Maca: Everything You Need To Know

Maca: Everything You Need To Know
Steven Voser
Steven Voser
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Lepidium Meyenii



What Is Maca: Lepidium Meyenii

Maca (Lepidium Meyenii), also known as pepperweed and Peruvian Ginseng, is a native plant of the Andes Mountains, where it has held a place of cultural significance for thousands of years. It is a herbaceous biennial plant of the crucifer family. This family of plants contains over 3700 species that can be found the world over.

Maca can be found growing 3,800 - 4,800m above sea level, within a narrow, high altitude zone of the Andes Mountains. It is its extreme frost tolerance that allows it to thrive in such a harsh environment.

The growth habits, size and proportions of maca have been described as akin to that of a turnip. The main growth of the plant happens underground, where its prized roots develop. Above ground, maca develops a plethora of thin, shoot like leaves that crawl along the ground. These leaves can grow up to about 20cm long, developing in a rosette, with the outside leaves being replaced as they die by new leaves from the center.

Due to the harsh location of its native growth, maca often relies on self pollination to reproduce. Its central raceme produces a few off white flowers which eventually turn into fruit, containing 2 seeds each. Due to the short photoperiod it is exposed to in the Andes, the entire life cycle of maca can take a longer time to complete. However, under optimal conditions maca can complete its life cycle within a year, leading some to consider or believe it should be classed as an annual plant.

It is the root that is harvested for its active properties. This root tends to be triangular in shape, but can vary largely plant to plant. It can also come in a variety of colours, including gold, cream, green, black, red or purple. These colours are due to varying phenotypes and are a good indication of the effects in can have on the human body. For example, cream maca roots, which are very popular in Peru, are though to be much sweeter and grow larger; whereas darker, black maca roots are thought to be best for increasing stamina and energy, but taste quite bitter. Red maca is beginning to increase in popularity as it has been clinically shown to reduce the size of the prostate in rats1.

The benefits of maca can be gained from eating both fresh and dried root, but dried is more common as it allows for easy storage and distribution to the wider world market.

History Of Maca

History of Maca

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.

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 the 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.


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Effects Of Maca

Effects of Maca

Maca is regarded as a super food for a reason. With prolonged use, it has a lot of health benefits that can drastically improve your quality of life.

The following are some of the health benefits that are said to come from consuming maca:

Sex drive and fertility

This is what maca is most known for in the western world. It has been shown that maca can help boost fertility2 in both men and women, help with impotence and increase male sex drive3.


This is another main use for maca. Most people can feel the boost to energy almost instantly. It can be a great replacement for coffee, as it has none of the addictive qualities of caffeine.


Maca is reported to increase endurance4 with long term use in addition to giving the user energy.


Maca improves both our learning ability and our memory5, it also makes us much more aware and alert.

Immune system boost

The healthy fatty acids within maca make it a great natural antiseptic and fungicide. When combined with the large amounts of vitamins and nutrients packed into maca, it can act as a great immune system boost.


Maca boost the rate at which blood clots in wounds, as well as boosting the blood circulatory system as a whole.

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Nutrients And Chemistry

Maca is extremely rich in nutrients. It is made up of roughly 60-75% carbohydrates, 8.5% fibre, 10-14% protein and 2.2% lipids. The majority of the protein contained within maca come in to form of polypeptides and extremely beneficial amino acids. In addition to this, 100g of dried root also contains around 250 mg of calcium, 2g of potassium and 15mg of iron, as well as an abundance of healthy fatty acids (such as linolenic, palmitic and oleic acids).

Maca also contains a high dosage of vitamins, such as C and B2, as well as a number of alkaloids and minerals.

Chemical analysis of maca has shown that it contains p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which has been associated with causing aphrodisiac effects. Four different alkaloids have also been identified as being present, although exactly what these are yet is not completely known.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.