Red Maca is a natural vegetable from South America. It is one of the root vegetables that is grown around the Peruvian Andes region. Red Maca has been traditionally used to brew medicine in South America for centuries by the natives who believed it had healing properties. The scientific term for the root vegetable is Lepidium Meyenii or for some the Peruvian ginseng. It is known as the Peruvian ginseng for its energizing effects as a natural stimulant.
Maca is an edible root plant hereditary to the Brassicaceae family that is only found in some parts of South America. It mainly grows in high altitudes along the slopes of the Andes mountains in Peru. In the 80s the only place where the said plant could be found growing was at the Meseta de Bombon which is close to Lake Junin.
The significant part of the plant which is harvested is its fleshy hypocotyl. The hypocotyl is infused into its extensive taproot system. The extracted hypocotyl is then dried to a powder or flour and used as a root vegetable or as an ingredient in potions and mixtures used in traditional medicine. Some of its native names include maca-mac, ayak chichira, ayak will, and maino.
History Of Red Maca
The maca plant was first documented in the early 17th century where one Antonio Vazquez de Espinosa traveled to Peru to study the different variations of the plant how they grow and the various conditions that favor their growth. The naming of the species was done in 1843 by one Gerhad Walpers.
All these scholars consider the widely cultivated modern day maca as a newer domesticated species that has evolved from its original. Most botanists have contested this distinction and have continued to brand the new age Maca as Lepidium Meyenii.
It has been established that the red maca grows similarly to how radishes and turnips are cultivated. The plants mentioned can be said to be distant cousins of the maca plant hence it is no surprise having ultimately same growth conditions. The maca root resembles a parsnip. The green, fragrant tops sprout out of the ground and lie along the ground.
Its leaves are thin and germinate in a rosette just atop the ground surface. They do not grow more than 12-20 cm in average height. The leaves change gradually according to specific stages of growth, and the process is called a dimorphism.
Maca show more prominence in the vegetative phase. They are continuously renewed from the center as the outer leaves wither and die. Maca sprout white flowers which are borne at the center of the raceme and are followed by siliculate fruits. these fruits are around 5mm in size with reddish ovoid seeds.
The maca only produces utilizing seeds. They self-pollinate by agents such as wind and insects. Maca has been scientifically proven to be a short-day plant, and it is considered by botanists to be an annual plant as its cycle is completed within a year.
The Maca Root
The maca plant is the only member of the Lepidium Genus that possesses a fleshy hypocotyl. The hypocotyl which is infused with the taproot to form a roughly inverted pear shape form. There are several variations in size and shape of the maca root. Native growers and botanists have distinguished different varieties of the maca plant based on the color of the sources. The sources contain a serum known as anthocyanin which is responsible for the different shades of colors.
Maca hypocotyls also vary in color from gold to red to black or green. Each maca variety is considered as genetically unique variety as the seeds from each plant grow to have roots of the same color hence the emergence of the Red Maca. Some likable phenotype such as the red maca have been widely propagated to serve commercial interests.
Growth Conditions For Red Maca
The red maca mainly grows in slightly high-altitude areas which are 3800-4400m above the sea level. This hence means that they require low temperatures which in those altitudes vary along -2 to 13’C. The temperatures in the said altitude often decline to lead to frost in some areas. Maca is among the most frost tolerant cultivated vegetables in the world. It also withstands strong winds and sunlight and some of the climatic characteristics of its native country of Peru.
Maca seedlings often emerge after one month of sowing with the onset of the rainy season which is mostly in October. The plant grows in size through the vegetative stage where both the hypocotyl and the root increase in size. One plant can form up to 1000 tiny seeds hence, only relatively few plants are required for propagation. The soils in which the maca plant is sowed is fertilized heavily as maca is an exhaustive soil crop.
The farmers adhere to a strict cultivation cycle which is linked to seasonality. Most of the Maca cultivation in Peru is carried out organically as the plant itself is highly tolerant and does not get attacked often. Maca is sometimes interplanted with potatoes as the plant naturally repels most root crop pests.
When harvest time looms, manual laborer’s are hired, and the maca leaves are left behind to act as animal feed and organic fertilizer. Although maca has been cultivated outside the Peruvian Andes, it is not yet clear whether it develops the same active constituents or potency outside of its natural habitat. Hypocotyls are grown from Peruvian seeds from with difficulty at low elevations, in greenhouses, or in warm climates.
The average composition of the maca plant is 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% proteins, around 8% of dietary fiber and 2.2% of fats. Mac is reached in diet enhancing minerals such as potassium and calcium. It also contains the essential trace elements of zinc, copper, manganese, iron, and iodine.
Maca also contains fatty acids including linolenic acid and palmitic acid plus 19 amino acids. It contains glucotropaeolin, m-methoxyglucotropaeolin, benzyl glucosinolates, polyphenols, (1R,3S)-1-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline-3-carboxylic acid, and p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate.
