Maca: For Menopause, Natural Energy And More!

Maca is native to the high mountains of Peru, and the dried, powdered root can be purchased in health food stores.

They’re coming every few hours today.

Energy Surges, Power Flushes – oh hell, let’s call them what they are:  Hot Flashes.

I am officially menopausal.

(Wait! Even if you’re not worried about anything remotely menopausal – read on (or at least skip ahead!).

Because this is some good stuff, and not just for those of us dealing with menopause and/or perimenopause.

As I said in the last menopause post, this all started a few years ago – just some intermittent night sweats. I’d wake up every night for a week or so. Then they’d go away for a couple of months and I’d conveniently forget about it.

(Sort of. It kind of bubbled there in the back of my mind like a witch’s cauldron. And I knew I should get on making some hormone balancing tinctures. But did I? Of course not!)

Now I’m kicking myself for not being more proactive when this was all just an inkling, a little nudge. Because suddenly I’m getting it.

So that’s what everyone was talking about.

The Joys Of Hormone Hell

It’s still mostly at night. But now instead of once or twice, I wake up every hour or two.

Panicked. With sweat springing out over my whole body, worries and fears bouncing around my head. Sheets kicked off, I lie there, waiting for the cool air from the open window to dry the sweat.

Then I’m cold. Covers back on….till the next one.

And now they’ve crept into the daytime. I usually run pretty cold, and this is a damp chilly climate. So I sit here at the computer layered up in a couple of shirts and a sweater, heater blasting behind me.

Oops! Excuse me a sec – gotta peel off the sweater and shirt and breathe a couple of moments!

Yeah, it’s like that. I need to buy one of those old fashioned hand fans for these fun little episodes.

Then, the sweat dries and I’m shivering again. Instead of hot flashes, these are almost like hot/cold flashes. Leave it to me to have a weird variation of an old standby symptom.

Of course hot flashes are just one way our bodies signal this shift into a new life phase. The other manifestations are myriad – and none of them are fun.

I kind of picture my body system as its own persona, like a little leprechaun but without the funny outfit. It’s like it’s waving at me frantically yelling, “Hello there?! Hormones are haywire here! What are you going to do about it??”

You don’t have to be 50 to experience symptoms related to changing hormones. It can start as early as your late 30s – earlier if you’ve had surgery.

Some of you are nodding. You get it.

But WTF to do about it all?

Enter Stage Left (with a big drumroll):  Maca!!

Oh Maca, Maca, Maca – where have you been all my life? How the hell did I miss out on your magic?

Okay, I’m being a little over-zealous here – considering that I’ve only been taking the stuff for a few days and I don’t yet know if it’s going to cool down those flashes, much less up my libido as promised.

But everything I’m learning about this plant (which isn’t really an herb at all, but in fact a food) is getting me all excited (almost hot and bothered, but no!)

Like – it’s been used for centuries in Peru to increase stamina and energy, stimulate sexual vitality and fertility, that it also will regulate metabolism and nourish a stressed adrenal system.

Who can’t use all of these things? (Well, I can do without the increased fertility – but I guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore.)

I’d heard about using Maca (Lepidium meyenii, or L. peruvianium) for menopausal symptoms – but I’d kind of forgotten all about this Peruvian healer – and didn’t even mention it in my list of helpful herbs in my last post.

But many of you reminded me of the nutritive healing plant in the comments, and so I hied myself down to my favorite herb store (Moonrise Herbs but of course), and picked some up – and started reading up on this panacea.

The awesome thing about Maca is that is really is a food – related to radishes and turnips – and in Peru they cook it up like turnips and eat it for dinner.

Maca doesn’t contain any hormones itself, instead it’s like food for the endocrine system, It tells your glands to produce the exact amount of hormones your body needs.

Pretty cool. This makes it totally different than other recommended herbal aids for menopause, such as black cohosh and dong quai.

Another theory is that Maca may actually act on our hormone receptors, and encourage our bodies to use hormones more effectively.

Whatever the reason – if it works to cool the intensity of these hot flashes, give me energy, restore my sadly overworked adrenals, and helps the fuzzy thinking and mood swings – well I’m all about it.

Bring it on. Frankly, I wish I’d started taking this stuff years ago.

The unique action of Maca means that it works for everyone – no matter what stage of life. In fact, some preliminary studies are showing it to increase sexual vigor in men too. (Move over Viagra!)

