Maca is a root vegetable originally from Peru. Peruvian farmers noticed that livestock grazing in areas that contained maca root were more likely to be healthier and stronger than their counterparts. Plus, the animals were more likely to copulate. The plant is full of many health promoting vitamins and minerals, which led naturopathic practitioners to begin using the food, and later the supplement, to treat a variety of conditions in both men and women.
Maca root is touted as a "super-food" due to its many reported benefits. It is most often used to promote sexual and reproductive health, but proponents also say it can increase endurance and energy levels, and can help to treat diseases ranging from depression to cancer.
Maca root is often used instead of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in menopausal women. It affects the pituitary gland. While HRT stimulates hormone production and can cause ovaries to atrophy, maca root simply helps to balance it without damaging a woman's body.
Many women use maca root supplements to help combat infertility as well. While there are few statistics available on the effectiveness of the treatment, the Australian magazine "Good Medicine" states that laboratory studies of rats have found that they had improved fertility after eating maca.
Maca is also considered effective in relieving menstrual symptoms. Since many of these symptoms seem to be directly related to the body's inability to fully absorb the vitamins and minerals it needs, maca root's antioxidant properties and hormone-balancing qualities are a good way to counteract that.
"Whenever possible, I prefer to use maca therapy rather than hormone replacement therapy because HRT actually ages the body diminishing the hormone producing capability of the glands," says Dr. Rebbe Gabriel Cousens, a diplomat of the American Board of Holistic Medicine. "Maca has proved to be very effective with menopausal patients in eliminating hot flashes and depression and in increasing energy levels."