Maca: the root that packs a punch
Maca is a salubrious root extract from the plant, Lepidium Meyenii. It’s a relative of the radish, belonging to the mustard family, and part of the wider cruciferous family (which includes broccoli and cabbage). It’s a rich source of phytonutrients and due to its unique health giving properties is considered a ‘superfood’. Maca is known as an adaptogen, a special kind of plant that has unique medicinal and healing properties, reputed to have balancing, restorative and protective influences within the body. Naturopath, Edward Wallace, describes an adaptogen as functioning beyond any specific action, instead working to assist the body to respond and adapt to hostile influences or stress; having the capability to regulate physiological functions.1
Maca is also known and recognised as the following names: Ayak Chichira, Ayuk Willku, Ginseng Andin, Ginseng Péruvien, Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum, Maca Maca, Maca Péruvien, Maino, Maka, Peruvian Ginseng, Peruvian Maca.
The Maca plant, Lepidium Meyenii, is indigenous to the Peruvian Central Andes, and thrives high up in the mountains. It’s a hardy species, able to survive the harshest of conditions and endure ever-changing weather, terrain and temperatures; it can be found growing in altitudes up to 15,000ft / 4500 meters and is also incredibly tolerant to low partial pressures of Oxygen.2 It usually takes about 7 to 9 months before the desired root part is harvested, dried and stored. With proper drying, the roots can last up to seven years.3 Today it’s cultivated in Peru and Bolivia but the root extract is considered by many to be of superior quality, with richer nutritional value and medicinal potency, when sourced from its homelands in Peru.4 Maca is still firmly rooted in its birthplace while gaining in popularity across the globe; In recent years, the Maca plant has been included in the top export items of Peru and land dedicated to growing this special plant has been extended to meet demand.5
Origins and History of Maca
Maca has been used for many thousands of years, as far back as the Incan Empire, where they used the root of the Maca plant for both its nutrition and health properties. It’s one of the most nutritious plants grown in that area of the world. Indigenous groups have long existed using nature or plants in their local region to help maintain their health. It’s interesting to observe that these groups have one thing in common and that is incorporating ‘superfoods’ into their diets. In the case of the ancient Incans, the Maca plant is credited for the success of the Incan empire. The Maca plant has long been used as a cure-all plant by the Inca people.6
Maca was so highly prized by the Inca’s that it was used as a form of currency trading it for food necessities such as rice, corn, quinoa and beans.7 In the Inca era it was given to warriors before a battle as they believed it would increase strength and stamina and help them to be successful in war and live to fight another day. Interestingly, in times of peace consumption of the roots was forbidden to protect the enemy’s women from the formidable Inca warriors, as the plant is said to increase the sexual appetite of the person who consumes the roots. This is just one of the many reasons Maca was consumed by the Inca’s and it’s one of the benefits of Maca being harnessed today. Maca’s potential benefits to sexual health, with its ability to increase libido and improve sexual function, are one reason why increasingly people in the Western world are using Maca powder or tablets as a supplement.8 The ancient Inca’s are also reputed to have used Maca to alleviate menstrual and menopausal problems; improve mental clarity; as well as a treatment for anaemia and TB.9
What are the benefits of Maca Extract?
Coined the ‘Peruvian Ginseng’, Maca has a varied and far-reaching list of health and medicinal benefits. Maca is considered a ‘nutritional powerhouse’, it's rich in all macronutrients, plus Iron and Iodine. Iodine is essential for the synthesis of hormones by the thyroid gland. Additionally, it’s full of vitamins, phytonutrients, fatty acids and amino acids and is an abundant source of phytohormones and trace minerals. Maca is used for lots of different reasons and to treat and prevent a whole host of health conditions: From the list below it’s clear to see why the Incas regarded Maca as such a wonderful substance and how it’s now gained status as a ‘superfood’.10
Per 100g Maca root contains 7g of fibre, 14g of protein, 25% of our daily calcium needs, 82% of our RDA of iron, an amazing 475% of our vitamin C needs, and 57% of the RDA of vitamin B6.11
The varied and many uses and benefits include:
- Boosts immune system. General health and vitality.
