Maca is purported to be a tonic,nutritive, fertility enhancer, endocrine function and anti-fatigueMACA

Family: Brassicaceae

Genus: Lepidium

Species: meyenii

Synonyms: Lepidium peruvianum, L weddellii, L. affine, L. gelidum

Common Names: Maca, Peruvian ginseng, maka, mace, maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, ayuk willku, pepperweed

Price: £22.50 – 1lb / 454 gm Bag [wp_eStore_add_to_cart id=112]

Part Used: Root

From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • is nutritious
  • increases fertility
  • increases energy
Powder: 1 tablespoon
  • balances body systems
Capsules: 5 g twice daily

Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated high in the Andes Mountains, at altitudes from 8,000 to 14,500 feet. It has one of the highest frost tolerances among native cultivated species. Maca has a low-growing, mat-like stem system, which can go unnoticed in a farmer’s field. Its scalloped leaves lie close to the ground and it produces small, self-fertile, off-white flowers typical of the mustard family to which it belongs. The part used is the tuberous root, which looks likes a large radish (up to 8 cm in diameter) which is usually off-white to yellow in color. Unlike many other tuberous plants, maca is propagated by seed. Although it is a perennial, it is grown as an annual; seven to nine months is required to produce the harvested roots.

The species L. meyenii was described by Gerhard Walpers in 1843. It has been suggested that the cultivated maca of today is not L. meyenii but a newer species L. peruvianum Chacón, based on various specimens collected since 1960 in the district of San Juan de la Jarpa, in Huancayo province of Peru. While most maca sold in commerce today still refers to the L. meyenii name, economic botanists believe most is L. peruvianum. In 1994 less than 50 hectares were devoted to the commercial cultivation of maca; by 1999 over 1200 hectares were under production due to rising demand in the U.S. and abroad.

The area where maca is found, high in the Andes, is an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds, and below-freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures and poor, rocky soil, the area rates among the world’s worst farmland; yet, over the centuries, maca has evolved to flourish under these conditions. Maca was domesticated about 2,000 years ago by the Incas, and primitive cultivars of maca have been found in archaeological sites dating as far back as 1600 B.C.


To the Andean Indians and indigenous peoples, maca is a valuable commodity. Because so little else grows in the region, maca is often traded with communities at lower elevations for such other staples as rice, corn, green vegetables, and beans. The dried roots can be stored for up to seven years. Native Peruvians traditionally have utilized maca since pre-Incan times for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. It is an important staple in the diets of these people, as it has the highest nutritional value of any food crop grown there. It is rich in sugars, protein, starches, and essential nutrients (especially iodine and iron). The tuber or root is consumed fresh or dried. The fresh roots are considered a treat and are baked or roasted in ashes (in the same manner as sweet potatoes). The dried roots are stored and, later, boiled in water or milk to make a porridge. They also are made into a popular sweet, fragrant, fermented drink called maca chicha. In Peru even maca jam, pudding, and sodas are popular. The tuberous roots have a tangy, sweet taste and an aroma similar to that of butterscotch.

This energizing plant is also referred to as Peruvian ginseng (although maca is not in the same family as ginseng). Maca has been used for centuries in the Andes to enhance fertility in humans and animals. Soon after the Spanish conquest in South America, the Spanish found that their livestock was reproducing poorly in the highlands. The local Indians recommended feeding the animals maca; so remarkable were the results that Spanish chroniclers gave in-depth reports. Even colonial records of some 200 years ago indicate that payment of (roughly) nine tons of maca was demanded from one Andean area alone for this purpose.

In Peruvian herbal medicine today, maca is reported to be used as an immunostimulant; for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility (and other reproductive and sexual disorders); and to enhance memory. Maca has been growing in world popularity over the last several years due to several large U.S. marketing campaigns touting its energizing, fertility enhancement, hormonal balancing, aphrodisiac, and, especially, enhanced sexual performance properties. Other (anecdotal) herbal medicine uses in the U.S. and abroad include increasing energy, stamina, and endurance in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, and helping with menstrual irregularities, female hormonal imbalances, menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome.


