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Maca Root Powder 


Scientific NamesMaca Root Powder

Lepidium meyenii


Common Names  

MacaLepidium meyenii, known commonly as maca, is an herbaceous biennial plant or annual plant (some sources say a perennial plant) native to the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia. It is grown for its fleshy hypocotyl (actually a fused hypocotyl and taproot), which is used as a root vegetable and a medicinal herb.

Its Spanish and Quechua names include maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, and ayak willku.


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Although this species has been used by the Andean people for two thousand years, their knowledge was first brought under Linnaeus' system of classification by Gerhard Walpers in 1843 as Lepidium meyenii. In studying different specimens since the late 1960s, most botanists now consider the widely cultivated natural maca of today to be a newer domesticated species, L. peruvianum. This more recent designation was made by Dr. Gloria Chacon. The Latin name recognized by the USDA continues to be Lepidium meyenii, however most contemporary botanists employ the name "peruvianum" and consider it most accurate to describe the species". The growth habit, size, and proportions of maca are roughly similar to those of the radish and the turnip, to which it is related. The green, fragrant tops are short and lie along the ground. The thin frilly leaves are born in a rosette at the soil followed by 4–5 mm siliculate fruits, each containing two small (2-2.5 mm) reddish-gray ovoid seeds. The seeds, which are the plant's only means of reproduction, germinate within five days given good conditions. The seeds have no dormancy, as maca's native habitat remains harsh year-round.

Maca is the only member of its genus with a fleshy hypocotyl, which is fused with the taproot to form a rough inverted-pear-shaped body. Maca does vary greatly in the size and shape of the root, which can be triangular, flattened circular, spherical or rectangular, the latter of which forms the largest roots. Maca hypocotyls can be gold or cream, red, purple, blue, black or green. Each is considered a genetically unique variety, as seeds of the parent plants grow to have roots of the same color. Recently, specific phenotypes (in maca, 'phenotype' pertains mainly to root color) have been exclusively propagated to ascertain their different nutritional and therapeutic properties. Cream colored roots are the most widely grown and are favored in Peru for their enhanced sweetness and size. Black maca is considered the strongest in energy and stamina-promoting properties, being both sweet and slightly bitter in taste. Red maca is becoming popular with many people, and has been clinically shown to reduce prostate size in rats. These three phenotypes are the primary ones being grown and exported.

Maca is traditionally grown at altitudes of approximately 8,000-14,500 ft (2,400-4,400 metres) elevation. It grows well only in cold climates with relatively poor agricultural soils, habitats where few other crops can be grown. Like many cruciferous root vegetables, maca can exhaust soils that are not well tended. Nearly all maca cultivation in Peru is carried out organically, as there are few pests naturally occurring at such high altitudes, and maca itself is seldom attacked. Maca is sometimes interplanted with potatoes, as it is known to maca farmers that the plant itself naturally repels most root crop pests. Maca croplands are fertilized mainly with sheep and alpaca manure, and are often rested for a period of years to rebuild nutrients in the soils. 8 to 10 months elapse between sowing and maturity for harvest. The yield for a cultivated hectare is approximately 5 tons.[citation needed] Maca is typically dried for further processing, which yields about 1.5 tons total. Although maca has been cultivated outside the Andes, it is not yet clear whether it develops the same active constituents or potency. Hypocotyls grown from Peruvian seeds form with difficulty at low elevations, in greenhouses or in warm climates.

For approximately 2,000 years, maca has been an important traditional food and medicinal plant in its limited growing region, where it is well-known and celebrated. It is regarded as a highly nutritious, energy-imbuing food, and as a medicine that enhances strength, endurance and also acts as an aphrodisiac. During Spanish colonization maca was used as currency.


Medicinal Properties

Small-scale clinical trials performed in men have shown that maca extracts can heighten libido and improve semen quality.A small double-blind, randomized, parallel group dose-finding pilot study has shown that Maca root may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Maca does not affect sex hormone levels in humans, and has not been shown to act on hormones directly. It has been presumed that maca's effects may be due to the root's unique nutritional profile, which provides optimum levels of nutrients utilized by the body's endocrine system. In addition, maca has been shown to increase mating behavior in male mice and rats. A recent review states "Randomized clinical trials have shown that maca has favorable effects on energy and mood, may decrease anxiety and improve sexual desire. Maca has also been shown to improve sperm production, sperm motility, and semen volume."

 Biochemical Information

In addition to sugars and proteins, maca contains uridine, malic acid and its benzoyl derivative, and the glucosinolates, glucotropaeolin and m-methoxyglucotropaeolin. The methanol extract of maca tuber also contained (1R, 3S)-1-methyltetrahydro-carboline-3-carboxylic acid, a molecule which is reported to exert many activities on the central nervous system.Many different alkamides were found in maca. (1R, 3S)-1-methyltetrahydro-carboline-3-carboxylic acid

The nutritional value of dried maca root is high, similar to cereal grains such as rice and wheat. The average composition is 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% dietary fiber, and 2.2% fats. Maca is rich in the dietary minerals calcium and potassium (with low content of sodium), and contains the essential trace elements iron, iodine, copper, manganese, and zinc as well as fatty acids including linolenic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acids, and 19 amino acids.

Further, Maca contains selenium and magnesium[citation needed], and includes polysaccharides.[12] Maca's reported beneficial effects for sexual function could be due to its high concentration of proteins and vital nutrients;maca contains a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which reputedly has aphrodisiac properties.


Legends, Myths and Stories

Maca has been harvested and used by humans in the Andean Mountains for centuries. Contrary to frequent claims that maca's cultivation was common in what is today Peru, it has been shown that until the late 1980s, maca has only been cultivated in a limited area around Lake Junin, in Central Peru. Historically, maca was often traded for lowland tropical food staples, such as corn, rice, manioc (tapioca roots), quinoa and papaya. It was also used as a form of payment of Spanish imperial taxes. It is often cited that maca was eaten by Inca imperial warriors before battles. Their legendary strength was allegedly imparted by the preparatory consumption of copious amounts of maca, fueling formidable warriors. After a city was conquered, the women had to be protected from the Inca warriors, as they became ambitiously virile from eating such quantities of maca. This is of course an appealing endorsement for the masculine angle of maca's recent marketing campaign. Whether or not this oft repeated historical use is actually true has yet to be determined. Those who have studied maca's history have not been able to locate formal mention of this particular use.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease.