According to ancient folklore, Inca warriors ingested maca, the a radish-like root, before going off to war. Known as Peruvian ginseng, this herb would make them physically strong however, people soon realized that it also heightened their sex drive and started discouraging maca intake for the sake of protecting the women from overly aggressive men. To this day, in Norway, maca is regulated as a potent medicinal herb and is available only with a prescription. Apparently, it’s also known as Peruvian viagra.
But enough with the imagery of hot-blooded, steely warrior men. What exactly is this powerful root?
Botanically speaking, maca or Lepidium meyenii is a member of the Brassicaceae family and a close relative of the turnip, radish and rutabaga. A valuable herb that was once used as Spanish currency, maca only grows in high altitude cold climates under soil conditions that are too harsh for most other plants. Maca farmers have noticed that over the course of their eight month growing season, maca plants tend to extract all the mineral nutrients from the soil. Thus, a two year crop rotation is necessary for a successful maca harvest. This robust little tuber was designed to adapt to challenging conditions and lends that adaptive quality to those who consume it.
In terms of chemical and nutritional composition, maca is mostly carbohydrates (60%) and protein (10%) with a bit of fat and fibre. It’s energy content is similar to rice or wheat although maca offers a supply of blood-building iron, calcium, antioxidant selenium, and magnesium that the modern cereal grains do not. Maca is also a unique source of omega-9 oleic acid and linolenic acid which keep cell membranes fluid and nubile. Dark-coloured varieties of maca provide a significant amount of natural iodine which supports a healthy thyroid gland. With so many high-powered nutrients, it’s no wonder maca is called an ancient superfood!
Over the past decade, maca has received a lot of attention from nutrition researchers and natural health practitioners who see it’s potential in treating infertility, thyroid problems, prostate hypertrophy, menopause and general lack of energy. Maca products have become more widely available to the savvy consumer. If you can’t make to the Andes to pick your own maca, visit your local health food store for maca root powder, maca energy drinks and maca supplement capsules. This natural health product has no known contraindications and is safe for daily use. So long as you can behave yourself while on it.
HYPERLINK: “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii – accessed 24 September 2010