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Male and female hormones
Peruvian medical doctors say that maca root works in a fundamentally different way than HRT, promoting optimal functioning of the hypothalamus and the pituitary, thereby improving the functioning of all the endocrine glands.
They isolated four alkaloids from the maca root and carried out animal studies with male and female rats given either powdered maca root or the alkaloids. Females receiving either root powder or alkaloids showed multiple egg follicle maturation, while in males, significantly higher sperm production and motility rates were noted than in control groups.
They established that it was the alkaloids in the maca root, not its plant hormones, that produced fertility effects on the ovaries and testes of the rats. "These effects are measurable within 72 hours of dosing the animals," they said. They deduced that the alkaloids were acting on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which explains why both male and female rats were affected in a gender-appropriate manner. This also explains why the effects in humans are not limited to ovaries and testes, but also act on the adrenals, giving a feeling of greater energy and vitality, and on the pancreas and thyroid as well.
Dr Jorge Aguila Calderon, Dean of the Faculty of Human Medicine at the National University of Federico Villareal in Lima, prescribes maca for a wide variety of conditions, including osteoporosis and the healing of bone fractures in the very elderly. He says, "Maca has a lot of easily absorbable calcium in it, plus magnesium, and a fair amount of silica, which we are finding very useful in treating decalcification of bones in children and adults."
Dr Calderon has also helped patients overcome male impotence, male sterility and female sterility by employing maca therapy. Additional problems he treats with maca are rickets, various forms of anaemia, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, climacteric and erectile difficulties in men, premature ageing, and general states of weakness, such as chronic fatigue.
"What I see in maca is a means of normalizing our steroid hormones like testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen. Therefore, it has the capability to forestall the hormonal changes of ageing. It acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido. Lots of men and women who previously believed their sexual problems were psychological, are now clearly going to look for something physiological to improve their quality of life in the area of sexuality.
Of course, as someone interested in longevity, I’m aware that mortality comes on much sooner for those individuals whose sexual activity is diminished or nonexistent. I believe that people who engage in sex twice a week, or more, live longer. I’ve found sexual activity to be a reliable marker for overall ageing."
One of the modern pioneers in the therapeutic use of this ancient herb for an urban population is Hugo Malaspina, MD, a respected cardiologist in Lima. Dr Malaspina has been using the maca root in his practice for a decade and makes the following observation:
"There are different medicinal plants that work on the ovaries stimulating them. With maca, though, we should say that it regulates the ovarian function."
Dr Malaspina, who uses maca therapy for both his male and female patients, recalls that he first heard about this extraordinary herb through a group of elderly gentlemen who, while well along in years were still lively and interested in enjoying sexual activities. "One of this group (they were all over 70) started taking maca and found he was able to perform satisfactorily in a sexual relationship with a lady friend. Soon everyone in the group began drinking the powdered maca as a beverage and enjoying the boos that the root was giving their hormonal functions. " I have several of these men as my patients and their improvement prompted me to find out more about maca and begin recommending it to my other patients", Dr. Malaspina stated.
What makes maca so effective, according to Dr. Malaspina, is that rather than introducing hormones from outside the body, maca encourages the ovaries and other glands to produce the needed hormones. The cardiologist said, "Maca regulates the organs of internal secretion, such as the pituitary, the adrenal glands, the pancreas, etc. I have perhaps 200 female patients whose premenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms are alleviated by taking maca."
Physicians in the United States believe this herb has the potential of a balanced answer to the effects of ageing on the endocrine system. Many who have tried phytoestrogens and/or precursor hormones such as DHEA or pregnenelone, or even natural hormone replacement therapy and have been dissatisfied, are getting excellent results from their use of maca root. Gabriel Cousens, MD, practicing internal medicine in Arkansas, says: "Whenever possible, I prefer to use maca therapy rather than hormone replacement therapy because HRT actually ages the body by diminishing the hormone-producing capability of the glands. Maca has proven to be very effective with menopausal patients in eliminating hot flashes and depression and in increasing energy levels. To find the right dosage level, sometimes I started the patient on maca treatment with a half a teaspoon of powder or three capsules a day. In some cases I have raised the dosage to a teaspoon or six capsules a day for full effectiveness."
In keeping with its mode of acting through the hypothalamus and pituitary, maca has a balancing and nourishing effect on the adrenal glands. Henry Campanile, MD, a 50-year old specialist in internal and family/complementary medicine practising in Florida states: "I happen to have been born with only one adrenal gland just like my father. I started taking cortisone in my late twenties to relieve the fatigue which I was already feeling. Knowing the dangers of long term cortisone use, I looked around for an alternative, and this circumstance is what got me interested in complementary medicine. I started using pregnenelone about 10 years ago and it has been fairly satisfactory. But one of my patients told me about Maca and I started taking it about a month ago.
It is phenomenal! I haven’t felt this good since I was 20 years old. I have so much energy and look so well, my patients have remarked on it and told me how rested I seem. I’ve got so much energy now, that I’ve started an exercise program". After trying it on himself, Dr Campanile began using maca with his patients. My first patient to take maca capsules was experiencing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. She started feeling much better after using this herb for only four days. I’m also employing it with patients who have a low adrenal function."
Another American doctor who has recently begun to use maca therapeutically for some patients is Harold Clark, MD, of New Rochelle, New York. Dr Clark, who utilises chelation therapy and ozone therapy in addition to herbs, vitamins and minerals in his practice stated, "I’m amazed at how fast maca worked on two patients that I have been concerned about for some time." He described one patient as 55 year-old Mary T, a postmenopausal woman. Mary T was possessed of numerous sugar, hypertension, atrial fibrillation and hypomagnesemia. She had been acutely ill for two months with osteomyelitis and generalised sepsis. Unable to work, she was suffering from great fatigue and depression and feeling "worse and worse" over the last five years. "Within just four days of taking the maca capsules, Mary T went through an enormous turnaround," said Dr. Clark. "She has gone out to shop in the stores; she’s cleaned her house; she feels strong and vigorous; and her depression is gone."
Maca as an Anti-Ageing Herb for both Men and Women
Garry P Gordon, MD, former president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, now Founder and President of the International College of Advanced Longevity Medicine, located in Chicago, Illinois, bases his appreciation of maca on his own experience with it. Dr Gordon says: "We all hear rumours about various products like maca. But using this Peruvian root myself, I personally experienced a significant improvement in erectile tissue. I call it "nature’s answer to Viagra." "What I see in maca is a means of normalising our steroid hormones, like testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Therefore it has the capability to forestall hormonal changes of ageing," Dr Gordon believes. "It acts on men to restore them to a healthy functional status in which they experience a more active libido."
Lots of men and women who previously believed their sexual problems were psychological are now clearly going to look for something physiological to improve quality of life in the area of sexuality", says Dr Gordon. "Of course, as someone interested in longevity, I’m aware that mortality comes on much sooner for those individuals whose sexual activity is diminished or non existent. In other words, I believe that people who engage in sex twice a week or more live longer. I’ve found sexual activity to be a reliable marker for overall ageing."
Dr Burton Goldberg, President of Future Medicine Publishing in Tiburon, California, whose latest book, An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to cancer, is another enthusiast of maca. He says that when he tried maca he was very pleased with the results and began taking it regularly. "I’m a 72-year old man and this maca has taken 25 years off my ageing sex life", "That’s pretty important to me!, declares Dr Burton Goldberg.