Sexual Health 101: Maca, Peru’s Natural Viagra.
Cultivated in the mountainous region of Peru in South America, the maca root is reputedly known as a sex enhancing plant dating as far back as the Incan times. The maca herb has been a staple on Peruvian diet but is now garnering much attention. Also called as the Peruvian ginseng, this herb does not resemble ginseng but purportedly has the same benefits including increasing one’s stamina, boosts energy as well as increases libido or sexual function.
To better understand the benefits and the role that the maca plant played in the Peruvian culture, we went to the source and followed the trails of the maca plant. In our investigation, we have met growers, traders and researchers and have come back with a better understanding and appreciation for the plant. Due to its benefits, the maca plant is now available as supplement and can be found in major health food stores.
Overview of the Maca Plant.
The maca plant, also known as Lepidium meyenii is a perennial plant that is cultivated and grown annually at an altitude of 11,000-14,500 feet in the central highlands of Peru. It would take about 7 to 9 months before the desired root part is harvested, dried and stored. With proper drying, the roots can last up to seven years.
In the ancient times, Incan warriors are said to have consumed maca roots prior to going to battle. It is believed that the roots would help increase the warrior’s strength and stamina and help them to conquer their enemies. After the war however, consumption of the roots is prohibited to protect the enemy’s women from the warriors as the plant is also said to increase the sexual appetite of the person who consumes the roots.
Today, the maca plant is increasing in popularity as more people discover the benefits of the plant especially when it comes to increasing libido and improving sexual function. In order to meet the demand both locally and internationally, the lands dedicated to growing this plant has been increasing yearly and several scientists have expressed interest in studying the benefits and medicinal properties of the maca roots. The maca root is popular in Peru as both sexes consume the maca plant to increase their sexual activities and put fire back to their sex lives. In western countries such as the US and Europe and Asian countries like Japan, dietary supplements containing maca powder is also garnering attention.
Nutritional Information.
What secret properties does the maca plant have that contributes to its legendary sex enhancing properties? In a 1998 research done by Dr. Zheng and his fellows showed that, the root plant contains 10% protein and 60% carbohydrates with the remaining percentage an assortment of fatty acids. These properties are common; however, they also found two compounds – macamides and macaenes, which they believe, are what contribute to the sex boosting features of the plant.
To test this discovery, they came up with a controlled animal experiment, the result of which was published in the April 2000 medical journal – Urology. The rodents who were given the two compounds showed an increase in their energy as well as stamina. Sexual activity also increased compared to that of the second group who were given a lower dosage of the two compounds. With the positive results, people who consume the root plant may also experience a spike in their sexual activities. Men who have erectile problems may also see an improvement with their sexual functionality.
Maca – A Staple in Peruvian Diet.
In Peru, the maca plant is considered as a staple in their diet and is used in a variety of ways. Maca roots are used in drinks, added as an ingredient on cakes, cookies and to soups or made into chips. The maca plant has a pleasant flavor akin to graham flour.
In a recent Annual Maca Festival held in Churin, Peru, booths containing maca blended drinks were sold. The roots are soaked first in a jar with water and added to the blended drinks, which can be made up of the maca roots, fresh fruit, milk, honey, egg and vanilla. There are several reasons why the Peruvians added the plant to their food but most of the answers that we received was to help improve their sex lives.
Doctor’s Note.
Common folks are not the only ones who are noticing the benefits of the maca plant. The plant’s roots and extracts are said to have medicinal properties and often used in Peru. In the November 1988 issue of the Townsend Letter for Doctors, Dr. Malaspina MD was quoted as saying that he has been using the root plant in his practice for almost a decade now.
The Dr. first found out about the medicinal properties of the plant from a group of sexually active older men who are using the root plant. One person in the group claimed that since taking maca tablets, his sexual performance has greatly improved. Soon thereafter, the other group members also started drinking the powdered plant and started seeing changes in their sexual activities. The improvement that the Dr. saw with these individuals, some of which are his patients, prompted him to know more and recommend the root plant to his other patients. (Dr. Hugo Malaspina, M.D., cardiologist complementary medicine, Lima Peru)
Another doctor, Dr. Calderon M.D uses the root plant to treat male impotence, general fatigue, erectile dysfunction and menopausal symptoms. (Dr. Aguila Calderon M.D, former dean of the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Federico Villarreal Lima, Peru)
Dr. Gordon, former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine has also claimed the benefits of the root plant having used it himself and experienced significant improvement with his erectile issues. He claims the plant as nature’s answer to the other popular product – Viagra.
The doctor believes that the plant helps normalize the body’s hormonal imbalance especially the testosterone, progesterone and estrogen levels and thus helps restore their libido or sexual appetite.
How Much is too Much?
The Peruvian people consume maca as part of their daily food intake. Food supplement companies that sell maca in powder form often have these in 500mg tablets. Recommended dosage can range from three capsules up to six a day.
Many people believe that herbs are like drugs and small amounts would do them well. In certain instances, this is true; however, it is different when it comes to herbs. It is quite rare for herbs to work in small dosages. That is why it is best to follow the recommended dosage.
To stay true to the Peruvian way of life, a minimum of six to ten 500mg capsule a day would give one about 3000 to 5000mg of maca. You can increase or decrease the dosage based on your liking. Some companies also sell powdered drinks so it would be easy to enjoy the benefits of the maca plant just like the Peruvians do.
In a toxicity study conducted in the US, the maca plant shows no toxicity and adverse pharmacologic effects were not observed. In an animal testing, animals that were given higher dosages of the maca were observed to increase their strength as well as become more sexually active.
Maca supplements are a safe and effective way to increase one’s sexual libido without any ill effects often caused by other drugs.
Disclaimer: As with other supplements sold in the market today, it is important to discuss your preference with your health care provider. Though herbs are naturally safe, it is essential that you consult with your physician especially if you are taking any medications or have health conditions.
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