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SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Lepidium meyenii Walp.
COMMON NAME(S): Peruvian ginseng, Maino, Ayuk willku, Ayak chichira
Maca is an annual which produces a root that appears like a radish. The root of maca is typically dried and when preserved properly, will easily last for seven years. The herb is grown and cultivated in the Junin plateau of Peru's Central Highlands and was highly revered by the Inca for its medicinal and stimulating abilities.
Maca was domesticated at least 2000 years ago and has been used commonly as a food by Peruvian peasants who live in high altitudes. It was considered to be a "famine food," but recent analyses have shown that the root is high in nutritional value, containing essential amino acids and important fatty acids. The root can be dried and powdered, after which it is stored for several years without serious deterioration. Dried roots are cooked in water to make a sweet, aromatic porridge known as "mazamorra." According to Peruvian folk belief, maca enhances female fertility in both humans and livestock, countering the reduction in fertility seen in high altitudes. However, maca is believed to have an antiaphrodisiac effect on males.
Botany :- Maca is cultivated in a narrow, high-altitude zone of the Andes Mountains in Peru. The plant's frost tolerance allows it to grow at altitudes of 3500 to 4450 meters above sea level in the puna and suni ecosystems, where only alpine grasses and bitter potatoes can survive. It and several related wild species are also found in the Bolivian Andes. The plant grows from a stout, pear-shaped taproot and has a matlike, creeping system of stems. While traditionally cultivated as a vegetable crop, use for its medicinal properties has become more prominent in Peru. Maca is related to the common garden cress, Lepidium sativum L.
Uses of Maca
Maca has been used as an aphrodisiac, fertility aid, and to relieve stress although there is little scientific information to support these uses.
Side Effects of Maca
There is little information on maca's long-term effects. Its long-time use as a food product suggests low potential for toxicity.
Keep in mind that maca is a food and is not used in tiny quantities. Most supplement companies that are selling maca are putting about 500 milligrams of ground, dried maca in each capsule. Some recommend three capsules daily, while others recommend six.
The presence of substantial amounts of a cardiac glycoside in the related species, L. apetalum,is cause for concern. Cardioactive substances have also been detected in L. sativum. However, the fact that dried maca roots have been consumed for many years would argue against a risk for cardiotoxicity. L. virginicum was inactive in a screen for genotoxicity.
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