Have You Tried Maca?

The Peruvian export is quietly taking off as a superfood.

If you're a juice bar regular, chances are you’ve already had the powdered form of this cruciferous root, and if not, you're about to want to. Maca (lepidium meyenii) grows high in the Andes and is fast becoming a favorite among the health food elite due to the energetic, but natural kick it provides (it’s been called Peruvian ginseng). “Maca is considered adaptogenic, which means it promotes healing and overall well-being. People who take it just report feeling better,” says Beverly Hills endocrinologist Eva Cwynar, MD, who tags maca for its reviving effects in her new book The Fatigue Solution. This is largely due to its hormone balancing effect, though maca doesn’t actually affect hormone levels. “The alkaloids in maca root stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary glands to send chemical messenger hormones that enhance the function of other endocrine glands — from the adrenals to the ovaries to the testes,” explains Cwynar. Translation for you? Cwynar ticks off a litany of health benefits: More energy, improved mood, reduced anxiety, increased stamina and an enhanced libido (hence the nickname, "Nature's Viagra").

Not surprisingly, positive anecdotes abound. “There’s not a day that a customer doesn’t tell me how much their personal life has improved after maca,” says Marjan Sarshar, owner of LA’s Kreation Juicery, where fans come in post-workout for the Yellow Diamond with maca. “It’s a smoothie with carbs and protein, so it’s good for recovery and customers say the energy boost is addicting.” Similar reports come from West Hollywood’s Liquid juice bar, where the ground root is blended into shakes and granola-fruit bowls. The staff admits there are die-hard fans but not everyone knows about maca. That seems set to change. With doctors on both coasts championing it (Frank Lipman, founder of New York City’s Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, is also a fan) and Whole Foods now stocking end caps with it, maca may be just the item to add to your grocery list. 

Here’s how to give it a try: