Maca plant that is botanically named as Lepidium meyenii belongs to the family of crucifers.
This plant also known as Peruvian ginseng is native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and grows at high altitudes of 14,500ft withstanding severe frost, strong winds and poor oxygen availability.
It possess tuberous root that grows up to 8cm in diameter. Tuberous root is used as a vegetable in Peru.
There are three different varieties of maca that show different colored roots white to yellowish, red and the purple to blackish variety.
It takes about seven to nine months for the plant to prepare the tuberous roots that are ready to harvest. The root is popular for its pharmacological properties and is being used in herbal medicine across the world.
It is because of vast usage maca root the plant is being extensively cultivated in Peru in large number of hectares.
Nutritional value of maca
Nutritive value of maca is similar to other staple foods such as corn, rice and wheat. It is a rich source of starch, protein in the form of amino acids and polypeptides, sugars, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
- Amino acids present in maca include arginine, histidine, aspartic acid, serine, glutamic acid, tyrosine, phenylalanine, threonine and glycine.
- Minerals present in the root include calcium, potassium, iron, iodine, zinc and manganese.
- Fatty acids identified in maca include palmitic, oleic and linolenic acids.
- Vitamins present in the herb include vitamin B12, B2, B1, vitamin E and vitamin C.
- It also contains compounds such as saponins, glucosinolates, sitosterols, tannins, stigma sterols and alkaloids.
Using maca root
The root can be taken fresh or after drying. The fresh root is used after baking, roasting or after boiling similar to potatoes. The root can also be boiled in milk to make delicious porridge.
The sweet tangy taste and the butterscotch flavor makes it a best choice in the making of sweets, pudding, jam and sodas The popular fermented drink maca chichi is made using the root. Maca supplements are available across the world in the form of maca powder, capsules and tincture.
Benefits of maca
Following are some of the well known benefits of maca. As true with all herbal medecines, many of them are not proved through scientific research, but more by usaage and practical knowledge passed on from generation to generation.
Treats various diseases: Nutrients especially amino acids present in the root boost the functioning of the immune system and aid in treating diseases such as tuberculosis, anemia, sterility and stomach problems.
It is also used in control of hormone related problems such as menstrual disorders, symptoms of menopause and erectile dysfunction in men.
Promotes functioning of the brain: It improves the functioning of the brain and central nervous system. This in turn helps improve mental clarity and memory power.
Serves as an adaptogen: Chemicals present in the root aid in coping with environmental stress efficiently. It also boosts the energy levels promoting strength and endurance.
Prevents cancer: Various chemical components such as alkaloids, tannins and glucosinolates present in the herb aid in preventing cancer.
It reduces the risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women by keeping the levels of testosterone and estrogen and their metabolites under control.
Promotes sexual desire, fertility, semen volume and motility of sperms in men.
Amino acids and proteins aid in synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters such as noradrenalin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters in turn play role in arousing sexual desire.
Administration of maca orally to male rats exhibited increased sexual activity and also an increase in semen quantity. Even the human studies showed similar results.
Enhanced sexual performance in observed in both women and men. Maca is found to show promising results as an aphrodisiac compared to other herbs with similar properties.
Improves blood glucose tolerance levels: Regular intake of maca improves glucose tolerance in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. By improving sensitivity to insulin it helps bodybuilders and sportsmen build muscle without accumulating fat.
By keeping the insulin levels under control it reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as heart attack, Hypercholesterolemia and liver diseases.
Supports weight loss regime: Lowered blood glucose levels and raise in glucose tolerance levels keeps hunger under control. This automatically regulates food cravings and hence, lowered food intake and weight loss.
It also helps you to lose weight by keeping the levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol under control. Maca improves stamina and endurance giving you the power to practice workouts essential for losing weight.
It also supports the weight loss regime by improving the rate of metabolism that burns fat and hence, weight loss.
Treats arthritis: Studies on human cartilage showed that use of maca improved the nitric oxide levels in the cartilage. This in turn helped improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation. By providing calcium it also helps in bone regeneration and faster recovery.
Treats anxiety and depression: By improving functioning of central nervous system and the brain it develops positive outlook. Thus, it helps in treatment of depression and anxiety.
The best part of using maca regularly for few months to treat health problems is the results persist for a long time even after discontinuing use of the herb.
You should only take maca occasionally to continue enjoying its benefits forever.
Possible Side effects of using maca
- Over stimulation i.e. increased sexual desire.
- Glucosinolates cause goiter if taken in excess along with low iodine diet.
Though there are no reported serious side effects of using the root, it is recommended that pregnant and lactating women and children should avoid taking the herb.
People suffering with kidney or liver diseases should also consult the physician before using.