Every person faces stress in his or her life, though some of us experience more stress than others. Having a stressful experience instantly suppresses the immune, digestive and reproductive systems, as well as negating the possibly of falling asleep soon. The acute negative health effects of stress can include digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbances, damaged memory and mood disturbances. In the long-term, chronic stress has even more harmful effects including increased frequency of illness and increased risks of anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
If stress is a regular part of your life—no matter its source—it’s important to manage stress to the best of your ability in order to avoid serious health complications years in the future. Using maca for stress is a great way to improve your body’s resistance to stress and boost overall health.
Maca Root: A Powerful South American Medicine
Maca is a vegetable related to turnips and radishes that grows only on the high-altitude mountainsides in Peru. It is not found anywhere else in the world as the high winds, bright sunlight and cold temperatures of the region are the ideal growing conditions for the plant. This herb is known to science as Lepidium meyenii and known colloquially as Peruvian ginseng.
Maca root doubles as both consumable vegetable and medicinal herb. It has been a staple crop for indigenous peoples of the Andes region for at least 2,000 years and is quite nutrient-rich with many vitamins, fatty acids and 31 trace minerals. Although the people of Peru have traditionally eaten maca root cooked like a potato, they also acknowledged its myriad of health benefits including increasing energy, stamina and libido. Maca is also an adaptogen, i.e. a plant that helps your body adapt to stress.Today, maca’s medicinal properties have prompted the West to use the plant as a dietary supplement.
Maca for Stress: Why It Works
The Latin roots of the word “adaptogen” literally mean a thing that promotes adaptation. Adaptogens help you handle stress in a variety of ways. They can help balance your hormones, lower your cortisol levels, increase your energy, boost your immune system, improve your mood and help to regenerate new brain cells. People who use adaptogenic herbs report that they improve both mental and physical performance. By definition, adaptogens are very safe and non-toxic, so they are of benefit to everyone.
There are a wide variety of adaptogens, including certain plant and mushroom species. You may have heard of some other adaptogenic plants before such as ginseng, rhodiola, eleuthero and ashwagandha. Maca, in particular, has attracted extra attention in recent years for its potent effects on your body’s ability to handle stress. Although maca is great as an all-around adaptogen, it’s especially useful as an energy-boosting adaptogen for those who find that stress causes them a great deal of fatigue.
Maca: A Useful Herb for a Wide Variety of Concerns
Maca is a potent botanical that provides many other benefits beyond helping your body and mind adapt to stress. In fact, one of maca root’s most well-known uses is for sexual health. Native Peruvians have used it to boost libido and fertility for generations, and modern medical science confirms these uses. Strangely, maca increases sex drive and fertility without affecting sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. More research needs to be done before science understands how this herb works.
These effects apply to both men and women, but there are also more gender-specific benefits for sexual health. For men, maca root can promote healthy sperm production and erection quality and can help support prostate health. For women, taking a maca supplement can decrease some of the bothersome symptoms of menopause.
Aside from sexual health benefits, taking maca root can also help to soothe anxiety and promote a healthy mood. Studies also show that taking it boosts your overall sense of well-being. These benefits are likely due at least in part to the adaptogenic properties of the plant.
More Ways to Manage Stress
Consuming maca will reduce the impact of stress on your health, but you’ll find that it’s most effective when you use it in conjunction with other stress-reducing measures. Follow these health guidelines for maximum benefit:
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Limit refined grains, sweets and junk foods. Supporting your body with good nutrition will amplify the adaptogenic effects of maca root.
- Since sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, it’s very important to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Following good sleep hygiene practices can ensure your sleep is as restful as possible.
- Make time every day for relaxing activities to help you blow off steam. Right after getting home from work or school is the ideal time to melt away stress with yoga, meditation or a relaxing hobby like reading.
- Exercise regularly. This decreases stress and floods your body with endorphins, hormones that promote a feeling of well-being. The physical benefits of exercise will also help to ward off illness and fatigue caused by stress.