Maca is a form of root derived from the Peruvian Andes of South America and has been cultivated for almost 3000 years. The invasion by the Incan Empire led to them inheriting these regions and it is often said that Incan warriors would consume maca pre battle to summon strength, but be banned from using it afterwards to protect the women from excessive sexual desires; hence the nickname Andes Aphrodisiac. Today the Quechua people grow the superfood at 9,000-10,000 feet above sea level; its natural altitude making it the highest altitude crop in existence. The health conscious movement in the West and Asia has led to the resurrection of this superfood, but in 1979 the cultivation of maca in Peru had almost died out. The Peruvian government have put a lot of effort into the redevelopment of maca agriculture following the rediscovery of its superfood status.
Maca is a great adaptogen, meaning it has the ability to regulate the body’s glandular-hormonal system, nervous system, cardiovascular system and musculature. Other adaptogens include AFA algae, goji berries and ginseng. Adaptogens are nontoxic in the body and produce an adaptive response to stress, maintaining a level of homeostasis in the body. Maca has been proven to increase energy levels, libido, hormonal and endocrine systems and increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Maca is fantastic for dealing with stress due to this ability to increase blood oxygen content, the fact it is cultivated at high altitudes lends itself to those dealing with altitude sickness and when mixed in with a coca tea all symptoms dissipate within the hour. Aside from this maca also works on the hypothalamus, the main brain gland, and secretes luteinizing hormones and stimulation. The study by Dr. Gloria Chacon de Popovici PhD suggests that this stimulation activates testosterone, progesterone and DHEA. Essentially these are key hormones for the endocrine system and when these are in balance the human body is able to handle stress, increase energy and libido. Talking of libido, it seems most studies revolve around the aphrodisiac qualities of maca… sex sells after all! The high quality of nutrients, amino acids and fatty acids have a great effect on the cellular level, but its real power comes in its ability to improve semen count and have a great affect on fertility. If taken post pregnancy it can help women express more breast milk. When looking at all of the above qualities its clear to see how maca earned its superfood status.
At Home Use
If you are convinced by the properties of maca then rest assured that its adaptogen qualities mean it can be used sustainably for long periods of times. In health food shops you will often find powdered versions, a tablespoon of which is wonderful in coffee, smoothies, juices and teas. An interesting fact about maca is how it reacts to Cacao. When taken together they boost one an others qualities, this is why you will often find maca desserts and treats, its sweet flavour meaning you can use less sweetener or natural sugars.