- Restorative effect. A general sense of well-being.
- Natural antioxidant.
- Prevention of chronic diseases brought about by oxidative stress.12
- Boosts levels of glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase) which help fight disease in the body.
- Sports performance. Increase stamina. Improve performance.
- Fatigue. Boosts energy levels.
- Improving Digestion. Laxative.
- Sexual health of men and women: erectile dysfunction; improve low sex drive/aphrodisiac effects; fertility. Male testosterone levels.
- Anabolic effects.
- Women’s health. PMS symptoms. Menstruation. PCOS syndrome.
- Menopause/Andropause. Hormone balancing.
- Skin health. Protect against UV radiation. Acne. Skin tone.
- Anti-ageing properties.
- Strong teeth and bones.
- Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis conditions.
- Thyroid health.
- Muscle/weight gain.
- Depression. Improves mood.
- Improved circulation.
- Hair growth.
- Improve mental clarity. Cognitive function. Memory.
- Adrenal-boosting properties.
Also, it contains glucosinolate (a plant compound that is also present in other vegetables such as cabbage) which is said to have high cancer preventing properties. Studies have concentrated in particular on its possible benefits for hormone related cancer.13
Research conducted in 1988 showed that the maca root contains 10% protein and 60% carbohydrates with the remaining percentage an assortment of natural health-giving fatty acids. They also discovered two compounds – macamides and macaenes, which are attributed to the sexual health and sexual appetite boosting features of the plant.14
- Over 20 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids
- 20 free-form fatty acids (such as lauric, linolenic, palmitic acid, oleic and stearic acid)
- Vitamins B1, B2, C and E
- Iodine 15
In Peru, the plant is considered a vegetable and a staple part of the Peruvian people’s daily diet. Maca has a pleasant, nutty, earthy flavour, akin to graham flour, with a sweet smell similar to butterscotch. As a food, Maca is valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties and is used in a number of ways. It’s added to soups and porridges, cakes and cookies and also made into chips. The roots of the plant can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted and can also be fermented into a nutritious drink; something of a local speciality, similar to a kefir, known as ‘Maca Chicha’.16 Another popular variation is soaked maca roots blended with fresh fruit, milk, honey, egg and vanilla.17
The Maca plant and its root extract is a potent natural energy booster and recommended, in particular, when you require enhanced physical and mental performance.
We provide three strengths of our Maca Tablets, 1250mg, 2500mg, or 4000mg in a range of 6 sizes.The Maca Tablet is 8mm in size and very manageable to swallow for your comfort. Our Extra tablets (2500mg) come in a 10mm size and Ultra tablets (4,000mg) come in our "Torpedo" size, both of which are large tablets. We advise that if you have trouble swallowing you only purchase our lowest strength.18
The benefit of this product in powder form is its versatility; it’s easy to use and can be added to just about anything, including smoothies, shakes and juice drinks. We recommend adding it to a pre-workout shake for a natural boost of energy. Raw powdered Maca can also be included in raw food diet. We provide Maca in a variety of weights from 25-1000g.19
Maca for all-round health and vitality
In addition to the many specific health claims, Maca’s unique nutritional value makes it a great supplement to boost the immune system and maintain all round general health of both body and mind. Macca is a particularly good supplement for those of us suffering with malnutrition and not getting enough of the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids from diet that the body requires to function properly. Perhaps the Inca Civilisation knew a thing or two about health and vitality and it’s time to follow in their footsteps by incorporating marvellous Maca root into our daily diets?
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5# Agricultural exports on the rise in Peru: https://www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/fresh-horizons-agricultural-exports-are-taking-place-traditional-foreign-currency-earners
12# The influence of maca (Lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. http://science.naturalnews.com/2007/2772987_The_influence_of_maca_Lepidium_meyenii_on_antioxidant_status_lipid.html