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Maca's Nutritional Value

MACA is a hearty  plant cultivated high in the Andean Mountains at altitudes from 11,000-14,500 feet. The only area where this particular species of MACA is found is a region of intense sunlight, winds, and below freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures this Peruvian mountain area rates among the worst farmland, yet over the centuries MACA learned to flourish under these harsh growing conditions. MACA was domesticated about 2,000 years ago by Peruvian Indians and primitive cultivars of MACA have been found in archaeological sites dating back as far as 1600 B.C.

To the Andean Indians, MACA is a valuable commodity. Because so little else grows in the region, MACA is often traded with communities at lower elevations for other staples like rice, corn, and beans. The dried roots can be stored for up to seven years. Native Peruvians have used MACA since before the time of the Inca's for both nutritional and medicinal purposes.

Raw Maca Root shortly after harvesting. The plant has been found to have healing aptogenic qualities for men and women.MACA has been used medicinally for centuries to enhance fertility in humans and animals. Soon after the Spanish Conquest in South America, the Spanish found that their livestock were reproducing poorly in the highlands. The local Indians recommended feeding the animals Maca and the results were so remarkable that the Spanish chroniclers wrote in-depth reports about Maca. Even Colonial records of some 200 years ago indicate that payments of about 9 tons of MACA were demanded from one Andean area for this purpose. In 1961, Dr. Gloria Chacon de Popovici, a biological researcher, published her studies when her research clearly demonstrated the increased fertility in animals using MACA. To date her work on MACA is unmatched!

Dr. Gloria Chacon de Popovici, the discover of the unique species of plant that contains the healing alkaloids. The plant was later named after her Lepidium peruvianum Chacon.

Dr. Chacon's work answered important scientific questions about MACA, which contains important amounts of fatty acids including linoleic, palmitic and oleic acids. MACA is rich in sterols and has a high mineral content as well. In addition to its rich supply of essential nutrients, MACA contains alkaloids, tannins and saponins. A chemical analysis shows the presence of biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates, especially p-methoxbenzyl isothiocyanate, which have reputed aphrodisiac properties. Analysis of MACA indicates that the effects on fertility are a result of glucosinolates. Dr. Chacon discovered the four alkaloids present in MACA that are responsible for MACA's reputed positive effect on hormonal issues such as hot flashes, memory problems, fatigue, and male impotence more than forty years ago as a 20 year old student at the University of San Marcos, in Lima, Peru. She continues her lectures and symposiums on a regular basis to the medical world. Read Her Bio

MACA is growing in world popularity due to its energizing effects, fertility enhancement, and aphrodisiac qualities. Other traditional uses include increasing energy levels, stamina and endurance in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, helping with menstrual irregularities and female hormonal imbalances including hot flashes, fatigue,  mood swings, and other pre ands post menopausal difficulties.       

Forty years of extensive research has been undertaken for Maca's nutritional and medicinal values (Obregón. 1998), confirming the traditional claims of Maca's health benefits. Maca's high nutritional value comes from the fact that it contains about 59% carbohydrates, 14% proteins, 9% fiber and 2% lipids among other components (Garró, 1972; Garró, León y Julca, 1993, and Deni A., Migliuolo G.Rastrelli L., Saturnino P., and Schefino O.; 1994; Cabieses 1997). Maca contains:

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1) A large number of essential amino acids, such as aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, glycine, arginine, valine and lysine (Garró, 1972);

2) Fatty acids: palmatic acids, linoleic acid and saturated fatty acids;

3) Minerals (mg/100g), Fe 16.6, Mn 0.8, Cu 5.9, Zn 3.8, Na 18.7, K 2,050 and Ca 150, and

4) Vitamins, Thyamine (B1),
Riboflavin (B2), and Vitamin C (Garró, 1972 and Deni A., et al, 1994).

