Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women
Maca—referred to as either Lepidium peruvianum or Lepidium meyenii—is one of the most traditionally used and valued Peruvian herbs, due in large part to its rich nutrient concentration.
This malty, butterscotch-flavored root contains a number of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, plant sterols, amino acids, and alkaloids, among other phytonutrients.
In terms of minerals, calcium makes up 10 percent of maca’s mineral content. Significant amounts of magn-esium, phosphorus, and potassium are also present in this herb. Maca also contains a number of vitamins and amino acids, including B1, B2, B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and quercetin, as well as arginine, lysine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine.
German and American researchers begin studying Peruvian botanicals in the 1960′s and 1980′s. They quickly discovered that maca has many health benefits, including relieving menopausal symptoms; stimulating and regulating the endocrine system (adrenals, thyroid, ovaries, and testes); increasing energy, stamina, and endurance; regulating and normalizing menstrual cycles; and balancing hormone levels.
Maca appears to act as a central nervous system stim-ulant, at the level of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. It works to stimulate hormone production, which is a critical part of regulating a woman’s physiology. It also operates as an adaptogenic herb to help regulate hormones produced by the endocrine glands. It does this by stimulating your ovaries and adrenals to produce the hormones you need; in the levels you need them.
This was shown in a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. Researchers tested the effects of maca on mouse sex hormones. They found that while progesterone and testosterone levels increased significantly in the mice that received the maca, their estradiol levels were not increased. In other words, the maca helped to raise the levels of progesterone and testosterone to offset the blood levels of estradiol in the mice. Clinical experiences with conditions like fibroid tumors which are triggered by estrogen dominance appear to support these findings although more human research still remains to be done. This is potentially exciting news for women suffering from estrogen dominance.
Suggested Dosage: A traditional dosage of maca is 2-10 grams a day. However, dosages are unique to each woman, so you will need to determine which dosage works for you. There have been no acute toxic effects of maca, even at very high doses. In fact, many Peruvians eat it every day!
Note: I suggest beginning at the low end of the recommended dosage, as too much can cause head-aches, breast tenderness, or hot flashes. If you are sensitive or allergic to herbs, you may want to use maca cautiously. It is recommended that you avoid maca if you have a hormone-related cancer (due to lack of formal studies), liver disease, if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are currently taking conventional HRT.
For more information about maca or other herbs that promote progesterone production, or balance estrogen and progesterone, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle and Womens Wellness Publishing.