So – even if you’re years away from menopause (or your gender precludes you from this particular delight, or you’re done with it), if you like to feel good, I suggest you take a look at this plant panacea.

Eat It!

Since it’s actually a food, one of the best ways to get Maca into your body is as – well, a food. Lots of people love it in smoothies and protein drinks, others like to stir it into yogurt.

I’ve been mixing it into a morning protein drink and it tastes great that way, but when I tried the yogurt method – umm, not so much.  I kinda like my yogurt flavor just the way it is.

Another way to use Maca as food is to bake with it – just substitute a few tablespoons of flour with Maca powder.

In addition to cooking it up as a vegetable, Peruvians  drink Maca in a smoothie or what they call a licuado. If you travel down there you might find stands selling these Maca licuados, which they make with actual boiled Maca roots.

Can’t make it to Peru quite yet? Scroll down for some recipes for making your own Maca goodies.

I Hate The Flavor! Are There Other Ways To Take Maca?

Since the stuff is so sexy, dozens of companies have jumped on the manufacturing bandwagon, and Maca is pretty easy to find. Many people like to take the capsules – available in varying dosages – while others prefer the ease of a liquid extract.

Herb Pharm makes an excellent Maca extract, and the company’s founder Ed Smith (known as ‘Herbal Ed’) is almost single handedly responsible for Maca’s popularity in North America. He loves the stuff! Which just goes to show it’s not just for women.

Herb Pharm guarantees their products are formulated with Maca from high mountains of Peru. In fact they personally visit the growing area to approve the plant matter they purchase. That’s the stuff! In addition to the liquid extract, they sell some potent capsules – filled with ‘gelatinized’ Maca, a steam cooking process which apparently makes it even more potent.

How Much Should You Take?

The casual recommendation is about a tablespoon of the powder per day (which is what I’m going for.) An Oregon-based naturapathic physician reported good results when patients took two grams (2000 mg) per day. Most capsules out there are about 500 mg per cap.

If you’d rather use the tincture or liquid extract, expect one dropperful to be equal to about 500 mg. (Of course this will vary depending on the brand of maca you are using. If you stick with a high quality company this should fit.)

I did see some caution about taking too much (nothing really serious, just some not-so-pleasant side effects), so I wouldn’t recommend exceeding about 2500 milligrams per day.

Where To Find Maca

Check your local health food store or herb shop – but make sure they offer a high quality product. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to medicinal plants.

You can order Maca liquid extract and the bulk powder at Moonrise Herbs, or the extract and capsules directly from Herb Pharm.

The cheapest form of Maca is the bulk powder. Try these two delicious recipes to get energized and symptom-free with magical maca!

Moonrise Herbs' yummy Maca balls

Moonrise Herbs’ Maca Balls

WET INGREDIENTS:
1 Cup Honey (or agave syrup, barley malt or other sweetener)
1 1/4 Cups Peanut Butter (or any Nut Butter)

DRY INGREDIENTS:
4 oz Maca Powder
1 oz Spirulina powder
1/4 oz Cinnamon powder
2 oz Cranberries, whole
1 oz Bee Pollen

BLENDED DRY INGREDIENTS: (They use a vita mixer, but a blender will do)
2 oz Walnuts
2 oz Sunflower seeds
2 oz Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 oz Flax Seeds
2 oz. Lycii Berries

Mix all ingredients together and roll into balls then roll each one in shredded coconut. Makes 25 good-sized balls.

Big thanks to Moonrise Herbs for sharing the recipe for these yummy treats. Don’t want to purchase all the ingredients? Or maybe you’re thinking, “What? I don’t even have time to heat up a burrito, much less make Maca balls!” All is not lost! 

They will ship some of their famous Maca balls out to you ASAP (North America only though – sorry!) Although these treats aren’t listed on their web site, give Moonrise Herbs a call at (707) 822-5296 to get some of this goodness.

 

My Favorite Morning Shake

I like this protein shake for breakfast – but you could drink it any time of day – even as a snack. It’s filling, healthy, and not too carb-y. And now with the addition of Maca – it really packs a punch!

