Discover the incredible benefits of Maca Roots from the Andeans, the ultimate nutritional powerhouse transforming health and fertility.
In recent years, Maca roots have been lauded as a superfood that boosts sexual drive. This much-revered herb belongs to the brassica (mustard) family and the Lepidium genus. Maca flourishes in the rugged Andean Mountain region, at breathtaking altitudes ranging from 11,000 to 14,500 feet. Its incredible journey spans over two millennia, as the Inca Indians tamed its powers around 2000 years ago, establishing its status as a prized treasure among Andean communities. Traditionally exchanged with lower-altitude settlements for essential staples like rice, corn, and beans, Maca has been cherished by native Peruvians for its nourishing and healing properties.
This extraordinary botanical marvel, scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii, is distantly related to the vibrant radish. Its alluring foliage cascades close to the earth, and delicate, off-white blossoms adorn its presence. The true essence of Maca lies within its root, renowned for its nutritional prowess and herbal virtues. Available in captivating hues of red, yellow, and black, Maca has long been a staple crop in Peru, but now, its reputation as a global superfood is soaring to new heights.
Traditionally Uses of Maca Roots
Maca, a plant native to the central Andes of Peru, has a rich history of cultivation in specific regions like Carhuamayo, Junin, and Óndores in the Junin Plateau near Cerro de Pasco, formerly known as Chinchaycocha. The earliest documented mention of maca dates back to 1553 when Cieza de Leon, a chronicler of the Spanish conquest of Peru, observed that the indigenous people in the highlands of Peru, particularly in the province of Bombón (Chinchaycocha; present day: Junin), relied on maca roots for sustenance.
In 1653, Father Cobo became the first to provide a detailed account of maca and its properties. He noted its ability to thrive in the harshest and coldest areas of the Chinchaycocha province, where other edible plants could not survive. Father Cobo also highlighted maca’s traditional use for enhancing fertility. Subsequently, in the 18th century, Ruiz emphasized maca’s fertility-enhancing properties and its stimulant effects.
Traditionally, maca is harvested and naturally dried, enabling long-term storage. The dried hypocotyls of maca become extremely hard. Once naturally dried, these hypocotyls can be consumed after boiling in water, resulting in a soft product often consumed as juice, which is the most prevalent form of consumption.
Given the challenging climate of its native habitat, maca was one of the few plants successfully cultivated by the inhabitants of the Andean plateau. Historical records indicate that the Incas used maca in soups to boost their energy before battles. Present-day Peruvians still cook maca in huatias, earthen ovens. Additionally, maca is used to flavor cocktails and is incorporated into a variation of the traditional South American chicha—a weak beer prepared by chewing the starch to initiate fermentation. Residents of Huancayo, Peru, particularly enjoy maca-based jams and puddings.
For centuries, maca has been renowned as a powerful enhancer of strength and libido. It functions as an adaptogen, promoting balance and stability within the cardiovascular, nervous, musculature, and lymphatic systems of the body. Maca provides an extra energy boost without overstimulating the body. Moreover, adaptogens contribute to improved immunity and overall vitality, which helps explain maca’s enduring popularity throughout history.
South Americans have also attributed medicinal properties to maca. The Quechua Indians, descendants of the Incas, have utilized this radish-family plant for healing purposes since ancient times. The root, known for its copper, calcium, and iron content, is believed to increase fertility and energy levels. Maca is often recommended to women seeking to enhance their chances of pregnancy, alleviate menopausal symptoms, or manage menstrual problems. It is also prescribed to men experiencing erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, farmers incorporate maca into livestock feed to enhance fertility, while individuals suffering from conditions like chronic fatigue, anemia, and osteoporosis turn to maca as a potential treatment for their ailments.
Maca Roots: A Nutritional Powerhouse with Impressive Benefits
Peruvian biologist, Gloria Chacon de Popivici, has delved into the fascinating realm of Maca alkaloids and their profound influence on the body’s endocrine system. Her research suggests that Maca possesses the incredible ability to invigorate energy levels, bolster vitality, and ignite libido by stimulating the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and the adrenals. While investigations into Maca’s impact on mood and memory are still limited, it has displayed promising potential in enhancing sexual function.
