Maca, or Peruvian ginseng, is a plant native to South America found growing high up in the Andean mountains of Peru. Cruciferous, maca is related to broccoli, smells sweetly of caramel and has a nutty taste. Peruvians have long been aware of the benefits for traditional medicine, and maca was so highly prized it was used as currency.
Rich in vitamins and minerals such as niacin, vitamin C, calcium, iron and potassium and a good source of protein and fibre, the root ground up into powder is believed to alleviate the symptoms of a range of health conditions.
Stamina and Endurance
Containing more than 55 active phyotochemicals linked to improving physical endurance and stamina, two tablespoons of maca taken each day can help increase energy in those participating in extreme sports and weight training and avoid the crash induced by stimulants.
Memory and Learning
Maca has been given to Peruvian children to help boost their performance at school. Studies in rodents with memory impairment showed improved cognition after doses of maca. One tablespoon twice a day may be able to improve learning and memory.
Peruvians use maca to assist fertility for both men and women. It’s believed maca can boost the immune system and balance hormones. These effects may not only help boost fertility but also help relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause, such as interrupted sleep and hot flushes. One to three teaspoons a day can reduce symptoms.
One of the signs of ageing in men is an enlarged prostate or prostatic hyperplasia. Doses of red maca, high in glucosinolates, were shown to decrease prostate size in rodents. These substances are also linked to decreasing the risk of prostate cancer.
Anxiety and Stress
Maca powder was drunk in special teas by Peruvians for dance ceremonies for its energising and relaxing properties. Taking regular doses of three to four teaspoons a day consistently over a month can have beneficial effects on feelings of anxiety and stress and relieve depression.
Maca can be taken mixed into a glass of water or a protein shake or sprinkled over a smoothie or breakfast cereal. Gelatinised maca is also available and has more than four times the nutrients of raw maca. Put through a process to remove the starch, gelatinised maca is easier to digest and kinder to the endocrine system.