1 cup+ Cran-water* or your favorite juice
1 small piece ginger, peeled and cut into small bits
1 cup frozen berries
½ banana
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (the “good” fat – trust me!)
1 scoop whey powder (or protein powder of your choice)
Dash of cinnamon
1 Tablespoon maca powder

Throw it all in the blender and whiz it up. Makes one smoothie that will give your daily dose of Maca

*What the heck is cran-water? Make it by mixing ¼ cup unsweetened cranberry juice in 1 quart of water. Save it in the fridge to make smoothies – or just to drink! Alternatively, you could just use your favorite juice if you like a sweeter shake and don’t mind the carbs.

 

I have high hopes about Maca. I’ve got myself a big ole’ bag of the powder for making smoothies/shakes. Plus I have a backup bottle of capsules for those days that a smoothie is just not on the agenda.

There are so many other herbs I could experiment with to deal with my new hot flash-y life. But I’m going to use the “Simpler’s Method” and stick with only Maca for a full two weeks and see if I notice any improvement. Otherwise, I’ll never know what works and what doesn’t.

Whether it eliminates the flashes and sweats, only calms them – or doesn’t do a damn thing – I’ll be trying out some more herbal therapies (and other treatments). So – check back for the Maca report and for more info on goodies to minimize menopause madness!

 

What’s your take? Tried Maca and love it? Hate it? Got another remedy for hot flashes that you swear by? Do share in the comments below!

All photos by Sarah O’Leary

31 Responses to Maca: For Menopause, Natural Energy And More!

  1. Hey Sarah, let me know how the Maca works for you!

    And the hot flash-sweat-freeze process is well known to us seasoned flashers! Even in warmer climates, all that moisture on your body gets cold fast.

    I find that the old-fashioned fan works well as does sticking your head in the freezer. However, we have a bottom freezer so it does look a tiny bit funny to be down on all fours with your head in the freezer . . .

    • LOL! Love that image of your head stuck in the freezer Bobbi! Ours is a side-by-side so I’ll have to try it. Yuck – flash/sweat/freeze, yeah I guess that’s what it’s like.
      Thanks for your comment, and for getting a giggle out of me!

  2. Once again I am so impressed with your knowledge about natural healing and using food to treat our symptoms. I am not menopausal but do need a healthy pick me up. I think the smoothy sounds the best. Thanks.

    • Thanks Jane for you kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed this, and menopause or not – give that smoothie a try. It’s pretty tasty. Your body will thank you – and who knows? Maybe you’ll have a head start on the rest of us in preventing some of these crazy-making symptoms when your time comes around.

  3. Once again, Sarah, I love your writing style!

    As someone tip-toeing into perimenopause, I’ve been very interested to learn more about maca. When I went to Whole Foods and perused their peri & menopausal section, maca was everywhere. I told myself I would learn a bit more about it before investing. And there you are, with your maca article perfectly timed. 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what your results are!

    Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of information as I begin “the process.”

    • Thanks Paige. It really makes me smile when I hear compliments to the writing. I’m my own harshest judge – so thank you!

      Maca can be awesome for the perimenopausal phase – like I said I wish I’d started on it years ago. It couldn’t hurt to pick up some of the powder (not too much of an investment) and add it to some shakes or smoothies. And of course I’ll keep you posted on how it goes for me. but I do have tons of positive testimonials from women farther along this path than I…

  4. Menopause was the reason I stumbled into the world of medicinal herbs. I discovered a wide variety of herbal possibilities via Susun Weed’s book and zeroed in on a personal ally or two that supported me through the climacteric. For me, switching between dong quai (the old Traditional Medicinal’s Women’s Liberty tea dosed with dong quai tincture) and fenugreek seed tea were most potent and comforting for me. It is a period where waving a fan is not only helpful, but quite elegant as well.

    • You’re so right Linda! Got to get me one of those elegant fans! I had a beautiful sandalwood one from Bali, but it’s gotten lost in the chaos around here..

      Wow – fenugreek! That’s one I have not heard of, and so gentle and mild. I will add it to my list of remedies to try. For years you’ve been one of my most shining examples of a graceful transition to the post menopause years. Thanks for the helpful comment!

  5. I’m one to say out loud WTF did turn to OMG and the maca was a huge part of it! There some other stuff I do. I have had my blood and hormones tested and work with a natropath… But… oh yeah. Hubby happy about the maca and I am too.

    So nice to actually sleep through the night. Maybe it is one of those things that some of my women friends say makes you so much more able to appreciate life once you are through it all. The things you don’t think about become magic. Like sleep!