One cannot overlook the remarkable nutritional composition that distinguishes Maca from its counterparts. Abundantly available in the form of dried powder, Maca carries an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds. Its composition boasts a significant presence of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein, making it a noteworthy addition to one’s dietary regimen. Moreover, Maca surpasses other root vegetables in terms of protein and fiber content, and it is replete with essential minerals, trace minerals, amino acids, and sterols.
Functioning as an adaptogen, Maca demonstrates its versatility by assisting the body in adapting to diverse situations, thus earning its reputation as an energizing agent. Frequently referred to as Peruvian Ginseng, Maca shares similarities with other renowned adaptogens like Ginseng. Its invigorating effects can be attributed to its nutritional richness, which encompasses sugars, proteins, starches, and essential minerals. Additionally, Maca contains alkaloids, tannins, and saponins, with macamides and macaenes identified as potential active components.
Maca’s prowess in enhancing fertility is firmly established, observed not only in human populations but also in animals. As far back as 1961, clinical studies have showcased increased fertility in rats exposed to Maca. Dr. Hugo Malaspina, a cardiologist based in Lima, stumbled upon Maca’s benefits through sexually active older men who reported positive outcomes. This discovery prompted him to incorporate Maca into his practice and advocate its use among other patients.
Chemical analysis has shed light on the biologically active compounds present in Maca, notably p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, renowned for its aphrodisiac properties. Glucosinolates found in Maca are believed to contribute to its fertility-enhancing effects. Today, the roots of Maca are dried, ground into powder, and encapsulated, serving as a medicinal and dietary supplement that bolsters stamina and fertility.
Moreover, Maca has been traditionally employed to address menstrual irregularities and hormonal imbalances, including menopause. As its popularity has soared, Maca’s applications in these areas have expanded. The evidence supporting Maca’s fertility-enhancing effects remains consistent, with studies spanning several decades consistently demonstrating its efficacy, particularly in animal models.
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Understanding Safe Consumption of Maca Roots
When consumed as part of a regular diet, Maca is generally considered safe for most individuals. However, when used as a medicinal supplement in larger quantities and for a short duration, it is likely safe. It is generally recommended to limit the daily intake to no more than 3 grams and to use it for a period of up to 4 months to ensure safety.
For pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, there is insufficient reliable information available to determine the safety of using maca. Therefore, it is advisable to err on the side of caution and stick to consuming maca in normal food amounts during these stages.
It is important to note that extracts derived from maca may possess estrogen-like properties. As a result, individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids should avoid using these extracts, as they may potentially exacerbate their conditions.
Battling Biopiracy: Peru’s Struggle to Protect its Maca Industry
In 2013, Maca gained widespread popularity in China. This led to a national craze, resulting in substantial profits for farmers in Peru, where maca is grown. However, the situation took a sudden turn when the Chinese buyers abruptly disappeared. It turned out that they had started growing the root domestically, causing Peru’s government to take action against what they deemed acts of “biopiracy” through the implementation of a newly enacted law.
The Chinese market for maca experienced a remarkable surge three decades later, particularly between 2013 and 2014, witnessing a staggering 1,100 percent increase in demand. As a result, Peruvian farmers began receiving offers from buyers willing to pay five to ten times their usual prices.
Despite the initial boom, the maca trade in Junín, Peru, has declined significantly. Dora Huamán, a fourth-generation grower, has accumulated tons of dried maca roots as she sees no point in selling them at a loss. She highlights the lack of government control over the exportation of maca seeds as a crucial factor. China’s entry into maca production has turned them into formidable competitors, driving prices down and making it difficult for local farmers to sell their harvest. This predicament has raised concerns about the future of agriculture in Junín, where maca cultivation and ranching have been the primary economic activities.
Peru’s government placed its hopes on the Nagoya Protocol, an international law established in 2014 to combat biopiracy. The protocol aims to safeguard species and traditional knowledge unique to specific regions, declaring them as the intellectual property of the local communities. To enforce this, Peru established the world’s only biopiracy task force. Cases like the Maca situation in Peru have been frequently cited as justification for reforms in intellectual property rights systems, particularly patents, which are often implicated in claims of misappropriation or biopiracy.
Maca holds the status of a protected heritage product in Peru, which means that its legal cultivation is restricted exclusively to the country’s borders.
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