The nutritional value of dried maca root is high, resembling those of cereal grains such as maize, rice, and wheat. It contains 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% fiber, and 2.2% lipids. The protein content of maca exists mainly in the form of polypeptides and amino acids (including significant amounts of arginine, serine, histidine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, valine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and threonine). It also has about 250 mg of calcium, 2 g of potassium, and 15 mg of iron in 100 g of dried root-and important amounts of fatty acids (including linolenic, palmitic, and oleic acids). Maca contains sterols (about 0.05% to 0.1%) and other vitamins and minerals. In addition to its rich supply of essential nutrients, maca contains alkaloids, tannins, and saponins.

A chemical analysis conducted in 1981 showed the presence of biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates (a common chemical found in the mustard family of plants and shown to be a wood preservative and insecticide). Chemical research shows maca root contains a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which has reputed aphrodisiac properties. At least four alkaloids are also present but have not yet been quantified. Fresh maca root contains about 1% glucosinolates-plant chemicals found in many plants in the family Brassicaceae (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables). While no novel glucosinolates have been reported in maca yet, several of the chemicals found in this group of known plant chemicals are documented to be cancer-preventive.

Maca’s main plant chemicals include: alkaloids, amino acids, beta-ecdysone, calcium, carbohydrates, fatty acids, glucosinolates, iron, magnesium, p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, phosphorus, potassium, protein, saponins, sitosterols, stigmasterol, tannins, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc.

Nutritional Profile of Dried Maca Root

(Average 10 gram serving)

Component per 10 g Amino Acids per 10 g Minerals per 10 g
Protein 1–1.4 g Alanine 63.1 mg Calcium 25 mg
Carbohydrates 6–7.5 g Arginine 99.4 mg Copper 0.6 mg
Fats (lipids) 220 mg Aspartic acid 91.7 mg Iron 1.5 mg
Fiber 850 mg Glutamic acid 156.5 mg Iodine 52 mcg
Ash 490 mg Glycine 68.3 mg Manganese 80 mcg
Sterols 5–10 mg Histidine 41.9 mg Potassium 205 mg
Calories 32.5 HO-Proline 26.0 mg Sodium 1.9 mg
Isoleucine 47.4 mg Zinc 380 mcg
Leucine 91.0 mg
Vitamins per 10 g Lysine 54.5 mg Fats/Lipids per 10 g
B2 39 mcg Methionine 28.0 mg Linoleic 72 mcg
B6 114 mcg Phenylalanine 55.3 mg Palmitic 52 mcg
C 28.6 mg Proline 0.5 mg Oleic 24.5 mcg
Niacin 565 mcg Sarcosine 0.7 mg
Serine 50.4 mg
Threonine 33.1 mg
Tryptophan 4.9 mg
Tyrosine 30.6 mg
Valine 79.3 mg


Maca’s fertility-enhancing properties were reported as early as 1961, when researchers discovered that it increased fertility in rats. Marketing and resulting sales of maca for sexual function has been fueled by clinical research since. The majority of this research, however, has been performed or funded by two main marketers of maca products in the U.S. and abroad! Also suspect to the independent scientific community are studies that “measure libido enhancement” – these are known to be highly subjective. Study protocols can also be easily orchestrated to provide desired outcomes and results; therefore, many trained industry and medical professionals note this brand of (product-sponsored) research with mild interest at best.

