Maca powder is derived from the maca plant, which is a cousin of the radish that grows only in the high altitudes of the Peruvian mountains. It’s a root or tuber plant that has been cultivated as a nutritional source for at least 2,000 years.
When the Spanish arrived in Peru, it was recorded that the Incas paid taxes to their kings and rulers in maca. Although the plant has been known as a superfood in South America for centuries, it has only recently become known and popular in North America.
So far, the little plants have not grown well anywhere but their natural habitats in the high altitudes of South America (mostly in Peru). There is another type of maca that grows in Bolivia at lower altitudes, but neither type has been successfully greenhoused, so most of the maca we receive for sale in the U.S. is in powdered form.
Traditionally, maca is used for two main purposes: to improve metabolism by curbing hormone imbalances and as an aphrodisiac for men.
While other research has shown that maca has a high nutritive content with many types of essential vitamins and minerals, it also aids the adrenal glands, producing energy and bringing hormonal balance back to many women suffering from menopause symptoms. Maca is similar to most cereal grains and is made up of about 60% carbohydrates, 10% protein, 8.5% fiber, 2.2% fats and has a high iron, selenium, calcium, and magnesium content.
In men, it is a known sexual stimulant, but does not seem to change hormone levels significantly. It also lifts mood in both men and women. It may also aid in preventing or reversing prostate cancer and selenium is believed to be a prime ingredient for both that as well as osteoporosis and other bone problems.
Maca can be cooked, fermented into a weak beer, roasted, boiled, crushed, and mixed with goats milk for cereal, or mashed into a powder (or flour). The latter form is how it’s seen most often here in the States. It can also be found as a cereal gelatin (after being boiled and crushed). Most believe the gelatinous form is the most potent way to get maca.
Most maca roots are black, cream-colored, and red. Traditionally, each color denotes a primary purpose: black for energy, cream for flavor, and red for bladder and prostate problems. Scientific study has not been done to tell whether there is truly a difference and other colors are also common such as gold, purple, and even green.
In some European countries, such as Norway, maca must be prescribed to be legal, as it is considered a medicine. In most countries, it is merely a food or herb and is not regulated.
What is your favorite story about maca and do you use it often?
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