    • Ooh, thanks for this Jt. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the maca will make my hubby and me happy too…things have been, well a bit tense around here lately 🙂

      The constant waking reminds me of when the kids were babies, and how that seemed to last forever and then one day I realized that I was getting a full night to myself again. I can’t decide which is worse, waking every hour in a sweat – or being awoken to wails and screams throughout the night. In any event I’m looking forward to that sweet appreciation of some solid hours of sleep again!

  6. OMG you guys crack me up! I am just in the begining stages now, but I like the idea of something to add to my supplement routine that help even things out going forward.

    No time like the present to start, awesome resource!

    • You’ve got that right Lori – no time like the present. If you add in the maca now – even if you phase it in and out of your supplement routine, you’ll probably be in a better space when things REALLY start to heat up!

  7. I had heard of maca before and wanted to look further into it…So I’m glad you posted this! I’m not near menopause, but I DO have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so my hormones are outta whack. I wonder if this will help…

    Off to do more research! I’m also gonna have a look around the rest of your site – natural medicine fascinates me, I’d love to treat my PCOS without meds. If you have any post recommendations I’m all ears. 🙂

    • Kaylee, I think you would definitely feel some benefits from maca – it has so any nutritive and healing qualities for any stage of life. And, who knows? It could help with the PCOS – since it is thought to stimulate the endocrine system to produce the proper amount of hormones.

      I’m not familiar with the specifics of PCOS and natural remedies to treat it – but I know there are some. Castor oil packs come to mind.
      If you really want to go the natural way I’d suggest seeing a qualified herbalist or naturapath who could review your specific situation and make recommendations. Usually it takes a while to wean off meds, and you add in the natural remedies first and then slowly taper down on the meds, monitoring the situation as you go. Good luck, and thanks so much for the comment!

      • Thanks for the suggestions and feedback, Sarah. I appreciate you taking the time! I’ve been meaning to see a naturapath, but procrastination’s a killer, y’know… And I’ve been determined to figure it out myself. But I guess I’m better off leaving it up to a professional. Le sigh. Thanks again Sarah! 🙂

  8. Really interested to hear how you go with the MACA Sarah. I hadn’t heard of it over here in Australia. It is certainly an ‘interesting’ time isn’t it? I was describing a ‘hot flush’ (as we call them in Australia) to someone the other day and said it was like this sudden urge to strip off all your clothes it is so intense! I like the idea of the freezer!

    • Claire, I’m surprised that the Maca craze has not made it ‘down under’. As someone commented it’s all over the menopause section in U.S. health food stores these days. I’ve been taking it for a week now. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but I think I might be noticing a subtle improvement!

      LOL, so true about the need to strip down suddenly! It makes me think…maybe this hot flash thing has something to do with women our age being ready to put ourselves out there. Full exposure! (AS a metaphor of course).

  9. Very interesting article, the Maca craze hasn’t hit Ireland yet either but sounds like a dream food, must look into it. Good Luck with your heat swings

    • Thanks Ciara! I bet you could find it over there somewhere. I’m sure some of these supplement companies distribute in the UK. Alternatively, you could order it if you really want to check it out. I do think it’s starting to help me already…(at least I’m keeping my fingers crossed!)

  10. Another AWESOME POST by awesome YOU Sarah!

    I am clearly not taking a high enough dose of Maca and had no idea about it being a food, great benefits to endocrine system, especially adrenals or that you could cook with it. Duh, where I have I been!? Glad I am tuned into your most informative blog! What a gift!

    It does seem the smaller dose I’ve been taking the past year off and on helped to end some of the symptoms I had left. The recipes are printing as I type. One thing, I’ve read that cinnamon, spicy foods (as you’ve mentioned) and I think ginger (not positive about ginger) increase hot flashes. I had to quit all cinnamon because I saw a direct cause and effect. Eat cinnamon, bad hot flashes guaranteed soon after. I have to let tea cool to room temp too. Hot drinks caused flashes of great heat throughout my body!

    Try not to kick yourself too hard for not being as proactive about slowly-creeping-upon-you-
    menopause symptoms. I denied it was happening too. Most the women around me were on hormones, antidepressants and mood stabilizers, anit-anxiety meds so they weren’t experiencing symptoms like I was. I tried to say it wasn’t happening for a long time too because I feared I was losing my mind!

