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.
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.
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’ Maca Balls
1 Cup Honey (or agave syrup, barley malt or other sweetener)
1 1/4 Cups Peanut Butter (or any Nut Butter)
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.
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
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