Intro: What is Lepidium?
Lepidium, commonly known as the peppergrasses or pepperworts, is a genus of plants in the mustard family Brassicaceae. It includes about 175 species found worldwide, including cress and pepperweed.
Possibly the most commonly known species of Lepidium is Lepidium meyenii (or Lepidium peruvianum) - better known as Maca - a
plant from the Andes mountains of Peru.
The root of the Maca plant is highly valued for its use as a food
and nutritional value and ethnomedicinal properties
linked to fertility and vitality.
Hailed as Peruvian Ginseng, Maca Root has been used for centuries to increase vitality, promote libido, fertility and sexual performance and stamina. It is also used to relieve the symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as well as enhance energy and strength during athletic performance.
Read more about the health benefits and attributes of maca root here
Like other cruciferous members of the cabbage family, Maca Root is credited by many with possessing immuno-stimulating qualities that help to build the body's defenses against invasive infection and serious disease.
Read more about the nutrients and properties of maca root here
The root (which has a tangy, sweet taste and aroma like butterscotch) is rich in sugars, protein, starches and essential nutrients (especially iodine and iron), and the roots are often considered a treat when baked in the same manner as a sweet potato.
Maca Root may be stored for long periods and is used in porridges, jams, puddings, sodas and even a sweet, fragrant, fermented drink called maca chichi.
Uses of Maca root:
Maca Root is believed to help sexual performance
and act as an aphrodisiac that boosts libido in both
men and women. Chemical research has demonstrated that
Maca Root contains a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl
isothiocyanate, which has reputed aphrodisiac properties.
Because Maca is thought to balance hormonal activity,
it is believed to be useful in cases of sterility and
other reproductive and sexual disorders. In men, it
is believed to treat male impotence and erectile dysfunction
and may, in fact, increase seminal volume and sperm
motility. There are also claims that Maca especially
enhances sexual performance and endurance.
The April, 2000, issue
of Urology reported that the sexual performance claims
made by those who used Maca were consistent with the
legendary reports coming from Peru. In women, it is
said to increase libido, perk up a low sex drive and
may, because of the herb's glucosinolate content, enhance
fertility. Menopausal women and those who suffer menstrual
difficulties may be helped with the use of Maca.
- It is believed to promote
healthy estrogen and progesterone levels. Research
has shown that Maca Root contains no plant hormones,
but its action relies on plant sterols, which act as
chemical triggers to help the body produce a higher
level of hormones appropriate to the age and gender
of the person taking it. Clinical case studies have
shown that Maca can help relieve the discomforts of
premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms.
New York-based Dr. Viana Muller introduced Maca to
medical doctors practicing CAM (Complementary Alternative
Medicine) at the Anti-Ageing Medical Conference in
1997, and noted that Maca Root had been used successfully
by Peruvians to regulate hormonal imbalances, menstrual
irregularities, fertility and menopausal symptoms,
including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis,
loss of energy and libido and temporary depression
- Maca Root is believed
to increase energy and stamina and boost endurance
in athletes. It is also thought to help in cases of
chronic fatigue syndrome and to restore lost vitality
and vigor. Moreover, it may help to enhance memory
and promote mental clarity. In the past, Spanish chroniclers
described Inca warriors who consumed boiled Maca Root
before battle to increase their strength, as well as
using it to bolster their reserves for endurance activities.
Today, it is still employed as a fatigue-fighter and
general tonic to counter lethargy, memory loss and
other disorders resulting from depleted energy stores.
- Maca Root is highly
nutritious. It is the highest source of nutrients growing
in the Andean region and is rich in sugars, protein,
vitamins, essential nutrients (especially iodine and
iron) and carbohydrates that resemble healthy cereal
grains. Maca has been used to reduce thyroidal symptoms.
If one has hypothyroidism, it is most likely caused
by a hormonal imbalance, because the thyroid gland
does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This tends
to slow down the body's functions and can lead to many
physical disorders. The chemical element, iodine, is
a major component of thyroid hormones and a deficiency
of this element is a leading cause of hypothroidism;
consequently, the high iodine content and hormone balancing
properties in Maca may be responsible for its use in
improving this condition.
- Maca Root is also considered
beneficial in cases of anemia. The herb's high iron
content may be the reason it is used for this purpose.
The phytochemical contents in Maca are said to boost
the immune system, helping to strengthen the body's
fight against foreign, harmful substances that may
try to invade it.
- Maca Root is thought
to be an adaptogen or agent that helps to balance bodily
systems and normalize bodily functions during stressful
situations that might alter those functions, helping
the body to adapt and return to an overall sense of
well-being. There are current studies claiming that
the glucosinolates found in Maca Root may help to combat
serious invasive infection; they are the substances
that are also found in other members of the Brassicaceae
family (including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and
other cruciferous vegetables) and are said to be particularly
effective in building the body's defenses against serious
For the Andean Indians today, Maca Root is still a valuable
commodity that is frequently traded with communities at
lower elevations for rice, corn, green vegetables and beans.
It is also an important staple in the diets of the indigenous
peoples, because it has the highest nutritional value of
any food crop grown in the region.
