Worldwide shortage of maca – what are the alternatives?

By Lisa Brant | 24th June 2015
An image of a variety of spices and herbs photographed in an engaging layout using wooden utensils and white ceramic pots.

Many of you might be using maca powder at home, to add to your juices or top onto muesli at breakfast. Maybe you have noticed that the price has been gradually increasing over the past 12 months. Here in Spain, our suppliers have run out of stock so here we look at what maca has been used for and make some alternative suggestions.

What is maca?

Maca is a herbaceous plant, grown at high altitudes in the mountains of Peru, South America. Maca powder comes from the root. As more and more people have discovered the health benefits of maca, demand has dramatically increased.

Health benefits of maca

Maca has many health benefits including nourishing and balancing the endocrine system and helping us to cope with stress. It can also help to balance hormones and increase fertility.

The key element of maca that impacts upon our endocrine system, and helps us to deal with stress, is called an adaptogen. This plant or herb compound greatly improves our body’s ability to deal with any stressors – noise, heat, cold, hectic schedule and so on. They are slow acting and subtle working on the adrenal system, and “adapt” to do whatever the body needs to deal with the stressor. Adaptogens have been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for many years, so are well known and used outside of western medicine.

Alternatives to maca

Below we give you a few suggestions for alternatives to maca:

  • Helping to cope with stress

Stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Long running stress means that our cortisol levels become out of balance, meaning we have high levels of cortisol when they should be low, and low when they need to be high! Ideally you need to reduce stress in your life, by making lifestyle changes where possible and introducing meditation and yoga. To give your body additional support you can also try Asian Ginseng, ashwagandha or rhodiola rosea, all of which work with the adrenal system to support and balance.

Another adaptogen is Chaga (a mushroom), which can also be a great supplement that you can use. You can even make it into a tea to drink.

  • Women – hormone imbalance

Sometimes our hormones can get out of balance, for example our body may produce excess oestrogen. This is a relative measure, and means that our body produces more oestrogen than progesterone – note that the oestrogen level can be normal, with a low level of progesterone, not just high levels of oestrogen. This is common during the menopause in particular, and some of the side effects can be hot flushes. Maca is great for this. So, an alternative you might want to research is natural progesterone (not derived from yam). This is a cream that you apply to your skin for a few weeks each month.

Remember, supplements are just that, a supplement, and are designed to be taken as extra, to provide additional support for our bodies. They are not meant as a substitute for making changes to lifestyle to better support our health!

The above suggestions are starting points for you to consider; you need to do your own research to work out which supplement might best support you. We suggest that you speak to your nutritionist or herbalist, or consider seeing a Chinese or Indian Ayurvedic doctor for full support and advice.

More information about food and nutrition

For more information about a plant-based diet, which we serve at La Crisalida Retreats, read our “food” page here. We have lots more articles on this blog page about nutrition (use the search box or click on the category “nutrition”). We discuss how you can eat or exclude certain foods to manage pain or how nutrition can help to balance your emotions.

Headshot of Lisa Brant - Founder of La Crisalida Retreats
Lisa Brant

Lisa has been working in the field of health for over twenty years, first as an epidemiologist and now following a more alternative route! She is a therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa is a nutritionist so designs all our menus, as well as running the retreats. She is also qualified in NLP and hypnosis. Over the years Lisa has overcome her own health challenges with severe endometriosis and is happy to share her story.

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