The first study reporting maca’s effect on sexual function was published in 2000 (and performed by a marketer of maca) and described the beneficial effects of using maca in impotent mice and rats. Another, published a year later, indicated similar effects in male rats. Studies in 2001 reported a beneficial effect on male sperm production in rats and improvement of sperm count and motility in nine healthy adult men. In 2002 a study reported improved sexual performance in inexperienced male rats; another “self-perception on sexual desire” test in healthy men reported aphrodisiac or libido enhancement effects. In several of the rat and mice studies, the animals were administered up to 4 g per kg of body weight of a “concentrated maca extract” to achieve the reported results. This would (approximately) equate to a 300 g (10 oz.) dose for an average (170 lb.) man! None of these studies, however, indicated a possible mechanism of action – or related these observed effects to constituents or chemicals contained in maca root.

It may well be that maca’s beneficial effects for sexual function and fertility can be explained simply by its high concentration of proteins and vital nutrients. Dried maca root contains about 10% protein – mostly derived from amino acids. Amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are required in the diet to drive many cellular functions in the body – including sexual and fertility functions. Amino acids are required to manufacture neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline. These substances transmit signals in the nervous system and play a major role in the process of sexual arousal and physical performance during sex. The main amino acids that these neurotransmitters require include phenylalanine, tyrosine, and histidine (all three of which are found in good supply in maca). The amino acid arginine, of which maca is a significant source, is thought to assist in the generation of nitric oxide-which is thought to counteract male impotence (although this is not clinically validated). Many libido- and sexual-enhancement health supplements on the market today contain arginine for this reason. Arginine has also clinically proven to play a role in male fertility through its action of increasing sperm production and motility. It is highly likely that some of the sexual and fertility effects reported were due to maca’s high arginine content.

The amino acid histidine also is found in maca root in high amounts. This amino acid plays an often-overlooked but important role in sexual function: during ejaculation and orgasm. The body utilizes histidine to produce histamine, and histamine in the corpus cavernosum (penile erectile tissue) ultimately is responsible for the way ejaculations happen. Men suffering from premature ejaculation often show increased histamine activity; they may be helped by a simple antihistamine, or the amino acid methionine (which counteracts the formation of histamine from histidine). This is the same mechanism that explains a side effect of prescription antihistamines – aorgasmia (or the inability/difficulty to achieve an orgasm). Conversely, men and women having difficulties achieving orgasms may be helped by histidine supplementation – this may increase histamine levels in the sexual tract, which in turn make orgasms and ejaculations easier. An additional pro-sexual effect of histidine (as well as arginine) may lie in its vasodilating effect, increasing blood flow to the sex organs. Again, the significant, natural histidine content of maca may have played a role in the rat studies reporting a greater number of copulations. But it does make one wonder – is the benefit of additional copulations at the expense of shorter duration and/or premature ejaculation? Surely this subject is best suited for truly independent (and not product-sponsored) research.

Other benefits and anecdotal reports touting maca for hormonal balancing, endocrine and thyroid function enhancement, and even immune system enhancement are likely related to maca’s amino acid and nutrient content as well. The endocrine system drives many functions in the body, including the production of many types of hormones (which, in turn, regulate many other bodily processes). Although hormones are chemically diverse, they are constructed simply from amino acids and cholesterol. If given sufficient levels of starting materials (natural amino acids), the body may use them as needed to construct hormones which keep the body in balance. Where diet and nutrition are poor (a common problem in the Andes, home to so few green, leafy vegetables), maca is a vital part of the diet – providing the necessary nutrients to keep the body healthy and functioning efficiently. The marketing claim made that maca actually increases testosterone or sex hormones has been clinically disproved just recently. In a 2003 double-blind placebo human trial, men taking a maca root extract (1.5-3 g daily) evidenced no changes in any reproductive hormonal level tested, including testosterone (which actually showed a slight decrease!).


