In June of 2016, Grand View Research reported that the dietary supplement market is expected to surpass $278 billion globally by the year 2024.
This means that the number of your patients taking some type of vitamin or herb in the hopes of achieving higher levels of health is likely going to increase.
It also means that your supplement-based knowledge as a chiropractor will become even more relevant and beneficial when helping your patients determine what types of nutrients would benefit their health. One that keeps popping up is maca.
What is maca?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that maca, which is in the radish family even though it smells like butterscotch, comes from a Peruvian plant grown high up in the Andes.
Additionally, it’s been around for more than 3,000 years, with the medicinal properties of its root being used to treat everything from anemia to chronic fatigue to sexual dysfunction and infertility.
Furthermore, according to an article published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, maca’s dried roots (also called their hypocotyls) are roughly 13 to 16 percent protein, 59 percent carbohydrate, with the remaining percentages being made up of fiber and lipids.
They’re also high in essential amino acids and free fatty acids.
Maca powder benefits and research
It is these types of properties which the author of the article says contribute to the positive effects of maca found in a number of different animal studies. For instance, research on rat has linked maca with increased sperm count and reversed osteoporosis.
Studies conducted on mice have found a correlation between maca and improved learning and memory, whereas research on fish has found increased embryo survival. But what about its effect on humans?
The University of Michigan shares that there are several different studies involving human subjects and maca—sometimes referenced by its botanical names of Lepidium meyenii or Lepidium peruvianum—which have also found favorable results.
One was a double-blind study conducted on young and middle-aged men which found that taking maca for eight weeks increased their sexual desire, combatting a low libido. Another study, this one on older women, found that maca helped balance hormones during menopause, easing some of the negative symptoms associated with this particular stage of life.
Maca dosage and safety
Although maca appears to help with a variety of issues, the next question generally asked is whether or not it is safe. To this, the NIH has declared maca “likely safe for most people when taken in amounts found in foods.” Even in higher medicinal amounts, which they define as being up to three grams a day for as long as four months at a time, the NIH calls maca “possibly safe” and “well tolerated by most people.”
Though a number of people nowadays take maca in powder or supplement form, it can also be ingested by adding it to soups or simply baking or roasting it. It’s also one of the main ingredients of maca chicha, a sweet tasting fermented beverage.
The NIH does recommend that pregnant or breast-feeding women avoid taking maca, due largely to a lack of research in this area. Additionally, because maca extracts mimic estrogen in the body, females prone to issues that could be worsened by this one hormone are advised against taking it as well.
Knowledge is power
With supplement consumption expected to continue to rise over the next decade, learning more about supplements such as maca makes it possible for DCs to more effectively help patients make knowledgeable, informed decisions about which substances can help them improve their health, as well as which ones may ultimately harm it.
Overall, maca currently appears to offer many benefits in the areas of fertility, sexual health, and energy, with limited safety concerns.
While only your patient can decide whether it’s right for him or her, sharing this type of information can help them make the best, most healthfully responsible call.