However, the major importance of Maca comes from the combination of its nutritional elements with other components giving heightened nutritional/medicinal effects. Thus:

1) 4 alkaloids named macaina 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been detected, which stimulate the reproductive system of both sexes (Chacón, 1962; Garró, León, and Julca, 1993); it is considered that the alkaloids in Maca activate the calcitonine hormone that regulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism and activates the parathonnone involved with same metabolism.

2)The high presence of the amino-acids lysine and arginine in Maca has an effect on the regulation of female and male fertility respectively; arginine constitutes 80% of male reproductive cells, thus, Maca could solve problems related to deficiency of these amino acids, leading to lack of sexual desire and originating certain types of male and female infertility;

3) Among it's components are certain sterols, (Espinoza and Poma, 1995): Brassycosterol, Ergosterol, Carnpesterol, delta 7.22 Ergostadienol, and specially Sitosterol (Dini A. et al, 1994). Correction of menopause problems and an increase in female fertility are attributed to Maca sterols and lysine;

4) Glucosinolates have been found, specially benzyl isotiocyanate (Johns, 1980); this author finds that worldwide, plants with glucosinolates, like Maca, are consumed because of their action on reproductive hormonal processes, and

5) Fructose, a monosaccharide sugar with 173.3 degree of sweetness, superior to glucose, is present; fructose is recommended for combating athletes' fatigue; fructose is a sugar utilized by seminal plasma to give energy to spermatozoids.

Tests have been performed on mice, rats,  guinea pigs, frogs, cattle, sheep and certain observations made with human beings showed:

1. Increase in female fertility and the production of seminal fluid in males;

2.  Animals fed with Maca had the same weight as those fed on other products, but, those fed with Maca were   more active and energetic, that is to say, Maca is a great source of energy without adding body fat.

3.  Children born from females fed with  Maca had higher birth weights.

4.  It has been known to control rickets and osteomalacia in children and adults.

5. It revitalizes physical and intellectual capabilities with renewed vigor.

6. It is effective against premature aging and feebleness with the loss of energy, and alertness.

7. It has the ability to control different kinds of anemia.

In summary, the Peruvian Andes offer Maca as one of the best natural revitalizing and invigorating substances that exist; for this reason it is called an Andean Ginseng. In general, Maca may overcome energy wear and tear caused by the modern accelerated way of life, poor nutrition and inadequate social and hygienic environment.
 

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Bibliography

Dini A., Migliuolo G., Rastrelli L., Saturnino P. and Schettino O., "Chemical composition of Lepidium meyenii", in Food Chemistry 49, London, UK, 1994.
Chacón, G. Estudio fitoquímico de Lepidium meyenii Walp Thesis, Universidad Nacional Mayor San Marcos, Lima, 1962.
Espinoza, C.L. and Poma 1. P., Determinación de amino ácidos esenciales de la maca (Lepidium meyenii) y elaboración de una mezcla protéica a base de alimentos andinos, Thesis, Universidad Nacional del Centro del Perú, Huancayo, 1995
Fitomédica, "Maca, ginseng andino", in Fitomédica, Madrid, 1998.
Garró V. Nuevo sistema de solventes para cromatografía de aminoácidos y participación cuantitativa de L-valina y L-metionina, Doctoral Thesis, Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, 1972.
Garró V. León E. and Julca T.B., " Extracción, separación e identificación por cromatografía de alcaloides de Lepidium meyenii Walp. (Maka), Instituto de Química Orgánica Aplicada a la Farmacia, Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, VI Congreso Peruano de Farmacia y Bioquimíca, October, 1993.
Johns, Timothy A., Ethnobotany and phytochemistry of Tropaeolum Tuberosum and Lepidium Meyenii from Andean South America Ph.D. Thesis, The University of British Columbia, Canada, 1980.
Obregón, L., Maca, Planta medicinal y nutritivo del Perú, Instituto de Fitoterapia Americana, Lima, Perú, 1998.


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