Understanding the Maca Roots
Maca is an herb commonly found in the elevated Andes of Peru. It is actually a root crop that goes by the names maca-maca, ayak chichira, Peruvian Ginseng or maino but it is scientifically known as Lepidium peruvianum Chacón.
This root crop is related to and looks similar to the radish. The plant can be reproduced by germinating the seeds for five days. It will grow even on poor soil but requires a very cold climate and a location with an altitude of 4,100 to 4,500 meters.
The maca root has been considered not only as a medicinal plant but also as a highly nutritious food for thousands of years. It is even rumoured to have been used as currency during the Spanish period of colonization. Maca has a high nutritional value much like wheat and rice as it contains carbohydrates, protein, fats and dietary fibers. It also contains essential minerals including magnesium, selenium and calcium as well as fatty acids like palmitic acid, oleic acid, 19 amino acids, linoleic acid, oleic acid and even polysaccharides.
Maca is slowly gaining popularity in the Western world due to its healing properties particularly in relation to its p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate content which is said to have aphrodisiac properties. Inca warriors ate the maca herb before they went to battle to give them strength.
The Peruvians prepare maca in various forms like roasting, boiling and mashing. It can be mixed with milk and eaten as porridge, fermented to produce a weak beer or eaten raw as a salad. More often, maca is mixed with certain fruits or vegetables and taken as a health drink.
Maca root is converted into gelatine form before it is imported and sold in the form of capsule or powder to its main markets in Europe and Japan. While maca is commonly used in traditional medicine, scientists are doing research and studying the healing effects of the maca root. Someday, this lowly root crop may just be the miracle healer that humans are looking for.