Maca is a root vegetable that only grows at very high altitudes – between 4100 and 4500 metres – high in the Andean mountains of Peru and Bolivia. Its holds a tradition as a celebrated food and medicinal plant for the people of this region, including Inca, goes back over several millennia. Oral histories attribute Inca’s reputed healthy ageing, brain and hormone function to their regular dietary consumption of maca root.
Also known as Peruvian ginseng, maca is a from the brassica family, which also includes turnips, radishes, broccoli and watercress. Maca goes by two botanical names, Lepidium meyenii and the more recent and commonly used Lepidium peruvianum chacon.
Maca roots grow in a variety of colours: gold, cream, red, purple, blue, black and green. The most common are the cream variety, preferred in Peru for their sweetness and size. Most of the maca cultivated in Peru is grown organically, with much of it now exported around the world for the health supplement industry.
Why is maca root held in such high regard?
Maca root’s popularity throughout Peruvian history as a nutrient-rich endurance food is probably due in large to its properties which may support libido.
Maca root is a whole food rich in amino acids, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Its tonic properties may help to support and nourish many systems of the body in both men and women.
Maca root is celebrated for supporting energy production, helping stamina, healthy cognition and normal brain function. It may also help healthy sexual function and reproductive health in both men and women by supporting healthy sperm and egg development. Maca root does not contain hormones itself but it may help to support healthy hormonal balance in both women and men especially in the later stages of life. This is also why supplementing with Maca root may support bone health in later life.
Maca root supports healthy adrenal function and assists the nervous system with a more balanced response to stress and mood. It also helps to support metabolism and healthy blood sugar.
Key nutrients contained in Maca can include:
- Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silica, sodium, selenium, zinc, manganese, copper and iron – all essential minerals. Darker coloured (red, purple and black) maca roots also contain natural iodine.
- Fatty acids, linolenic acid (omega 3) and oleic acid (omega 9)
- 19 amino acids
- Vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E
Are there any contraindications or adverse effects reported?
As with all supplements, Maca root should be consumed within the normal dosage range given on the label.
Caution is advised during pregnancy and breastfeeding and it is best to consult with a health professional.
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