is a hearty plant cultivated high in the Andean Mountains at altitudes
from 11,000-14,500 feet. The only area where
this particular species of MACA is found is a region of intense sunlight, winds, and below
freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures this Peruvian mountain area rates among
the worst farmland, yet over the centuries MACA learned to flourish under these harsh
growing conditions. MACA was domesticated about 2,000 years ago by Peruvian Indians and
primitive cultivars of MACA have been found in archaeological sites dating back as far as
To the Andean Indians, MACA is a
valuable commodity. Because so little else grows in the region, MACA is often traded with
communities at lower elevations for other staples like rice, corn, and beans. The dried
roots can be stored for up to seven years. Native Peruvians have used MACA since before
the time of the Inca's for both nutritional and medicinal purposes.
MACA has been used medicinally for
centuries to enhance fertility in humans and animals. Soon after the Spanish Conquest in
South America, the Spanish found that their livestock were reproducing poorly in the
highlands. The local Indians recommended feeding the animals Maca and the results were so
remarkable that the Spanish chroniclers wrote in-depth reports about Maca. Even Colonial
records of some 200 years ago indicate that payments of about 9 tons of MACA were demanded
from one Andean area for this purpose. In 1961, Dr. Gloria Chacon de Popovici, a biological
researcher, published her studies when her research clearly demonstrated the increased
fertility in animals using MACA. To date her work on MACA is unmatched!
Dr. Chacon's work answered
important scientific questions about MACA, which contains important amounts of fatty acids
including linoleic, palmitic and oleic acids. MACA is rich in sterols and has a high
mineral content as well. In addition to its rich supply of essential nutrients,
contains alkaloids, tannins and saponins. A chemical analysis shows the presence of
biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates, especially p-methoxbenzyl isothiocyanate,
which have reputed aphrodisiac properties. Analysis of MACA indicates that the effects on
fertility are a result of glucosinolates. Dr. Chacon discovered the four alkaloids present
in MACA that are responsible for MACA's reputed positive effect on hormonal issues such as
hot flashes, memory problems, fatigue, and male impotence more than forty years
ago as a 20 year old student at the University of San Marcos, in Lima,
Peru. She continues her lectures and symposiums on a regular basis to the
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MACA is growing in world
popularity due to its energizing effects, fertility enhancement, and aphrodisiac
qualities. Other traditional uses include increasing energy levels, stamina and endurance
in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, helping with menstrual
irregularities and female hormonal imbalances including hot flashes, fatigue, mood
swings, and other pre ands post menopausal difficulties.
Forty years of extensive research has been undertaken
nutritional and medicinal values (Obregón. 1998), confirming the traditional claims of
Maca's health benefits. Maca's high nutritional value comes from the fact that it contains
about 59% carbohydrates, 14% proteins, 9% fiber and 2% lipids among other components
(Garró, 1972; Garró, León y Julca, 1993, and Deni A., Migliuolo G.Rastrelli L.,
Saturnino P., and Schefino O.; 1994; Cabieses 1997). Maca contains:
1) A large number of essential amino acids, such as aspartic acid,
glutamic acid, serine, glycine, arginine, valine and lysine (Garró, 1972);
2) Fatty acids: palmatic acids, linoleic acid and saturated fatty
3) Minerals (mg/100g), Fe 16.6, Mn 0.8, Cu 5.9, Zn 3.8, Na 18.7, K
2,050 and Ca 150, and
4) Vitamins, Thyamine (B1),
Riboflavin (B2), and Vitamin C (Garró, 1972 and Deni A., et al, 1994).
However, the major importance of Maca comes from the combination of its nutritional
elements with other components giving heightened nutritional/medicinal effects. Thus:
1) 4 alkaloids named macaina 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been detected, which
stimulate the reproductive system of both sexes (Chacón, 1962; Garró, León, and
1993); it is considered that the alkaloids in Maca activate the calcitonine hormone that
regulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism and activates the parathonnone involved with
2)The high presence of the amino-acids lysine and arginine in Maca
has an effect on the regulation of female and male fertility respectively; arginine
constitutes 80% of male reproductive cells, thus, Maca could solve problems related to
deficiency of these amino acids, leading to lack of sexual desire and originating certain
types of male and female infertility;
3) Among it's components are certain sterols, (Espinoza and
1995): Brassycosterol, Ergosterol, Carnpesterol, delta 7.22 Ergostadienol, and specially
Sitosterol (Dini A. et al, 1994). Correction of menopause problems and an increase in
female fertility are attributed to Maca sterols and lysine;
4) Glucosinolates have been found, specially benzyl isotiocyanate
(Johns, 1980); this author finds that worldwide, plants with glucosinolates, like Maca,
are consumed because of their action on reproductive hormonal processes, and
5) Fructose, a monosaccharide sugar with 173.3 degree of sweetness,
superior to glucose, is present; fructose is recommended for combating athletes' fatigue;
fructose is a sugar utilized by seminal plasma to give energy to spermatozoids.
Tests have been performed on mice, rats, guinea pigs, frogs, cattle, sheep and certain observations made with human beings
1. Increase in female fertility and the production of seminal fluid
2. Animals fed with Maca had the same weight as those fed on other
products, but, those fed with Maca were more active and energetic, that is to say, Maca is
a great source of energy without adding body fat.
3. Children born from females fed
with Maca had higher birth weights.
4. It has been
known to control rickets and osteomalacia in children and adults.
5. It revitalizes physical and intellectual
capabilities with renewed vigor.
6. It is effective against premature aging and
with the loss of energy, and alertness.
7. It has the ability to
control different kinds of anemia.
In summary, the Peruvian Andes offer Maca as one of the best natural
revitalizing and invigorating substances that exist; for this reason it is
called an Andean Ginseng. In general, Maca may overcome energy wear and tear caused by the modern accelerated way of
life, poor nutrition and inadequate social and hygienic environment.