On Saturday, I showed you how fish oil can help fight depression when the cause is inflammation. But what happens when the cause of depression is hormones that are out of balance. The fish oil can still help. But there may be a better way to help fight the depression. An herb from Peru has shown tremendous promise in its ability to balance hormones, especially female hormones. As a result, there's a growing body of research that shows it can help alleviate depression, hot flashes, night sweating, and increase your libido.
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The maca plant is a popular food in Peru. It's native to the Peruvian Andes, where the natives harvest it for its edible taproot. They've used the food as a comfort food, as they say it makes you feel better. And research is showing it can do just that.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that maca stimulates estrogen production, suppresses follicle-stimulating hormones, and reduces hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopausal symptoms. The researchers thought so highly of the plant's abilities that they said it would make "an attractive non-hormonal, natural plant alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)."
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that maca can reduce anxiety and depression in women. The researchers said it also "lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity." That means it helped increase their libido and improved their overall mood.
But what about men? Does maca help balance the hormones of men? After seeing that it would suppress follicle-stimulating hormones, I had my doubts. Most men don't want to stop hair growth – at least not on their head. However, there's no research that suggests maca contributes to male-pattern baldness. But it is quite effective at balancing male hormones as well. The men in Peru love maca.
Eight years ago, a study found that maca can increase virility and sperm counts in men in just one to three days. After one week of taking maca daily, the researchers saw that it was increasing daily sperm production. However, it didn't affect testicular testosterone levels. This study confirmed the results of a study from 2001 that suggested the more maca you take, the higher your sperm count — without any change in testosterone levels.
If your doctor has recommended that you take hormones, especially estrogen or testosterone, you might want to try taking black maca tablets instead. You can find them online and in most health food stores. Make sure they are powdered maca that's gelatinized. That means the starches were removed and the product will be better absorbed and more potent.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.