In Peru, maca is the answer to every ailment.
Tired? The natives say, “Take maca!”
Cranky? “Take maca!”
Stressed out? “Try maca!”
Does your man have erection problems? “Try maca!”
The happy people of Peru love maca!
Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp) was discovered more than 2000 years ago in the Andes highlands of Peru, where it grows exclusively between 3500 and 4500 m above sea level. Colour-wise it looks like a potato, but it is shaped like a large radish. Maca's ability to endure extreme weather conditions, from scorching sun to heavy frosts, is unequalled in the plant kingdom. The soil in which it grows contains huge amounts of minerals which make the maca high in nutritional value. It is significantly high in potassium, calcium (higher levels than in milk), magnesium and iron. Dried maca weighs in at about 60% carbohydrate, 9% fibre, and just over 10% protein. Its trace minerals include zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica as well as B vitamins and an assortment of fatty acids.
Maca (also called Peruvian Ginseng) has been used by Peruvian consumers for many centuries, since before the time of the Incas. It still is a fundamental component of the diet of the Peruvian population and consumed in different ways: raw, baked or dried. Peruvians make cookies, tarts, hot porridge, chips and beverages with maca.
It is said that the Incas, would eat maca before battle for extra power and fierce strength. However, after battle they were prohibited from eating it to protect the conquered women from their powerful sexual impulses. Upon overrunning the Inca people, conquering Spaniards became aware of this plant's value. They had found that their horses had become infertile due to the high altitude so the local population recommended that the Spaniards give maca to their horses. The horses not only became more fertile but also gained in strength, energy and endurance.
The first written description about maca (as a root without identification of the botanical or popular name) was published in 1553, in which Cieza de Leon, a chronicler of the Spaniard conquest of Peru noted that in the Peruvian highlands, particularly in the province of Bombón (Chinchaycocha; present day: Junin) the natives used certain roots for maintenance. The roots, he was referring to were maca.
Father Cobo (Cobo, Bernabé, 1580-1657 History of the New World) was the first to describe the name of maca and its properties in 1653. He stated that this plant grows in the harshest and coldest areas of the province of Chinchaycocha where no other plant for man's sustenance could be grown. Cobo also referred to the use of maca for fertility.
Experimental scientific evidence showed that maca has nutritional, energizer, and fertility-enhancer properties, and it acts on sexual dysfunctions, osteoporosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, memory and learning, and protects skin against ultraviolet radiation. Clinical trials showed efficacy of maca on sexual dysfunctions as well as increasing sperm count and motility. Maca is a plant with great potential as an adaptogen and appears to be promising as a nutraceutical in the prevention of several diseases.
Today maca’s popularity is on the increase. Acreage in Peru is increasing every year to meet demand and a number of scientists have turned their attention to the root. In Europe, the USA and Japan dietary supplements containing maca are gaining increasing numbers of fans.