The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Scientific Names

Maca Root Colors

  • Lepidium meyenii
  • L. peruvianum
  • Brassicaceae family

Common Names

  • Ayak Chichira (Spanish or Quechua)
  • Ayak Willku (Spanish or Quechua)
  • Maca-maca (Spanish or Quechua)
  • Maino (Spanish or Quechua)
  • Peruvian Maca
  • Peruvian Ginseng

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Parts Usually Used

The root

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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

It is grown for its fleshy hypocotyl that is fused with a taproot, which is typically dried, but may also be freshly cooked as a root vegetable. If it is dried, it may be further processed into a flour for baking or as a dietary supplement.

The growth habit, size, and proportions of maca are roughly similar to those of radishes and turnips, to which it is related, but it also resembles a parsnip. The green, fragrant tops are short and lie along the ground. The thin, frilly leaves sprout in a rosette at the soil surface, not growing more than 12–20 cm (4.7–7.9 in) in height.

Maca is the only member of the genus Lepidium 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 may be triangular, flattened circular, spherical, or rectangular, the latter of which forms the largest roots. Traditionally, native growers have acknowledged four varieties of maca, based on their root color: cream-yellow, half purple, purple, and black; varying levels of anthocyanin is primarily responsible for the color differences. Maca hypocotyls may 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. Specific phenotypes (in maca, ‘phenotype’ pertains mainly to root color) have been propagated exclusively to increase commercial interest. Cream-colored roots are the most widely grown and are favored in Peru for their enhanced sweetness and size. Black maca is both sweet and slightly bitter in taste.

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Where Found

Native to South America in the high Andes mountains of Peru. It was found exclusively at the Meseta de Bombón plateau close to Lake Junin in the late 1980s. Maca today is also cultivated in Peru, in the high Andes of Bolivia, and to a small extent also in Brazil. Maca can be cultivated beyond its natural elevation range, over 4,400 m (14,400 ft) above sea level.[

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Medicinal Properties

Experimental scientific evidence showed that maca has nutritional, energizer, and fertility-enhancer properties, and it acts on sexual dysfunctions, osteoporosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, memory and learning, and protects skin against ultraviolet radiation. Clinical trials showed efficacy of maca on sexual dysfunctions as well as increasing sperm count and motility. Maca is a plant with great potential as an adaptogen and appears to be promising as a nutraceutical in the prevention of several diseases.

There are different types of maca with different colors ranging from white to black. Scientists have studied the pharmacological effects of 3 types; yellow, black, and red maca. Evidence from experimental studies indicates effects of maca on nutrition, fertility, memory, and mood. Black maca has better effects on sperm production than yellow maca which has only moderate effects. Red maca, however, has no effect on sperm production. However, red maca has been shown to reduce prostate size in rats in which prostate hyperplasia had been induced with testosterone enanthate; yellow maca has shown moderate effects here, whereas black maca has not shown any effects. 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. Serum levels of testosterone, estradiol, LH, FSH, and prolactin were not affected. The exact mechanisms of action are still unclear, but so far research clearly indicates that various bioactive constituents contribute to the clinical effects reported.
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Biochemical Information

Maca contains glucotropaeolin, m-methoxyglucotropaeolin, benzyl glucosinolates, polyphenols, (1R,3S)-1-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline-3-carboxylic acid (MTCA), and p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate.

Alkamides are also present in maca. These alkamides, commonly known as macamides, are the key bioactive constituents of maca and have demonstrated therapeutic potential against several neurological and non-neurological disorders. In addition to possessing some fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitory activity, macamides are potent soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors and this mechanism of action at least partially accounts for the beneficial biological effects of maca. N-Benzyl-linoleamide (the N-benzylamide of linoleic acid) is an especially relevant macamide since it is the single most abundant macamide found in maca products to date and was orally active in an animal model, exhibiting significant analgesia against inflammatory pain.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

As maca grows on sites where no other crops can be cultivated, it is often found after long fallows of sheep grazing pastures. Maca croplands thus traditionally are only fertilized with sheep and alpaca manure; however, fertilizer application could prevent soils from depleting in nutrients.

