Root of Happiness

By , on April 7, 2013


Maca Root. Photo from riceplex.com.
Maca Root. Photo from riceplex.com.

IT SEEMS innocuous enough. It looks a bit like a turnip. Its powdered root looks like yellowish, chunky, powdered milk.

And yet it’s the “superfood” of today. Grown in the Andes of Peru, Maca is the new favorite mood booster, aphrodisiac, and all-around supplement. Most of it has yet to be proven, extensively, by the experts, but word of mouth is that this exotic root plant increases energy levels and relieves depression, fatigue, and anxiety. It helps the body heal—clearing scars and clarifying the skin—and it assists in regulating hormones (it’s ideal in easing the symptoms of menopause).

Best yet, to some, it seems to provide that extra kick when it comes to sexual appetite. Some studies (small studies, it has to be said) state that Maca may improve fertility and help men with certain performance issues (i.e., goodbye, Viagra: a looming possibility).

It is said that the root has been used for over three millennia for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Native Peruvians, since pre-Incan times, have made use of Maca for its high levels of adaptogen, that extract in rare plants that helps the body cope with stress.

They profited from it as well as for its touted ability to enhance fertility. During the Spanish occupation, the colonials used to buy Maca by the ton after it helped them withbreeding livestock in the Peruvian highlands (the increase in fertility applied to animals, too). Colonial records and chronicles from 200 years ago purportedly gave rave reports about the root, to this end.

It is interesting to note that Maca grows in one of the most inhospitable regions of Peru, one of the world’s worst farmlands, in fact—thin atmosphere, hard sunlight, brutal winds, vicious cold, hard, rocky soil with little nutrient content—and yet this little vegetable that could flourished under such tough conditions (make now your comparisons to the human spirit under adversity).

And Maca, in its native land—it’s like coconuts in the Philippines. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. It is eaten fresh, or cooked, cut up and made into soup, salads, or added to broth, or boiled in water or milk to make porridge. The roots are baked or roasted in ash, like sweet potatoes. And there’s that fermented drink called Maca chica—and Maca pudding, and jam, and sodas. Yes, sodas.

Elsewhere, beyond South America, Maca is all but a Miracle. The new fad in alternative medicine. Powdered Maca root is taken with smoothies, juices, and shakes. It’s found in capsule, pill, and liquid form. There’s red, black, and yellow Maca (red, taken daily to reduce prostate size; black, taken to boost energy levels; yellow, the popular jack-of-all-trades).

Ingenuous DIY-ers even make use of the powdered root as a topical beauty secret. Try this facial mask from CrunchyBetty.com and see if it yields the results (firmer, clearer, glowing skin):

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 tbsp. bentonite or other cosmetic clay

1/2 tsp. Maca powder

1/2 tsp. pure, unsweetened cocoa powder

1-2 tbsp. whole milk (or water)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Stir well and quickly to keep the paste from hardening. Aim for pudding-like consistency. Spread a thin, even layer of the paste over your clean, washed face. Leave on for about 20 minutes or until it dries. Wipe off with a washcloth soaked in warm water or rinse with water.

And if imbibing the powdered root as supplement or alternative cure: as with all things, take it in moderation. Start slow and in small increments. In the end, there is no one miracle drug, no one go-to cure for all that ails the human body and mind. Consult your health expert or a trusted herbalist for safest use and the best results.