Maca: Ancient Peruvian Superfood!
Maca is a superfood-food-herb with an outstanding ability to increase energy, endurance and strength. Maca is a favorite of raw-foodists, vegetarians, adventurers, extreme athletes, dessert chefs and food alchemists.
What is Maca?
Maca has traditionally been a staple superfood-food-herb in the harsh cold climates of the high Andes in Peru for thousands of years. Maca grows at an elevation of 11,000-14,000 feet making it likely the highest altitude food-herb crop in the world. The character and properties of maca have been developed by the extreme conditions under which it grows. This makes Maca an excellent food-herb choice for individuals living in cold climates and/or at high altitudes and/or with extreme lifestyles.
Maca is a member of the cruciferous family of plants. It is a distant relative of the common radish. The maca plant produces leaves that grow close to the ground and the plant produces a small, off-white flower typical to the cruciferous family. The main part of interest for this plant, however, is the radish-like tuberous root.
Historical and Traditional Use of Maca
Archeological evidence has been found, that maca was domesticated over 2,000 years ago by the predecessors of the Incan people. Even today, for many indigenous inhabitants of the Andes, Maca is still one of the most vital and valuable of all commodities.
The maca root has been used over the ages for its nutritional and herbal qualities. Once harvested, the maca root was traditionally dried, then powdered. Once powdered it was either eaten or put into sacs and traded for other commodities. Oftentimes cacao nibs and beans (raw chocolate) would come up the Andes from the jungle and in exchange maca would go down from the Andes into the jungle. These two foods (maca and cacao) have a unique affinity and history which is evident when one tries eating them together. Both cacao and maca were used as money by ancient indigenous peoples.
Maca's Remarkable Reputation
Maca's reputation as a powerful strength and stamina enhancer as well as libido-enhancing food-herb stretches back into prehistory. Maca, like goji berries and ginseng, is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body's systems (cardiovascular system, nervous system, musculature, lymphatic system, etc.). As an adaptogen, maca can provide more energy if it is needed, but if it is not, it will not overstimulate. Adaptogens also boost immunity and increase the body's overall vitality by 10-15% according to most studies. Rather than addressing a specific symptom, adaptogens are used to improve the overall adaptability of the whole body to diverse and challenging situations and stress.
During the height of the Incan Empire, legend has it that Incan warriors would consume maca before entering into battle. This would make them fiercely strong. But after conquering a city the Incan soldiers were prohibited from using maca, to protect the women from excessive sexual impulses.
The Scientific and Health Properties of Maca
Dried maca powder contains 60% carbohydrates, 9% fiber, and slightly more than 10% protein. It has a higher lipid (fat) content than other root crops (2.2%), of which linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid are the primary fatty acids, respectively. Maca is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and iron, and contains trace minerals, including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica, as well as vitamins B1, B2, C and E. Maca contains nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids. Maca is also a rich source of sterols, including sitosterol, campestrol, ergosterol, brassicasterol, and ergostadienol. As a root crop, maca contains five times more protein than a potato and four times more fiber.
Peruvian research claims that maca improves memory, increases oxygen in the blood, improves the function of neurotransmitters and increases libido. One of the researchers heading current studies on maca, Peruvian biologist Gloria Chacon de Popivici, Ph.D., suggests that maca alkaloids act on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and the adrenals. She has theorized that by activating these endocrine glands maca is able to increase energy, vitality and libido. Other researchers indicate that the effect of maca is more basic and that when the body is well-nourished, libido rises and depressing attitudes lower. Maca's nutrient value could explain some of these purported actions.
Maca's actions on sexual function are better researched than its effects on mood and memory. One study showed that maca increased fertility in rats. Then came studies of guinea pigs, rams, and cows, each of which corroborated maca's libido-enhancing effects. For example, maca significantly increased ram semen volume and sperm count.
Researchers consider plant sterols, isothiocyanates, macamides and glucosinolates to be maca's active constituents.
How to Consume Maca
We deliver maca to you as a dried, raw, organic root powder. You may use a tablespoon or more of this powder in smoothies, teas, nut milks, coffee or just about any natural beverage you can think of. Maca is a great addition to desserts and sweet treats.
As previously mentioned, maca has an unusual relationship with cacao nibs (cacao beans or raw chocolate) and all cacao products in general. Mix maca into all your favorite chocolate treats and experience real culinary magic.
Additionally, maca may be added to homemade jams, broths, puddings and fresh juices.
Maca has major flavor notes that are sweet and full. It has some minor taste qualities reminiscent of other cruciferous vegetables; these add some mildly spicy elements.
Our maca powder is a great emulsifier. It can be used to draw fats/oils together with starches/sugars in a beverage, dessert or recipe. For example, if one makes a drink containing agave nectar and cacao nibs, maca may be used to draw these two foods smoothly together and create a beautiful, rounded flavor. Another example, would be a raw fruit pie with a nutty crust containing figs or dates. If one makes the crust with maca, the nuts and figs or dates will be drawn together for a more wholesome and complete flavor.
Can you eat too much maca?
Yes. Of course. Maca is a powerful superfood-food-herb and should be consumed with respect.
If you really love maca, use 1-2 tablespoons each day and it is recommended that you take a week off during every month of consistent use.
Are there any side effects or interactions to overeating maca? In toxicity studies conducted in the U.S., maca showed absolutely no toxicity and no adverse pharmacological effects. In animal studies, the more maca animals consumed, the stronger and more sexually active they became. In spite of all this, moderation is advised.
Today maca is becoming increasingly popular in Peru among native and non-native people, and the effects of maca are creating market demand in Japan, Europe and the United States. Maca cultivation is on the increase, a number of government experts and agencies are actively promoting maca agriculture and development, and maca is poised to be a major botanical product on the international superfood and herbal scene.
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