Today, dried maca root is ground to powder and sold in capsules as a food supplement and marketed to increase stamina (sexual and athletic) and fertility. Consumers bombarded with these marketing claims of hormonal balancing, thyroid stimulation (and resulting weight loss), sexual and athletic performance, and others need note: the indigenous uses to which marketers refer are in dosages by the ounce and pound daily-not just a few grams. No race of superhumans (with incredible sexual or athletic prowess) exists in the Andes, despite the fact that they eat, on average, five pounds of maca per week! When maca first made its debut in the press about 6 years ago it was touted to be the new “natural ViagraTM” for men – sure to increase testosterone and sexual performance. After brisk sales, the market decreased because it simply didn’t work as it was claimed. Several years later, and soon after the national media had a field day with the reported negative effects of conventional estrogen replacement therapy, marketers of maca shifted strategies and are today marketing maca as the “new HRT alternative” for women – sure to increase estrogen and treat menopause symptoms. Once again, maca sales are strong again. Unfortunately, maca will not live up to this new marketing claim either.

Make no doubt – maca is a wonderful source of natural vital nutrients. The synergy of so many amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in their natural states may increase the assimilation, uptake, and utilization of them in the body. Consumers however, shouldn’t expect “miracle cures” with maca – its rather like taking a multi-vitamin supplement. Keep in mind that it is, in fact, a root vegetable and a main staple in the Andean indigenous diet (as beans, potatoes, and rice are elsewhere). Taking a few 500 mg capsules or tablets likely will not be of much benefit – or live up to wild marketing claims bandied about in the market today.

The new standardized or concentrated extracts of maca available today are concentrating the extracts to the chemicals found only by the companies selling these products and funding the research. These chemicals and their biological effects have yet to be confirmed by independent research. In the absence of true, independent science and research, consumers will be judging the efficacy and benefits of these extracts with money spent for them.

The cultivation of maca is increasing in the highlands of the Andes to meet the growing demand worldwide; it is hoped that this demand will be sustained and not just another passing fad. In this severely economically-depressed region, the market created for maca will offer new and important sources of income for the indigenous peoples of the Andes. About 10 cultivars there produce maca with different colored roots; most are the same, phytochemically. The cultivar Lepidium peruvianum Chacón has been identified in the major growing regions of the highlands and is the main variety of choice for expanded cultivation today. It will likely supply much of this new demand.

One of the main U.S. maca marketers (and which funded much of the clinical research) has come under quite a bit of negative press recently in Peru, the world’s exporter of maca, as well as in Europe and the U.S. The marketing company was granted plant-use patents in the U.S. (also pending in Europe and Australia) on the use of maca for fertility and aphrodisiac purposes. If these patents are enforced, it could prevent maca extracts of Peruvian origin from being imported into the United States and abroad. In 2002, a coalition of maca farmers and international activists was formed; its members purport that patenting indigenous knowledge is morally wrong and unacceptable. The coalition wants the Peruvian government and the World Intellectual Property Organization to condemn claims and patents such as these that steal traditional knowledge from farming communities and indigenous peoples. Law suits have also been filed in 2004 against this company for patenting these indigenous uses. After all – maca has been used by the indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes for centuries and this marketing company learned of its uses through them.

Main Preparation Method: eaten fresh/dried, or in capsules.Main Actions (in order):
tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions), nutritive, fertility enhancer, endocrine function support, anti-fatigue Main Uses: 

  1. as a natural source of nutrients (amino acids, minerals, etc.)
  2. to support endocrine function
  3. to reduce fertility problems (both male and female)
  4. to support erectile function
  5. as an aphrodisiac

Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
aphrodisiac, fertility enhancer, increases sperm count/motilityOther Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
hormonal, immunostimulant, stimulant, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions)

Cautions: Large amounts may cause intestinal gas.







Traditional Preparation: In the Andes, as much as a pound of fresh and/or dried maca root is eaten as a food in a single day. In herbal medicine in the U.S., dried maca root tablets, capsules and powders are generally recommended at dosages of 5-20 g daily. The dried root powder (a more economical choice than tablets or capsules) can be stirred into juice, water, or smoothies (2 tsp. of root powder are about 5.5 g). For standardized and concentrated extract products, follow the labeled instructions.

Contraindications: None reported.

