Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) has been used by the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains for thousands of years. Archeological digs have found evidence of primitive maca cultivation dating back to 1600 B.C. Other archeological and cultural evidence suggests that it was properly embraced and domesticated by the Inca Empire around 2000 years ago.
Even back then Maca was seen as a super food, remaining an exclusive privilege of the higher rungs of society, and a reward for warriors who had distinguished themselves - to act as a further battle aid. Maca is said to be the source of the Inca warrior's legendary strength and stamina that they displayed in battle, as well as the reason that the women of the conquered had to be protected from the warriors – in order to avoid the extreme virility and sexual drive that maca empowered them with.
Today, maca is seen as a valuable commodity by the indigenous Peruvians who reside in the mountains. Not only is it a staple of their daily diet, (as not much else grows up there), but it is also used to sell and trade with the lower lands in order to obtain other crops, such as rice and corn. Maca can now be found widely throughout Peru, where it is used to make soda drinks, jams and other various food stuffs. In Peruvian herbal medicine, maca is thought to help with anaemia, TB, menstrual disorders as well as sterility.
The western world first recognized maca in 1843 when it was described by Gerhard Walpers, but it has not been until recently, that it has sharply gained popularity. To give you an idea of the size of today's market consider this. In 1994, less than 50 hectares were dedicated to the growth of maca, by 1999 this had leapt to 1200 hectares – and it has only been growing since.
Why has it suddenly become so popular in Western diet? Well, we can contribute it to the current cultural emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, and the mounting evidence in the role super foods can play in that. The chemical and nutritional composition of maca make it an ideal super food, and is also known to have the added benefit of being an aphrodisiac.
The current demand for maca is at an all time high and it is only growing in popularity as it gains mainstream recognition.