Weeding or pesticide application usually is not necessary as the climate is not suitable for most weeds or pests. Nearly all maca cultivation in Peru is carried out organically, as maca itself is seldom attacked. Maca is sometimes interplanted with potatoes, as it is known to maca farmers that the plant naturally repels most root crop pests.

The harvest is done manually, with the leaves left in the field as livestock feed or organic fertilizer.

It also was used as a form of payment of Spanish imperial taxes.
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Maca root has traditionally been used to enhance fertility and sex drive.

Maca is also claimed to improve energy and stamina.

Maca is mainly grown for consumption of its root. The majority of harvested maca is dried. In this form, the hypocotyls can be stored for several years. In Peru, maca is prepared and consumed in various ways, although traditionally it is always cooked. The freshly harvested hypocotyl may be roasted in a pit (called huatia), and is considered a delicacy.

Fresh roots usually are available only in the vicinity of the growers. The root can also be mashed and boiled to produce a sweet, thick liquid, then dried and mixed with milk to form a porridge, mazamorra.

The cooked roots are also used with other vegetables in empanadas, jams, or soups.

The root may be ground to produce a flour for bread, cakes, or pancakes.

If fermented, a weak beer called chicha de maca may be produced. In 2010, a U.S.-based brewery, called Andean Brewing Company, became the first company to produce and commercialize beer made from maca under the brand KUKA Beer. From the black morphotype, a liquor is produced.

Also, the leaves are edible or may serve as animal fodder. They can be prepared raw in salads or cooked much like L. sativum and L. campestre, to which it is closely related genetically.

The prominent product for export is maca flour, which is a baking flour ground from the hard, dried roots. It is called harina de maca. Maca flour (powder) is a relatively inexpensive bulk commodity, much like wheat flour or potato flour. The supplement industry uses both the dry roots and maca flour for different types of processing and concentrated extracts.

Another common form is maca processed by gelatinization. This extrusion process separates and removes the tough fiber from the roots using gentle heat and pressure, as raw maca is difficult to digest due to its thick fibers.
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Nutrient Content

The average composition, on a dry matter basis, is 60-75% carbohydrates (mostly as polysaccharides), 10-14% protein, 8.5% dietary fiber, and 2.2% fats.
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How Sold

Maca is exported as powder, capsules, pills, flour, liquor, and extracts
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The presence of (1R,3S)-1-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline-3-carboxylic acid (MTCA) in the extracts of maca indicate a potential safety issue as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and possibility as a mutagen. Due to these potential mutagenic properties of MTCA, the Agency for Sanitary Security in France warned consumers about the possible health risks of powdered maca root, a declaration disputed on the assumption that MTCA would be deactivated by boiling to process maca roots. MTCA-like compounds are associated with craving behaviour.
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Resource Links

Wikipedia: Lepidium meyenii Library of Medicine: Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands Library of Medicine: Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science Library of Medicine: [Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp), a review of its biological properties] Library of Medicine: Is the hype around the reproductive health claims of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) justified? Library of Medicine: Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands, Promotes Skin Wound Healing at Sea Level and at High Altitude in Adult Male Mice Library of Medicine: Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats Library of Medicine: Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats Library of Medicine: Maca extracts and estrogen replacement therapy in ovariectomized rats exposed at high altitude Library of Medicine: N-Benzyl-linoleamide, a Constituent of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), Is an Orally Bioavailable Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitor That Alleviates Inflammatory Pain Library of Medicine: The effects of aqueous extract of Maca on energy metabolism and immunoregulation

Medical News Today: What are the benefits of maca root?

WebMD: All About Maca Root

WebMD: Are There Health Benefits to Using Maca Powder?

Gaia Herbs: Why We Love Maca: Top Benefits of this Amazing Adaptogenic Herb

RxList: MACA

Royal Society of Chemistry: Medicinal effects of Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii): a review

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