Maca Powder: An Ancient Peruvian Superfood and Aphrodisiac

Maca Powder

Maca is really a root that will grow in the Andes mountains of Peru. This root has been utilized like a food source for hundreds of years, and many Peruvians utilize it for its medicinal purposes. The root is packed with nutritionally-rich substances which make it an incredible instrument for contributing good balance to your daily diet. Maca is an herbaceous plant native to the high Andean Mountains of Bolivia and Peru. It is one of the only food plants in the world able to thrive at such a high altitude. Maca, and more specifically the root of the plant, has a long history as a superfood. The maca root was prized throughout the Incan empire for its adaptogenic-like qualities that enable it to nourish and balance the body’s delicate endocrine system, and to help cope with stress. It also energizes naturally, without the jitters and crashes of caffeine, and it can aid in reproductive function, helping to balance hormones and increase fertility. Navitas Naturals Maca Powder is the raw and natural form of this special root.

Lepidium meyenii, known commonly as maca, is an herbaceous biennial plant of the crucifer family native to the high Andes of Peru around Lake Junin. It is grown for its fleshy hypocotyl (a fused hypocotyl and taproot), which is used as a root vegetable, a medicinal herb, and a supposed aphrodisiac. Its Spanish and Quechua names include maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, and ayak willku.

Maca Powder

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 may be triangular, flattened circular, spherical, or rectangular, the latter of which forms the largest roots. 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. Recently, specific phenotypes (in maca, ‘phenotype’ pertains mainly to root color) have been propagated exclusively 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.

Darker colored maca roots (red, purple, black) contain significant amounts of natural iodine that may avoid the growth of goiters resulting from consumption of the lighter colored maca. 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.

Small-scale clinical trials performed in men have suggested that maca extracts can improve semen quality, and boost libido. A small double-blind, randomized, parallel group dose-finding pilot study has shown that Maca root may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. A 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 56 subjects found that Maca has no effect on sex hormone levels in men, including LH, FSH, prolactin, 17-OH progesterone, testosterone, or estradiol. 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.” In total more than 160 studies into the health effects of Maca have been indexed by the United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. A 2010 review of the extant evidence for the effect of Maca on libido, however, found only tentative support for its aphrodisiac claims.

Maca Powder

Maca is consumed as food for humans and livestock, suggesting any risk from consumption is rather minimal. It is considered as safe to eat as any other vegetable food, however, maca does contain glucosinolates, which can cause goiters when high consumption is combined with a diet low in iodine. This being said, darker colored maca roots (red, purple, black) contain significant amounts of natural iodine, a 10-gram serving of dried maca generally containing 52 µg of iodine. Although this is common in other foods with high levels of glucosinolate, it is uncertain if maca consumption can cause or worsen a goiter.

Due to its purported effects on fertility, maca has experienced a major gain of commercial interest as well as research in the last few decades. In the 1990s, a quick expansion of cultivated land with maca was observable. As the demand raised rapidly, the producer’s prices increased. Due to high expectations, however, the production expanded too rapidly and in the year 2000 the prices fell again. Market studies have shown a very low acceptance of the particular maca taste in consumers when first exposed to it. Apparently the taste is acquired, which creates a barrier for the further propagation of this food as a vegetable. The economic interest lies hence more in the medical application of the root’s constituents.

Maca is mainly grown for the nutritional and health value 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 always is cooked. The freshly harvested hypocotyl may be roasted in a pit (called huatia), which is considered a delicacy. Fresh roots usually are available only in the vicinity of the growers. The root also can be mashed and boiled to produce a sweet, thick liquid, dried and mixed with milk to form a porridge. The cooked roots also are 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 Lepidium sativum and Lepidium campestre, to which it is closely related genetically.

The growing demand of the supplement industry has been one of the primary reasons for maca’s expanding cultivation in Peru and Bolivia. 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. An internet query will show dozens of different extracts available, each touting a particular efficaciousness for a traditional use or health claim. Another common form is maca processed by gelatinization. This is an extrusion process which 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 and goitrogen content. Gelatinization was developed for maca specifically to mimic the activity of cooking, and to allow gentler digestion. Gelatinized maca is employed mainly for therapeutic and supplement purposes, but also can be used like maca flour, as a flavor in cooking. Available also is a freeze-dried maca juice, which is squeezed from the macerated fresh root, and subsequently freeze-dried high in the Andes.

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 been cultivated only in a limited area around Lake Junin, in Central Peru. Historically, maca often was traded for lowland tropical food staples, such as corn, rice, manioc (tapioca roots), quinoa, and papaya. It also was used as a form of payment of Spanish imperial taxes. It is cited that maca was eaten by Inca imperial warriors before battles. Their legendary strength allegedly was 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 reportedly 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 often-repeated legendary use is 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 historically.

Maca is said to help people with hormone inbalances as it has a unique way in which it improves the function of the endocrine system because it is an adaptogen which means it works in your body to help produce the right amount of hormones your body needs, therefore it can be used to treat a whole array of conditions such as; menopausal symptoms i.e hot flashes, vaginal dryness,regulating and normalizing menstural cycles and can help relieve fertility problems in both men and women.

The adaptogens found in Maca are also said to enhance stamina, endurance and overall energy. Maca is credited with having the ability to help the body to handle stress as it aids the adrenal gland to rejuvenate. Due to its content of vitamin C and zinc, maca can help to support your immune system so you are able to fight off colds, flus and other sicknesses.Therefore improving your overall feeling of well-being. Finally maca contains calcium, phosphorus, fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B12 which are believed to nourish our bodies in a way that calms our nerves and creates a healthy nervous system.

Health Benefits of Maca

Maca Powder

Vitamins

Maca is rich in vitamin B12 and protein, which is very helpful for vegans. It also keeps you healthy by providing vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E. It provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.

Sexual function

Maca is widely used to promote sexual function of both men and women. It serves as a boost to your libido and increases endurance. At the same time it balances your hormones and increases fertility.

For women

Maca relieves menstrual issues and menopause. It alleviates cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings and depression. If you are pregnant or lactating you should avoid taking maca.

Energy

Within days of using maca your energy level may increase. It is also known for increasing stamina. Many athletes take maca for peak performance. If you find yourself tired most of the time, experiment with maca to see if it helps. Just a small amount could be exactly what you need for a boost.

General health

Maca Powder

Maca helps your overall health in a number of ways. It supplies iron and helps restore red blood cells, which aids anemia and cardiovascular diseases. Maca keeps your bones and teeth healthy and allows you to heal from wounds more quickly. When used in conjunction with a good workout regime you will notice an increase in muscle mass.

But be very cautious if you have a cancer related to hormones like testicular and ovarian, among others. If you have liver issues or high blood pressure you should ask your doctor before taking maca.

Skin

Many take macs for skin issues, as for some people it helps to clear acne and blemishes. Another benefit for your skin is that is decreases sensitivity. In hot or cold weather, maca may help your skin withstand extreme temperatures.

Mood balance

If you find yourself overcome with anxiety, stress, depression or mood swings, maca may help alleviate these symptoms, though of the evidence is anecdotal. Some have reported an increase in mental energy and focus.

Maca Root Powder Side Effects

Maca regulates hormones, and since there have been no testing to prove the safety of use in patients suffering from cancers related with hormones of breast, ovaries, uterus, testicles – these people need to be extremely cautious. Maca root powder should not be taken during pregnancy and lactation.

People who have the gall and liver disease, or high blood pressure, definitely should consult a physician before using maca root powder. It is also not wise to take it if you are using medications that increase fertility, as well as with ginseng.

Disclaimer

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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