Maca (Lepidium meyenii)


Maca is a vegetable that has been cultivated as a root crop for at least 2,000 years. It can be found wild in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, but has primarily been cultivated in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes. Because of its ability to grow in harsh climates at high-altitude, maca is an important staple food for native populations in the Peruvian highlands. It is highly nutritious with about 11% protein content and can be baked, roasted, prepared as a porridge, and has been used for making a fermented drink.
Traditionally, maca has also been used to relieve stress, as an aphrodisiac, and for fertility enhancement in both males and females. Recently, commercial maca products have gained popularity in areas outside of South America as dietary supplements, with claims of boosting energy, enhancing fertility, balancing hormones, acting as an aphrodisiac, and enhancing sexual performance. However, evidence to support these claims is weak.
Natives of the central Andes do not use fresh maca. It is considered harmful. When maca is harvested, the roots are dried by exposing them to sunlight for 4-6 days. After they have been dried, they can be stored in cool, dark places for several years. For consumption, the dried roots are rehydrated by boiling them in water until they are soft. Maca is also referred to as Peruvian ginseng, although it is not closely related to ginseng.

Related Terms

Acyclic keto acid, alkaloids, amino, Andean Viagra®, anthocyanines, aromatic glucosinolates, ayak chichira (Quechua/Spanish), ayuk willku (Quechua/Spanish), benzaldehyde, benzyl glucosinolate (glucotropaeolin), beta-ecdysone, Brassicaceae (family), calcium, carboline, cardiotonic glycosides, campesterol, chicha de maca (Spanish), Cruciferae (former family name), fatty acids, flavonoids, glucosinolate degradation products, glucotropaeolin, imidazole alkaloids, iron, isopteropodin, Lepidieae (tribe), lepidiline A, lepidiline B, Lepidium apetalum, Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum Chacón, Lepidium sativum L., maca chicha, maca maca, macaenes, macamides, macaridine, mace, magnesium, maino, maka, malic acid, matia, methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, natural Viagra®, pepperweed, Peruvian ginseng, Peruvian maca, phenyl acetonitrile, phosphorus, potassium, prostaglandins, protein, quercitin, saponins, sitosterols, steroids, stigmasterol, tannins, uridine, vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, zinc.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Aphrodisiac (male) (Grade: C)
Traditionally in Peru, maca has been used as an aphrodisiac. Maca could improve sexual desire in healthy men independent of changes in mood, or serum testosterone, and estradiol levels. Higher quality studies are needed in this area, in both men and women.
Hormone regulation (male) (Grade: C)
Traditionally, maca has been used in Peru to enhance fertility. One study did not demonstrate that maca ingestion could change levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone, or estradiol. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Spermatogenesis (Grade: C)
Maca has been traditionally used in Peru to enhance fertility of both people and animals. Maca may improve semen quality, however, additional study is needed to confirm this finding.