From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated high in the Andes Mountains, at altitudes from 8,000 to 14,500 feet. It has one of the highest frost tolerances among native cultivated species. Maca has a low-growing, mat-like stem system, which can go unnoticed in a farmer's field. Its scalloped leaves lie close to the ground and it produces small, self-fertile, off-white flowers typical of the mustard family to which it belongs. The part used is the tuberous root, which looks likes a large radish (up to 8 cm in diameter) which is usually off-white to yellow in color. Unlike many other tuberous plants, maca is propagated by seed. Although it is a perennial, it is grown as an annual; seven to nine months is required to produce the harvested roots. The species L. meyenii was described by Gerhard Walpers in 1843. It has been suggested that the cultivated maca of today is not L. meyenii but a newer species L. peruvianum ChacÑn, based on various specimens collected since 1960 in the district of San Juan de la Jarpa, in Huancayo province of Peru. While most maca sold in commerce today still refers to the L. meyenii name, economic botanists believe most is L. peruvianum. In 1994 less than 50 hectares were devoted to the commercial cultivation of maca; by 1999 over 1200 hectares were under production due to rising demand in the U.S. and abroad.

The area where maca is found, high in the Andes, is an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds, and below-freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures and poor, rocky soil, the area rates among the world's worst farmland; yet, over the centuries, maca has evolved to flourish under these conditions. Maca was domesticated about 2,000 years ago by the Incas, and primitive cultivars of maca have been found in archaeological sites dating as far back as 1600 B.C.


To the Andean Indians and indigenous peoples, maca is a valuable commodity. Because so little else grows in the region, maca is often traded with communities at lower elevations for such other staples as rice, corn, green vegetables, and beans. The dried roots can be stored for up to seven years. Native Peruvians traditionally have utilized maca since pre-Incan times for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. It is an important staple in the diets of these people, as it has the highest nutritional value of any food crop grown there. It is rich in sugars, protein, starches, and essential nutrients (especially iodine and iron). The tuber or root is consumed fresh or dried. The fresh roots are considered a treat and are baked or roasted in ashes (in the same manner as sweet potatoes). The dried roots are stored and, later, boiled in water or milk to make a porridge. They also are made into a popular sweet, fragrant, fermented drink called maca chicha. In Peru even maca jam, pudding, and sodas are popular. The tuberous roots have a tangy, sweet taste and an aroma similar to that of butterscotch.

This energizing plant is also referred to as Peruvian ginseng (although maca is not in the same family as ginseng). Maca has been used for centuries in the Andes to enhance fertility in humans and animals. Soon after the Spanish conquest in South America, the Spanish found that their livestock was reproducing poorly in the highlands. The local Indians recommended feeding the animals maca; so remarkable were the results that Spanish chroniclers gave in-depth reports. Even colonial records of some 200 years ago indicate that payment of (roughly) nine tons of maca was demanded from one Andean area alone for this purpose.

In Peruvian herbal medicine today, maca is reported to be used as an immunostimulant; for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility (and other reproductive and sexual disorders); and to enhance memory. Maca has been growing in world popularity over the last several years due to several large U.S. marketing campaigns touting its energizing, fertility enhancement, hormonal balancing, aphrodisiac, and, especially, enhanced sexual performance properties. Other (anecdotal) herbal medicine uses in the U.S. and abroad include increasing energy, stamina, and endurance in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, and helping with menstrual irregularities, female hormonal imbalances, menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome.


The nutritional value of dried maca root is high, resembling those of cereal grains such as maize, rice, and wheat. It contains 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% fiber, and 2.2% lipids. The protein content of maca exists mainly in the form of polypeptides and amino acids (including significant amounts of arginine, serine, histidine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, valine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and threonine). It also has about 250 mg of calcium, 2 g of potassium, and 15 mg of iron in 100 g of dried root-and important amounts of fatty acids (including linolenic, palmitic, and oleic acids). Maca contains sterols (about 0.05% to 0.1%) and other vitamins and minerals. In addition to its rich supply of essential nutrients, maca contains alkaloids, tannins, and saponins. A chemical analysis conducted in 1981 showed the presence of biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates (a common chemical found in the mustard family of plants and shown to be a wood preservative and insecticide). Chemical research shows maca root contains a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which has reputed aphrodisiac properties. At least four alkaloids are also present but have not yet been quantified. Fresh maca root contains about 1% glucosinolates-plant chemicals found in many plants in the family Brassicaceae (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables). While no novel glucosinolates have been reported in maca yet, several of the chemicals found in this group of known plant chemicals are documented to be cancer-preventive.

Maca's main plant chemicals include: lkaloids, amino acids, beta-ecdysone, calcium, carbohydrates, fatty acids, glucosinolates, iron, magnesium, p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, phosphorus, potassium, protein, saponins, sitosterols, stigmasterol, tannins, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc.

From :

The history of Maca medicine

The Peruvians and then the Spanish, (who were having trouble breeding their livestock) may have been the first to realize the power and beauty of Maca. Soon Maca became more valuable than gold. Along with being a great source of nourishment, Maca was used to treating ailments, reducing stress, and contributing to successful weight loss and toĉenhance fertility in humans and animals.
Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated in the Andean Mountains. It is rich in sugars, protein, starches, and essential minerals, especially iodine and iron. In Peruvian herbal medicine, Maca is used as an immuno-stimulant for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders as well as to enhance memory. This energizing plant is sometimes also referred to as Peruvian ginseng, although Maca is not in the same botanical family as ginseng.

Maca today
Today, Maca is most commonly used:
*to increase energy, stamina and endurance in athletes
*to promote mental clarity
*may help treat male impotence.
*helps to correct female hormonal imbalances including menopause
*assist reduce the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome.
*for safe and effective weight management
*for fertility enhancement and aphrodisiac qualities!

How does it achieve all this? Maca is a nutritional powerhouse:
*especially rich in iodine
*is a source of protein containing significant amounts of valuable amino acids.
*rich in complex carbohydrates
*contains essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron.
*contains vitamins B-1, B-2, B-12, and E
and is a source of glycoside steroids.

*The protein and calories in Maca are stable even after years of storage.

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