Drug Interactions: None reported

Peru for anemia, energy, fertility, food, impotence, memory, menopause, menstrual disorders, tuberculosis


The above text has been reprinted from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.

† The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

Published Third-Party Research on Maca

All available third-party research on maca can be found at PubMed.

A partial listing of the published research on maca is shown below: Fertility Enhancement Actions:

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of Black maca (Lepidium meyenii) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats.” Andrologia. 2006 Oct; 38(5): 166-72.

Bustos-Obregon, E., et al. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca) reduces spermatogenic damage induced by a single dose of malathion in mice.” Asian J. Androl. 2005 Mar; 7(1): 71-6.

Ruiz-Luna, A.C., et al. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca) increases litter size in normal adult female mice.” Reprod. Biol. Endocrinol. 2005 May; 3(1): 16.

Gonzales, C., et al. “Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Feb 20; 103(3): 448-54.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on spermatogenesis in male rats acutely exposed to high altitude (4340 m).” J. Endocrinol. 2004; 180(1): 87-95.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Lepidium meyenii (maca) improved semen parameters in adult men.” Asian J. Androl. 2001; 3(4): 301–3.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats.” Asian J. Androl. 2001; 3(3): 231–33.Endocrine / Adrenal Actions:

Zhang, Y., et al. “Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr; 105(1-2): 274-9.

Lopez-Fando, A., et al. “Lepidium peruvianum Chacon restores homeostasis impaired by restraint stress.” Phytother. Res. 2004; 18(6): 471-4.

Anti-Depressant Actions:

Rubio, J., et al. “Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice.” BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2006 Jun 23; 6:23.

Male Sexual Performance / Enhancement Actions:

Cicero, A. F., et al. “Hexanic maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic maca extracts.” Andrologia. 2002; 34(3): 177–79.

Cicero, A. F., et al. “Lepidium meyenii Walp. improves sexual behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor activity.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2001; 75(2–3): 225–29.

Zheng, B. L., et al. “Effect of a lipidic extract from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats.” Urology 2000; 55(4): 598–602.

Hormonal Actions: (Studies showing maca does NOT increase testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone.)

Bogani, P., et al. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca) does not exert direct androgenic activities.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr; 104(3): 415-7.

Chung, F., et al. “Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Apr; 98(1-2): 143-7.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats.” Reprod. Biol. Endocrinol. 2005; 3(1): 5.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of alcoholic extract of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on testicular function in male rats.” Asian J. Androl. 2003 Dec; 5(4): 349-52.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men.” J. Endocrinol. 2003; 176(1): 163–68.

Gonzales, G. F., et al. “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men.” Andrologia. 2002; 34(6): 367–72.

Hormonal Actions:(studies showing maca with a slight estrogenic action)

Valentova, K., et al. “The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts.” Cell. Biol. Toxicol. 2006 Mar; 22(2): 91-9.


Discovery Channel Health article:

“How Much Maca Should You Take?

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, some six.I believe that many people think of herbs like drugs, and assume that small amounts will do some good. In most cases, that’s not true. As a rule, consumers take too little of most herbs to derive the benefits those herbs can impart. Rare is the herb that works in small doses. And many herbal product labels offer dosage recommendations based not on efficacy, but on price.

To be consistent with Peruvian use you’d take a minimum of six to ten 500-milligram capsules of powdered maca daily, equal to 3,000 to 5,000 milligrams of maca. You can certainly take more. You can also obtain powdered maca root under some brands. With those products, you can toss a tablespoon full into a blender drink every day and enjoy maca the way the Peruvians do.”

Ingredients: 100% pure maca root (Lepidium meyenii) ground to a fine powder. No binders, fillers or additives are used.

Suggested Use: Take one tablespoon (about 10 g) 1-3 times daily or as desired. This powder can be stirred into water, juice, or smoothies—heating or cooking is not required (or recommended). It can be stuffed into capsules, or combined with other herbs or foods.

Contraindications: None reported.

Drug Interactions: None reported.

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