“She (la maca) grows at altitudes with such extreme environmental conditions, yet she thrives under such stress. This resilience to stress is what she will gift you if you respect her and consume her in the correct manner.” – interpretation of shamanic scripts, Junin Peru.
Did you know that maca and cannabis have a very similar mode of action?
The main medicinal properties of maca can be attributed to bio-active chemicals called macamides and macaenes. These metabolites are completely unique to maca and are responsible for most of its adaptogenic activity. Their formation results from a biochemical reaction that occurs during the traditional drying and heating of maca. They work to preserve and increase levels our own natural endocannabinoids in our brain, like anandamide (our bliss molecule), by inhibiting an enzyme that usually breaks these down (FAAH – fatty acid amide hydrolase). As the macamides have a similar chemical structure to natural anadamide (see below) FAAH breakdown of anadamide is slowed as it is preferentially consumed with macamide breakdown, meaning higher levels of anadamide (bliss) are maintained for longer. This mode of action is directly in-line with what the Inca knew about maca – she is the food of your brain (maca = macamides that mimic anadamide) and she gives you strength and resilience to stress (macamides inhibit FAAH and provide resilience to fluctuations of anadamide during stress).
What dose do i take?
Mild conditions – 45-60 mg total macamides daily
Moderate conditions – 60-75 mg total macamides daily
Severe conditions – 75-90 mg total macamides daily
What are endocannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids like anandamide are regulatory molecules that act like a switch in your body to reduce the negative impacts of stress and to balance natural endocrine function. A primary function of the endocannabinoid signalling system is to maintain or recover homeostasis following psychological and physiological threats. Endocannabinoids are predominantly made and exist between neurons in the brain and provide feedback for the messages crossing the synapse carried by neurotransmitters like serotonin. In essence anandamide is the yin to the yang of serotonin and they both work together to maintain health and happiness in the nervous system.
How does protecting anandamide combat stress and improve health?
Anadamide is a regulator of endocrine function including the messaging to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis of the body, which controls our natural stress response. By slowing the breakdown of anadamide and increasing circulating levels the body builds a natural long-term strength and resilience to stress. These features of endocannabinoid signaling make it a tantalizing therapeutic target for treatment of stress-related disorders. The downstream benefits of this mode of action means maca has the ability to regulate countless processes in the body including hormone production, pain sensation, metabolism, neurotransmitter production (serotonin), energy production, adrenal function and much more. Its mode of action is unique, it is not a stimulant, it can be used for long-term sustainable treatment and it is well tolerated by most people.
Maca contains endocannabinoid regulators that protect our anandamide and balance our HPA axis
How does maca compare to cannabis?
Firstly, their modes of action seem to differ slightly with maca having more of an effect solely on anadamide and not so much on stimulating CB1 or CB2. This mode of increasing the concentration of endocannabinoids, rather than administering exogenous agonistic agents, offers many advantages and can reduce cannabinoid-like adverse events. Therefore FAAH inhibitors like the macamides found in maca have the potential to provide a more mild and natural way to return balance to the body without any harsh side effects. This is probably why in Peru it has been consumed all throughout life by the Incan people since its cultivation began over 2000 years ago. The onset of action is mild and slow, however it acts more accumulatively and sustainably for long-term consistent health benefits. Where cannabis offers better short-term acute results, maca can be used for long-term balance and resilience or in combination with cannabis to provide a complimentary therapeutic approach. It is also thought that maca maintains CB1 sensitivity to anadamide, ensuring receptors do not become de-sensitised easily, unlike with some other plant-based cannabinoid therapies. As such people may be able to achieve better results with the plant-cannabinoids on lower doses in combination with maca use. Either way for those who have never tried maca it is definately something that may offer benefit for chronic stress-related conditions. To see more about the benefits of maca review our article here.
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Written by Dr Corin Storkey Founder and Director of Seleno Health. www.selenohealth.com