    Also, do you suppose that since we made it through beginning menses just fine, monthly cycles/PMS and all, and some of us made it through childbirth, that well maybe we just thought we can do this menopause thing, no problem??? I know I greatly underestimated the changes I would experience.

    Plus menopause showed up at a time in my life where my daughter was graduating HS and going off to college and my career was skyrocketing. Psychologically, it was a time in life where I was figuring out who I was without child at home, what I liked and beginning some hobbies I’d always wanted to do. I was busy! Besides if you are going to have a moderate to severe case of menopause, it WILL get your attention at some point!!! Which seems to be what’s happening with you. So be gentle on yourself!

    The visual of Bobbi’s head in the freezer and your Hormone Hell story got me laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair! Humor with fellow menopause-ers is key to getting through this!

    • Thank you Teri for the encouragement here. You’re right – it’s easy to ignore symptoms that aren’t that strong when you’re busy and attention is diverted elsewhere. I’m not kicking myself too much – but ready to get into gear now!

      I haven’t noticed that effect with cinnamon and ginger – but it’s true they are both warming herbs so it makes sense. Best to leave them out if you have any sensitivity during these hot flash years! They both have a lot of benefits though, including being thermogenics (helping your body to burn calories more quickly) so if you aren’t sensitive I think they do more than just add flavor to food.

      As for the Maca, stick with a smaller does if it’s working. It may be all you need. Thanks again for your great comment!

  11. I remember Maca from years ago, as a promoter of good vitality and sexuality. Odd that it never turned up in all the research I was doing 20 years ago for peri-men
    I did all the right things, cohosh, vitex, eve prim, diet, ect and still got hit with hot flashes that disrupted life fully. I eventually did all different kinds of HRT and even if they helped with the hot flashes (which mean no sleep) they made my head & brain feel like cement. So now I am almost 60 and still dealing with hot flashes and night sweats. I am ordering Maca today and will let you know if it helps at all. I will try most things at least once 🙂
    Thanks Sarah for the tip!

    • Oh, I’m so glad you found this now at least Bobbi! And sad for you that you weren’t able to find relief through natural means. I’m not even sure if the research was out yet on maca and menopause 20 years ago. But right around the time I left Moonrise (early 2000’s) it started getting some buzz.

      I’m amazed at the results, but at the same time not holding my breath because I know there’s an ebb and flow to these things. I love the fact that it’s an actual food, and more nutritive than medicinal. Let me know if it helps you out!

    • Did macca works for you? hot flushes are driving me crazy!!!

    • @Tlwilcox37  I use powdered maca that is made from the dried raw root. It’s more of a supplement than a food when used like this.

      • @saraho I am also using powdered. I have been reading that some people believe that in Peru it is always dried a certain way in the sun that would cook it or it is cooked. So those people believe it changes it enough that it is better and safer this way. Some companies sell it this way and some people do it themselves. I don’t know, but I have been buying it raw and drying it in the oven as it is cheaper this way. As well I have been taking about a tsp a day for about 4 months and was fine but in the last few weeks have seen an increase in some very uncomfortable symptoms. I began to wonder if it was working or about my dosage. I then read that it is recommended to take more regularly. Like a tsp 3 times a day. I am thinking of upping it to 2 times a day to see if it helps. One site I read this on is http://www.wholeworldbontanicals.com/interview.html. There are just so many differences in opinions that I was wondering about your thoughts on this.

        • @Tlwilcox37  There are ALWAYS so many differences of opinion in the herbal world. Your best bet is to be discerning about where the info comes from, and to listen to your own body. Maca is generally pretty safe, nothing horrible or dangerous can really happen. But some people just don’t take to it very well. Experiment with your dosage and the frequency and tune into your body to see what is best for you. Good luck!

      • @saraho This is off topic, but do you use powdered kelp/seaweed as well? If so could you tell me how much and how often you feel is a safe amount.

        • @Tlwilcox37  I don’t take it as a powder but I add dried kelp and other seaweeds to foods and soups, and sometimes just eat plain. I think you can consume quite a bit of seaweed safely, and some experts recommend large dosages for folks who are trying to remove radiation from the body. As with everything be discerning, be sure you are getting a high quality product (there are concerns about mercury now and also nuclear fallout from Japanese incident.)  An excellent source of info about seaweed is Ryan Drum. He is the man on kelp and all things seaweed related. http://www.ryandrum.com/

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