Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adaptogens Part 2: Power Players

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Hope you all are having a great day! It's simply gorgeous outside and so I'm going to go for my first run of the year by the lake. I'm really looking forward to testing the old knees out after having the PRP precedure a month ago. I love running on trails versus concrete because I like having a forest to look at rather than traffic. Yet, all the mountain trails in Nelson are not nearby so the lake path will do just fine. I hear so much talk about marathons and races that I feel like I want to jump on the wagon. I've been doing some google searches on some fun trail running races so we shall see what happens.

Anywho, I wanted to get into some of the power players when it comes to adaptogens. I know Adaptogens 101 was a lot of theory, per se, but now I want to start getting into the hands on part of it, if you will.

I have a few adaptogens that I want to focus on specifically, but I wanted to give you an around-the-world peek at the various power players out there. Some of these you may already be using. Good news hey?

I know in my previous post I talked about adaptogens as "herbs" well not all the power players are herbs, some are vegetables and fungi, some are spices, and some are considered pesky weeds.

Deer Antler
ginko biloba


South America
Pau D'Arco
Cat's Claw
Maca (vegetable)

North America
Dandelion (leaf and root)
Milk Thistle

Listed below are some adaptogens that follow into the medicinal mushroom and spices categories

Medicinal Mushrooms


Black Pepper

Today I want to focus in on the Peruvian root vegetable, Maca. When the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru they struggled with their new surroundings that were at an elevation of 11,000 to 15,000 feet. At this altitude, oxygen is about half of what it is at sea level. They and their livestock animals became quickly stressed. They starting feeding maca to their animals and noticed that they quickly adjusted to the surroundings and seemed less stressed. They decided to eat maca themselves and noticed a vast improvement.

Maca helps the adrenal glands regenerate and also helps to reverse the negative effects stress has on the endocrine system which produces hormones. It is these hormones that regulate your metabolism, energy level, growth, sexual development, sense of well being, and attitude. Even the smallest decline or incline of certain hormone levels will impede the body's ability to build muscle and and recover from stress in general. If the hormones remain out of balance this can cause induced signs of premature aging and can cause excess body fat to be stored.

It has been suggested by Peru's Dr. Chacon that maca works through the hypothalamus-pituitary axis. This is the link between the pituitary gland and the brain. The pituitary then makes the hormones according to the body's needs which is then circulated in the blood to a variety of the body's tissues.

So how does maca work its magic? It nourishes and calms the nerves and stimulates the appetite with calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, vitamin B12, and fatty acids. The phosphorus is used as a building block for the cells main source of fuel, ATP and glucose-6-phosphate. Maca possess the building block for serotonin. According to the Thrive Diet, the body will try to self medicate itself when it is feeling overwhelmed by stress-induced chemical reactions in the brain. Its during this time that you can experience sugar cravings which is the brains way of trying to raise serotonin levels. A diet that contains daily doses of maca will supply the body what it needs to handle stress and make serotonin which will, in turn, help reduce or eliminate sugar cravings. Maca is also a good source of sterols which are steroid-like compounds that help to regenerate muscle tissue. Alkaloids are also present which help the body assimilate all the nutrients where they are needed.

Here is a list of other benefits of maca

  • increases energy and endurance
  • increases stamina
  • alleviates chronic fatigue syndrome
  • improves sexual function in men and women
  • increases fertility
  • reduces hormonal dysfunction during menopause
  • speeds up wound healing and reduces anemia
  • enhances memory, learning, and mental ability
  • provides a more youthful glow to your skin
  • good for healthy teeth and bones
  • its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial
  • acts as a anticarcinogen and antioxident
  • is non-addictive

Brendan recommends choosing the gelatinized form of maca because gelatinization removes the tough starchy part. The end result is a more easily digestible, easily assimilated, and more concentrated form.

So there you have it! Maca is so incredibly amazing I can't believe I lived without it for so long. I am currently using chocolate Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer which contains Macasure. I also have some maca that I got in bulk from the co-op. I add extra to my smoothies when I'm feeling stressed. Averie even puts it on her popcorn...mmm! Up next in the power players series is Ginseng. You won't believe how powerful this stuff is!

Have a great night:)

PS Nelly is having a giveaway of some awesome Everything Raw Bars! And its her first giveaway..wahoo!

PPS There is also another giveaway taking place on Gluten-free Vegan Family. This giveaway is for a Paderno spiral veggie slicer. Sweet!


Nelly said...

good luck lady!!!

i'm definitely saving this entry for my morning read tomorrow...totally excited...

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

great post, i recently did a maca post, too. love the stuff!

thx for the popcorn mention :)

and for all your give away entries!

Nelly said...

hey mels...amazing post!!! totally loved it...

what is gelatinized from of maca? a capsule???

nevermind i just answered my own question...haha...i have a bottle of macasure capsules here...and each capsule contains 750mg of pure maca root extract.

thanks for such amazing information!


Melissa said...

Hey Averie - Thanks for having a giveaway:)After doing this post I am just so amazed at how much this stuff can do.

Hey Nelly - I'm so glad you liked the post..thanks for your sweet words:)Yay for the macasure..awesome stuff!

Lauren said...

I've heard of Maca and I knew it was a "health food" but I never tried it and I never knew exactly what it did. I just knew it was good for hormone balance. It turns out that it is so much more than that, I should have looked into it sooner. Thanks for sharing all of this information Melissa! Actually, I already have the vega health optimizer once in a while (love it!) but I'm going to try to take a daily dose of maca now.

I am so envious of the trail running you can do in your town! Where is Nelson in comparison to Vancouver? Is it a city or more rural? There aren't many trails in Toronto. I have to travel to find one! I also would rather look at nature when I run. And I took a look at that link about your knee procedure, which I had never heard of. It sounds amazing, I hope it becomes more mainstream soon. Why do people not know about this? Why did I not know about this?
As always, you are very informative :) And I'm happy you fixed your knee injury

Melissa said...

Hey Lauren- Glad you liked my maca post and I'm glad I could shed some light on this amazing stuff:)
Nelson is located about 7-8 hours east of Vancouver and its in the kootenay region. I'm high in the! It's a beautiful, little town but I was say it would be considered rural if you would compare it to other cities. You are in Toronto..very cool! I've never been but heard a lot of very cool stuff about the city. That's too bad you don't have too many trail:( I guess that's urban sprawl for ya, hey? I guess you will just have to come out West then..wink wink! PRP is fabulous and it will be mainstream soon, I know it. Athletes have been secretly getting the procedures done with great success. Why you don't hear about it is because it doesn't require drugs or surgery and so doctors don't want to have anything to do with it. My ND is the only one in western Canada who is doing these treatments and he is currently writing a book on it so more people can be informed.I only learned about this a year ago myself but I know you will see more and more of this in the future. Thank you for your sweet comment about my knees (and my posts:)I struggled with the fear that they would go out constantly and so I'm glad I finally have a handle on it!

bitt of raw said...

bleh i don't like maca! i need to just put it in capsules cause it's probably worth getting into me.

Melissa said...

Hey Bitt - A capsule would definitely be worth it! I know macasure is a good brand.