The popularity of maca might have skyrocketed in recent years, but this ancient superfood is far from new. Celebrated in the Andes for more than 2,000 years, maca is rumored to treat illnesses ranging from infertility to fatigue. And with its popularity still rising, the potential of this superfood root is growing by the day.
So what is the history behind maca? How is it produced today? And how can you incorporate it in your daily routine?
What is Maca?
Also known as Peruvian Ginseng, the maca plant has a lot in common with other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. However, there’s more to this radish-like root than meets the eye. Boasting an impressive nutritional profile, maca has a whole range of incredible health benefits. Here are just a few:
• Contains a lot of amino acids, as well as calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc
• Can ease menopause symptoms
• Potentially helps balance hormones
• May improve fertility in men
• Boosts energy and concentration levels
On top of this, maca is a well-known adaptogenic root. This means that like other adaptogens including ginseng, ashwagandha and rhodiola, maca helps the body adapt to stressful situations, whether they’re physiological or psychological. This explains why it’s such a popular treatment for health problems involving hormone imbalance, stress and fertility.
Where is Maca Grown?
Maca is far hardier than most crops. In fact, it’s one of the few plants that can be grown at extremely high altitudes (up to 15,000ft), making it an important resource to those communities living in the Peruvian Central Andes.
While it can be successfully grown in other climates, for the best quality and most potent maca, you have to look towards the high altitudes of the Andes.
What are the Origins of Maca?
Maca’s history goes back more than two millennia, when farmers in central Peru first domesticated the plant after witnessing the effects it had on their livestock. However, it was not until the arrival of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century that the medicinal benefits of maca were first documented.
Some observers described its effect on fertility and energy levels, while others pointed towards its use as a stimulant before going into battle. Yet it wasn’t until 1843 that maca was formally identified, gaining the scientific name lepedium meyenii, Walp.
Fast forward more than a hundred years to the 1960s, and maca finally made its way to a large scale international audience. In the late 1990s the full potential of maca was appreciated by health conscious doctors. As a result, Peru’s export of the root grew massively as it became one of the country’s biggest exports.
How is Maca Used?
We might be used to buying maca powder or capsules from our local health store, but for many people in the Andes this superfood is freshly prepared. Traditionally, the maca root is boiled, mashed and pureed into a thick porridge, or even used alongside flour in baking.
However, outside of Peru and Bolivia, it’s far more common to find maca as a powdered superfood supplement. Many people enjoy it in smoothies, cacao drinks, or homemade energy bars.
Maca is just one of the superfoods recommended by Fresh Body Mind. We believe that traditional supplements like maca have a huge number of health benefits to offer us and are well worth exploring as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. Read more about superfoods and find tips and tricks to help you build a healthier lifestyle here.