Today’s society is a perfect recipe for sapped strength and vitality.
The frantic pace of life that we’re obligated to maintain ensures that our bodies are constantly on high alert. This means that our systems are routinely flooded with stress hormones like cortisol, which taxes the adrenals, weakens the immune system, and riddles the body with inflammation.
The situation becomes even more dire when environmental toxins are added to the mix. We’re swimming in a veritable sea of industrial poisons, endocrine disruptors, estrogenic chemicals, and all sorts of other nasty substances that cause massive oxidative stress and throw your hormones out of whack.
No wonder most of us are tired, struggling to regain clarity and vitality, and always within arm’s reach of a cup of coffee (which, by the way, only perpetuates the cycle by further taxing the nervous system).
What the body needs is not more stimulation, but rather the ability to cope with all types of stress more effectively. Enter adaptogenic herbs.
Adaptogens (literally “adaptation generators”) are Nature’s stress-resisting powerhouses—plants that have perfected the ability to resist and positively leverage all the stressors that its environment throws at them. They’re kind of like the Tai Chi masters of the plant world.
And when we consume these plants, they convey their intelligence to our bodies, which then may share in their stress-resisting powers.
Check out our article on some of the world’s top adaptogens, if you haven’t done so already.
In this article, we will focus on one adaptogen that’s arguably the most powerful hormone balancer of the bunch: maca root.
Maca Root: An ancient staple comes to the modern world’s rescue
Maca root has been used for thousands of years as a health tonic for gaining strength, endurance, stamina, fertility, and mental balance. The warriors of various cultures would ritually consume it before hunting, and the mountain-dwelling peoples of Peru cultivated it as a daily staple.
In recent years, this time-honored vitality elixir has regained fame in the “superfood” world. And regardless of how you feel about the trends and fads of this health niche, its reappearance couldn’t be more timely.
Our deeply stressed hormone systems are greatly in need of a natural reset—and they could stand to learn a thing or two about stress resistance, as well.
Luckily, maca has more than a few lessons to impart. Studies have shown that it balances hormone levels, lowers stress, and even acts similarly to antidepressants in some cases.
The results of this balancing act are profound (it’s easy to forget how essential the body’s hormonal system is): more energy and endurance, greater physical strength and increased muscle density, improved sexual function and libido, increased fertility, lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, radiantly clear skin, and decreased incidence of all disease.
And the best part is that maca accomplishes all these wonders without adding any hormones to your body. Eating plants that contain phytohormones or undergoing hormone therapy can be helpful in some cases, but this approach can quickly lead to even greater imbalance if hormone levels aren’t carefully monitored. Furthermore, most common hormone-containing plants are estrogenic (such as soy), and the vast majority of people already have overly high estrogen levels.
Maca contains plant sterols that work adaptogenically. Instead of simply flooding the body with a specific hormone, they intelligently target whatever hormone is out of balance—they work with your individual biochemistry, and over time, they teach your body how to work this balancing magic on its own. According to researchers, this impressive targeting of hormones occurs because maca directly nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, the “master glands” that regulate all of the body’s other hormone-producing glands.
As an added bonus, maca root is also fantastically nutrient-dense. It’s packed with every essential amino acid, energy vitamins like B12, and bioavailable forms of calcium and magnesium (in the perfect ratio that your body needs).
Maca truly is Nature’s master-crafted antidote to modern-day stress and hormone imbalance. If you haven’t made it a part of your life yet, it’s high time you gave it a try.
The best way to use maca
Thanks to the superfood world, maca is relatively easy to find these days. Just remember that not all products are created equal, and quality can vary widely.
For starters, always use raw maca—doing so ensures that you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and sterols that this incredible root has to offer (many of these nutrients can be destroyed when maca root is heated, processed, or even stored for long periods of time at fluctuating temperatures). And if a company goes through the trouble of offering truly raw maca, chances are that their product is also higher quality.
Maca has a lovely, nutty taste (it’s very subtle, unlike some other superfoods), so powdered raw maca can be mixed straight into water, tea, or even soup. Many people like to add the powder to smoothies, as well.
If you really want to supercharge all of maca’s amazing health benefits, though, here’s the best way to go: combine maca with a vasodilator (for increased absorption), antioxidants (for powerful energizing and immune-boosting effects), natural anti-inflammatories, high-quality proteins (for even greater strength, endurance, and vitality), and nutrient-dense greens (to support the body with essential phytonutrients).