Maca (LepidiumMeyenii) sometimes called “Peruvian Ginseng” has been eaten in Peru for thousands of years and its reputation and enduring popularity today speaks for itself.
The Incas considered this plant sacred and used it to promote fertility and virility. For thousands of years, maca has been sought after for its powerful stimulating effects on sexual activity (for men and women). Yet maca is much more than a supposed aphrodisiac plant, it is beneficial for the nervous system, it has been used to fight problems related to stress, to fight certain diseases, to strengthen bones and muscles, to restore energy in people lacking vitality and much more.
Where does maca come from?
In the Junín region of Peru, maca has been consumed in large quantities for thousands of years as it provides a readily available and highly nutritious food source in areas where traditional agricultural practices struggle.
Maca today thrives in these hostile environments, only growing at altitudes above 3,500 metres on poor rocky soils where acidity may exceed pH5, and is able to withstand high winds and temperatures as low as -10°C.
Maca is considered a “superfood” because of its high nutritional value. It is particularly rich in minerals, amino acids and fibre. But the most important property of maca is its adaptogenic action. Adaptogens stimulate the body to help it achieve a better hormonal balance.
All the good things you can find in maca powder:
Source of iron which contributes to normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, normal oxygen transport in the body and normal function of the immune system.
High in potassium which contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system and muscle function.
Source of zinc and manganese which are essential for bone health, including bone development and maintenance.
Also, a great source of Copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B12 - all crucial substances that the body cannot secrete itself.
Contains carbohydrates and proteins which are the main source of energy for our cells.
Low in fat and saturated fat (<1%).
Provides a fair amount of fibre.
Contains many bioactive plant compounds such as saponins, which support the immune system and promote normal cholesterol levels.
Main benefits attributed to Maca
Maca is reputed to have natural insect-repellent properties and is sometimes grown alongside other highland crops such as bitter potatoes as Andean farmers believe it protects the underground tubers from pests.
The active ingredients of Peruvian maca boost the immune system by providing all the necessary nutrients for a good recovery, in case of physical or mental stress. Stimulation of hormones plays a vital role in the health of the body, for the production of white blood cells by the adrenal glands. The biochemical components mentioned above have expectorant, sedative and analgesic qualities, characteristics useful for the human body in order to ward off several diseases, ailments and certain disorders.
Increases libido in both men and women.
There is some evidence that maca root increases men's fertility.
Maca may help relieve symptoms of menopause including hot flashes and interrupted sleep. It has noticeable effects on the reproductive powers and the balance of hormones in the body, which is very useful for avoiding certain menopausal and andropause-related effects.
The root has been associated with reduced anxiety and symptoms of depression, particularly in menopausal women.
Maca root powder is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and athletes. It has been claimed to help you gain muscle, increase strength, boost energy and improve exercise performance. (not enough scientific evidence)
When applied to the skin, Maca extract may help protect it from the sun's UV rays.
Maca may improve brain function. In fact, it has traditionally been used by natives in Peru to improve children's performance in school.
How to use Maca
The main edible part of the plant is the root, which is generally dried and consumed in powder form, but it is also available in capsules and as a liquid extract.
The taste of Maca root powder can be described as ‘earthy and nutty’ but not many people appreciate it on its own.
Try adding maca powder to smoothies and energy bars or including it in baking recipes to benefit from the natural mineral content of this “lost crop of the Incas”.
The optimal dose for medicinal use has not been established. However, the dosage of Maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5–5 grams per day.
Here are some ideas to help you add a little Maca powder to your food every day:
Add ½ teaspoon of Maca powder in your hot drink: tea, coffee, hot chocolate. Maca goes very well with dairy products and plant-based equivalents.
Lunch and Dinner
Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of Maca powder to your flour mixes: bread, pastries, cake batter etc. Or mix 3 to 4 grams of powder into your soups.
In addition to being healthy, it will give a special flavour to your recipes.
Mix one teaspoon of Maca powder with fruit juices, vegetable juices or smoothies. You can also add a little bit of Maca to homemade energy balls and biscuits.
Here is a quick and easy recipe you can try:
Ingredients for 1 person:
2 fresh figs
1 raw cocoa bean (or a spoonful of cacao nibs)
1 teaspoon of maca powder
1 pinch of cinnamon powder
150ml of almond milk
Slice the banana and chop up the figs, then grate the cocoa bean (or add the cacao nibs to the fruits). Mix with the rest of the ingredients and mix everything in a blender. Enjoy!