yeast-based assays employing up to 4 mg/mL Maca extract (equivalent to 200 mg/mL Maca).”
Whether you believe claims that Maca can correct hormone imbalances, or you are simply looking for an all natural supplement that will address your menopausal symptoms, Maca is a nutritious super food that may bring some relief. I’ve begun adding a tablespoon to my morning green smoothies. It adds a nice flavor and has the added benefit of being a great emulsifier. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Searching the internet, however, there are reports of side-effects from Maca (here and here), especially at a high dosage (1500-3000 mg/day). Before beginning any new supplement regime, consult your physician.
Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62. “Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content.” School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Victoria University, St. Albans, Victoria, Australia.
Carter, Ronald, M.D.”Clinical Effects of a Proprietary, Standardized, Concentrated, Organic Lepidium Peruvianum Formulation (Maca-GO®) as an Alternative to HRT”