Maca is a biennial or
perennial plant that is native to the very high parts
of the Andes Mountains, at altitudes from eight thousand
to almost fifteen thousand feet, in an inhospitable
region of intense sunlight, violent winds and below-freezing
Maca Root is a low-growing, mat-like
stem system that produces inconspicuous, scalloped
leaves and off-white flowers. Despite the poor, rocky
soil and extreme temperatures, the large, radish-like
root vegetable has managed to flourish over the centuries.
The root is usually off-white to yellow in color (although
purple and black exist), and the smaller, less fibrous
type is preferred and common in Peruvian markets as
a highly nutritious vegetable. It is also highly valued
in herbal medicine.
The species, L. meyenii,
was first described by Gerhard Walpers in 1843, and
it has been suggested by botanists that the cultivated
species of today may be a newer species found in Peru,
L. peruvianum, (both are used interchangeably), and
because of Maca's popularity as an aphrodisiac and
energy enhancer, cultivation has boomed to meet the
demand in the United States and abroad.
Some of the constituents
in Maca Root include alkaloids, whole fiber, lipids,
twenty amino acids (including arginine, serine, clycine,
valine, histidine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid,
etc.), proteins, beta-ecdysone, beta-sitosterol, hydrolyzable
carbohydrates, fatty acids (including linolenic, palmitic
and oleic acids), glucosinolates, isothiocyanates,
iodine, phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc,
calcium, protein, steroid glycosides, saponins, sitosterols,
stigmasterol, tannins, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin
B12 and vitamins C and E.
Science & Related Studies:
There are various non-controlled nor published observations
of health professionals that have prescribed maca to
multiple patients to help heal diverse illnesses and
who have reported good results after taking the product.
The most frequent references are related to its energetic,
revitalizing and anti-stress properties, as well as promoting
fertility. In general, maca provides a general sensation
of well being, including a better sexual development.
Telephone conversations with maca consumers provide additional
information about the effects of maca, as well as the possible
side effects and beneficial effects. This is also a way
of knowing if consumers are satisfied with the product.
Through this system, information is obtained about the
beneficial effects of maca products.
The most frequent comments are related to the recovery
when tired, feeling rested and capable of doing other activities
after a hard day of work. Other beneficial effects are
related to fertility; a number of infertility patients,
after using maca, has successful pregnancies and births.
Patients that used maca for diverse reasons found that
it helped relieve constipation without the need of other
medication. Another frequent observation is that maca consumers
feel more energy and vitality during the day, and at night,
have a good and deep sleep without the help of any other
Although these observations have not been proven scientifically,
this information cannot be left aside because it could
lead to the realisation of biological assays, or clinical
trials that could prove the beneficial properties of maca
products.aca (Lepidium meyenii, and Lepidium peruvianum) is a plant from the Andes of Peru. Maca is used as a food for its nutritional value and ethnomedicinal properties linked to fertility and vitality.
There has been much scientific
research since the 1960s into the improved fertility,
reproductive and energy boosting qualities of Maca,
and varied reports from G. Chacon (1990), R. Chacon
(1961) and A. Mendrano (1993) claim that Maca has increased
fertility in rats, cows and guinea pigs. A. Mendrano
also noted that Maca increased seminal fluid volume,
sperm motility and sperm count in rams, and litter
size and weights of guinea pigs were increased from
45% to 73%.
Research into the effects of Maca Root with respect
to building immunity to invasive infection includes researchers
at Johns Hopkins University discovering that the protein
(called nrf2) spurs cells to produce enzymes that detoxify
harmful substances, and members of the Brassicaceae
family are known to contain this helpful chemical.
The studies claim that by "elevating the level
of nrf2 detoxifying enzymes, we can enhance the resistance
Maca Root was domesticated during the pre-Inca, Arcaicia Period sometime around 3800 B.C., with primitive cultivars of Maca being found in archaeological sites dating back to 1600 B.C. It continued to be cultivated by the Incas centuries ago as a valuable nutritious dietary staple and medicinal commodity. The indigenous people used it for centuries to enhance fertility in humans and animals.
Soon after the Spanish conquest in South America, the Spaniards found that their livestock was reproducing poorly in the highlands, and the local tribes recommended Maca. So remarkable were the results that the Spanish chroniclers wrote in-depth reports, saying that Maca improved the reproductive health of their horses, and in another report from 1549, the Spanish encomendero, de Soto Mayor, was given Maca Root as a tribute, which he used to improve the fertility of livestock in Castille. It was considered so valuable that in 1572, the Chinchaycochas Indians used Maca for bartering, and colonial records indicate that tribute was demanded in the form of nine tons of Maca.
For the Andean Indians today, Maca Root is still a valuable commodity that is frequently traded with communities at lower elevations for rice, corn, green vegetables and beans. It is also an important staple in the diets of the indigenous peoples, because it has the highest nutritional value of any food crop grown in the region.
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Lepidium Quick Points:
Other common names:
Peruvian Ginseng, Maka,
Mace, Maca-Maca, Maino, Chichira,
Ayuk, Pepperweed, High Andean Ginseng
Take two (2) capsules, two (2) to three (3) times each
day with water at mealtimes.
Currently, there are no warnings or contraindications with
the use of Maca Root.