Lepidium peruvianum, colloquially known as maca, is a root vegetable that grows high in the Andes mountains in Peru. This simple root is quickly growing in popularity among health-minded folks, but its traditional use as a food and medicine has been widespread among Peruvians for generations. Although research is lacking, making scientific proof sparse, this seemingly magical root has been historically used as an herbal remedy to treat everything from fertility issues and lack of libido to skin disorders and fatigue.
Anecdotal evidence has led many to believe maca root can improve athletic performance and stamina, cure impotency, balance hormones, treat anemia, reduce cancer risk, lower cholesterol and help women regulate their menstrual cycles. It is known for increasing libido, enhancing fertility and relieving the symptoms of menopause. In fact, some doctors recommend using maca root as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
While more studies are needed to see just how effective maca root is in treating these and other ailments, a growing body of evidence has convinced many people to include it in their daily diets. This is particularly true for those interested in its apparent ability to balance hormones and improve sexual performance. It is also becoming known as an alternative to coffee for folks looking for natural ways to boost their energy.
Maca root is available in capsule or powder form, both of which are convenient for use at home or on the road. Capsules are, of course, the simplest way to introduce this superfood into your diet as a supplement; however, purchasing it as a powder provides more versatility for using it in recipes or creating a hot beverage to replace your morning coffee. When purchased as a powder, maca root is best stored in a sealed container in your pantry or refrigerator.
Raw maca root powder that has been naturally dried in the sun is generally considered the best option, and its nutty flavor makes it a good choice for flavoring soups, adding to smoothies, or mixing with hot water or non-dairy milks to create a tasty drink.
What we know for sure about maca powder is that it contains fiber, proteins, antioxidants, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, B vitamins, magnesium and plant sterols. It also has a high level of glucosinates when compared to similar plants, and this is what is believed to be behind its ability to increase fertility.
While a general lack of side effects in most people is one of the reasons maca root is becoming popular as a natural way to treat a variety of ailments, it should be noted that the same glucosinates that help some people may negatively affect people with thyroid conditions. As always, you should speak to your healthcare provider before starting any herbal therapy, including this one.