Maca root powder is highly nutritious and is an excellent source of several essential vitamins and minerals.
One ounce (28 grams) of maca root powder contains:
- Calories: 91
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Besides, because maca is a cruciferous vegetable, the raw root does provide a bit of goitrogen content.
Red Maca Uses
Heating adaptogens like maca root in part necessary to release some of its medicinal qualities and is the traditional way to use this hardy root vegetable. Native Peruvians use maca by cooking it first. This is customarily done by boiling or roasting the whole root, or dry powdering it raw then boiling it to make porridge-type food.
By adding 1-2 teaspoons of Red Maca Powder to smoothies, or in any favorite recipe one can find the desired combination that is suitable for he/she. It is mixed into teas, nut milk, coffee, protein drinks, or just about any natural beverage one can think of. Maca is also a perfect addition to dessert creations, broths, puddings and homemade jams.
Red Maca Benefits
Both botanists and farmers alike have classified red maca as one of the most powerful superfoods in the world. The red maca powder is made by grinding the dried red-skinned maca root which is primarily native of the Peruvian Andes. Although the red maca root is closely related to other distinctions of the maca plant, research has proven that it may possess some advanced health benefits.
It is well known and rejoiced for its super-tonic effects, energy instilling properties and supremely nutritious characteristics that help to provide strength and endurance for physical activity at these high elevations.
Red maca powder is a natural anti-depressant. The study that looked into red maca ability to enhance the psychological state of humans proved the stated fact. Published in the journal Menopause, the study approved that a daily dose of red maca in any form over a span of six weeks causes a significant reduction in anxiety and depression, especially in postmenopausal women.
Another study recently done looked into the effects of red maca on depression in ovariectomized female mice and found that the specific variety of maca had a significant impact of the recession.
Protection Against Bone Loss
Post-menopausal women experience a decrease in estrogen levels hence they have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that occurs when the body losses to much bone. Red maca is known for its ability to be able to correct hormonal imbalances.
Hence maca is used to prevent estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis. In the study, lab rats facing the same estrogen deficiencies were given red maca for four weeks after which the bones of the rats are analyzed. It was found to have enormous effects on the strength of the bones.
Supports The Endocrine System
Red maca is well known for its application during hormonal imbalances. It doesn’t create hormones but rather its plants’ sterols act as conduits to support healthy hormonal activity. It functions primarily with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. The two glands are responsible for regulating the function of the entire endocrine system. This promotes the healthy function of corresponding organs such as the pancreas.
Maca root is beneficial for a variety of conditions associated with the proper endocrine function such as menopause, PMS, adrenal exhaustion, cognitive disorders, and infertility. Regular use of red Maca powder helps to reduce and eventually eliminate conditions such as hot flashes, menstrual cramping by balancing the estrogen and progesterone levels.
Maca is an adaptogenic root that has endured the harsh conditions of poor soils and colder climates that exist at high altitudes. Red maca helps the body adapt to stress and are substances specifically known to affect one or more areas that include sexual virility, athletic ability, and physical beauty.
The plant allows the body to naturally regulate itself by normalizing over-activity or under-activity of the organs and glands. Because maca is an adaptogen, it always promotes the best hormonal response for each unique situation, directing more or less of any specific hormone when necessary.
Libido Boost And Eradicates Infertility
Culturally, the ancient Peruvians ingested this powerful root to boost the potency of the male libido. As they considered it to be natures answer to viagra. Its natural properties help to create an aphrodisiac-like response in men who have had impotence, low sex drive, and fertility problems. It significantly boost libido, and sex drive plus reproductive functions.
The red maca root is known for its ability to improve the quality and quantity of sperm in men who have lower than average sperm counts, which helps to increase the level of fertility. Recent studies have shown that maca rises the semen quality in both infertile and healthy men. Maca has been heavily marketed for its ability to improve sexual desire effectively.
Also, studies have also shown that hormone balancing properties of maca enhance male semen quality and increase female fertility. Maca has been marketed for its supposed traditional medicinal effects on sexual performance. Although there is insufficient evidence that it helps with sexual or erectile dysfunction in older people.
Where To Buy Red Maca
You can find maca in some supermarkets, at health food stores, and from various online retailers. There is also an outstanding selection available on Amazon with thousands of exciting reviews.
Although maca is considered to be generally safe for consumption. But the Peruvian natives harbors belief that consuming fresh maca root may have adverse health effects. They recommend that it be boiled first. Besides, individuals suffering from thyroid complications may be advised to stay away from maca.
This is because Maca contains goitrogens which are substances that may interfere with the normal working of the thyroid gland. Pregnant women are also advised to seek counsel from their doctors before using maca.