Botanical name: Lepidium meyenii
This is an ancient and revered adaptogen and aphrodisiac treasured by the Incans. Cultivated for over 6,000 years, maca is known as a “superfood”, providing sustained physical energy. It is also famous because many claim it is nature’s answer to sexual impotence. Maca is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sterols, and alkaloids, which are essential to sustained energy and healthy bodies.
Maca is not a medicine. It is a food supplement that works as an adaptogen: it improves the ability of the body to adapt to stress. It supplements the specific needs of the body according to age and sex of the person taking maca. You could say that maca fills the empty shelves in our bodies.
Maca is no invention of modern science. It is a tuberous plant that grows high up in the Peruvian Andes. For thousands of years, the plant has been known for its healing and beneficial effects, but it is only in the past fifteen years that science has taken an interest in maca. Of course, scientific research has proven what the Indians of the Andes have known for thousands of years: it works!
Maca is a wonderful source of natural vital nutrients. The synergy of so many amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in their natural states may increase the assimilation, uptake, and utilization of them in the body. Consumers however, shouldn’t expect “miracle cures” with maca – it’s rather like taking a multivitamin supplement. Keep in mind that it is, in fact, a root vegetable and a main staple in the Andean indigenous diet (as beans, potatoes, and rice are elsewhere).
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.
It may well be that maca’s beneficial effects for sexual function and fertility can be explained simply by its high concentration of proteins and vital nutrients. Dried maca root contains about 10% protein – mostly derived from amino acids. Amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are required in the diet to drive many cellular functions in the body – including sexual and fertility functions. Amino acids are required to manufacture neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline. These substances transmit signals in the nervous system and play a major role in the process of sexual arousal and physical performance during sex. The main amino acids that these neurotransmitters require include phenylalanine, tyrosine, and histidine (all three of which are found in good supply in maca).
Preparation: Today, dried maca root is ground to powder and sold in capsules as a food supplement and marketed to increase stamina (sexual and athletic) and fertility. Consumers bombarded with these marketing claims of hormonal balancing, thyroid stimulation (and resulting weight loss), sexual and athletic performance- take note: the indigenous uses to which marketers refer are in dosages by the ounce and pound daily-not just a few grams.
Maca Common Uses
Maca has been used as a staple food in large quantities by South American people for centuries, indicating its safety. Due to its hormone regulating effects, use with caution if you are taking HRT or other hormonal medication.