Lepidium meyenii Walp.
Plant Family: Brassicaceae
Maca, native to the Peruvian Andes, is a food staple made into cookies, flan, smoothies, syrups, and liquor. It has a rich history of traditional use as a panacea and is referred to as 'Peruvian ginseng.' Specifically, it is prized for its adaptogenic and nutritive qualities. It was introduced to North America, Europe, and Japan in the late 1990's precipitating a stream of scientific studies.6-17
Maca has a fleshy hypocotyl (the stem of a germinating seed’s leaf) and has a rough pear-shaped to rectangular root that varies in color from red, to yellow, to black. It is a member of the Brassicaceae family and has small off-white flowers similar to many other cruciferous species.2 Maca grows in the Junin plateau of Peru in very hostile high altitude environments at 11,000-15,000 feet where temperatures plummet below 14 degrees and high winds and hot sun prevail. 3,4 It is native in the Puno and Moquegua regions in the Andes Mountains of Peru1 and is the only cruciferous vegetable native to this area.4 According the author of Lost Crops of the Incas, “even most of the Indians of the Andes barely know this plant, which is so restricted in its distribution….in this stark, inhospitable region, maca makes agriculture possible as maca survives in areas where little else can grow.” 4
Cultivation And Harvesting
It is now cultivated in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina,1 where many regions within these countries are severely economically depressed. Maca cultivation offers new sources of income and has become a major subject of commercial and scientific interests in the last few decades.2 In the 1990s, as interest piqued in North America3 cultivation increased profusely. Maca was considered a top selling herbal supplement listed in the top 21-40 rankings in a 2012 report showing a nearly 23% increase from prior years.5
History And Folklore
Maca has been in continual use for thousands of years and used as a love charm to inspire romantic interests for at least 500 years. The Inca were thought to have started cultivating this root 2,000 years ago as it was considered by them to be not only a highly valuable food source, but also a sacred gift from the gods.3 The Spanish encountered maca when they noticed that their horses were struggling with the extreme environment. As the story goes, the Inca suggested they try maca. These passionate Latin conquistadors couldn't help but notice the impressive effects on their animals, and so, they just had to try it for themselves. In Peru, the sweet, spicy, root is considered a delicacy. Many Peruvians prefer the taste of the yellow root, considering it sweeter.3 It is utilized as a typical grain flour and made into cakes, flan, smoothies, beer, and even a porridge called 'mazzamora.'3 The dried root will last for 7 years.3,4 Maca is considered a highly valuable commodity amongst the indigenous people in this area, and in Peru and other neighboring countries, where it has a long traditional use.2 The dried roots are exchanged for other food staples such as rice, with communities dwelling at lower elevations. This is often how they reach markets as far away as Lima, Peru.2,4
adaptogenic, estrogenic, nutritive, tonic
Uses And Preparations
Root fresh and cooked or dried and powdered in a smoothie. Traditionally, in Peru often blended with quinoa and a variety of other ingredients.
Root dried, powdered, and encapsulated
Cooked root vegetable.
59%-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% dietary fiber, and 2.2% fats, potassium, essential trace elements iron, iodine, copper, manganese, and zinc, fatty acids including linolenic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acids, and 19 amino acids, vitamin B1, B2, B12, vitamin C and E.7 Further, the root contains uridine, malic acid, and benzoyl derivative, glucosinolates, selenium and magnesium, and polysaccharides.7
During the mid 1500's, the Conquistadors in Peru required payments in the form of maca root, thus it was writ: Lima, January 12, 1549: "I Pedro, Lawyer Of the Gasca of the Council of his majesty and of the Holy Inquisition, president, and ruler of provinces of Peru by his majesty…"…entrust this Joan Tello, the Runato chiefdom with their main towns and Indians of Chinchaycocha…… send the tributes that Iuso Iran declared by the form and order that is followed: in each a year trezientas (30) MACA loads ….and one hundred loads of potatoes… ".18
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed athttp://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?8457 on June 25, 2014.
- Taylor LG (2005). The healing power of rainforest herbs: a guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.
- Kilham, Christopher (2000). Tales from the Medicine Trail: Tracking Down the Health Secrets of Shamans, Herbalists, Mystics, Yogis, and Other Healers. [Emmaus PA]: Rodale Press.
- Popenoe, H. (1989). Lost crops of the incas: Little-known plants of the andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. National Academy Press.
Lindstrom, A., Ooyen, C., Lynch, M. E., & Blumenthal, M. (2013). Herb supplement sales increase 5.5% in 2012: herbal supplement sales rise for 9th consecutive year; turmeric sales jump 40% in natural channel. HerbalGram,99, 60-65.
Gonzales, G. F., Cordova, A., Gonzales, C., Chung, A., Vega, K., & Villena, A. (2001). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men.Asian Journal of Andrology, 3(4), 301-304.Aim: The present study was designed to determine the effect of a 4 month oral treatment with tablets
Duke J. A. Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/ on June 20, 2014.
- Zhao J, Muhammad I, Dunbar DC, Mustafa J, Khan IA (February 2005). "New alkamides from maca (Lepidium meyenii)". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53 (3): 690–3.
- Muhammad, I; Zhao J., Dunbar D.C. & Khan I.A. (2002). "Constituents of Lepidium meyenii 'maca'". Phytochemistry 59 (1): 105–110.
Gonzales GF, Miranda S, Nieto J, et al. (2005). "Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats". Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 3 (1): 5.
Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Dec;16(6):373-80.
- Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, et al. Hormone-balancing effect of pre-gelatinized organic maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) physiological and symptomatic responses of early-postmenopausal women to standardized doses of maca in double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-centre clinical study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4): 360-374.
- Gonzales, G. F., Cordova, A., Vega, K., Chung, A., Villena, A., & Góñez, C. (2003). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. Journal of Endocrinology, 176(1), 163-168.
- Gonzales, G. F., Ruiz, A., Gonzales, C., Villegas, L., & Cordova, A. (2001). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats.Asian J Androl, 3(3), 231-3.
- Gonzales, G. F., Cordova, A., Vega, K., Chung, A., Villena, A., Gonez, C., & Castillo, S. (2002). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men.andrologia, 34(6), 367-372.
- Gonzales, G. F., Miranda, S., Nieto, J., Fernández, G., Yucra, S., Rubio, J., … & Gasco, M. (2005). Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 3(1), 5.
- Valentova, K.; Ulrichova J. (2003). "Smallanthus sonchifolius and Lepidium meyenii - prospective Andean crops for the prevention of chronic diseases".Biomedical papers of the Medical Faculty of the University Palacký, Olomouc,Czechoslovakia 147 (2): 119–30.
- Cam,Sergio.Maca in early Peruvian Records. http://web.archive.org/web/20090130151135/http://chakarunas.com/chke-historical.htm
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.