Maca - The Miracle Tuber


Maca (Lepidium peruvianum), also called Peruvian ginseng, is often referred to as a superfood. And that is in the truest sense of the word. It’s touted on numerous websites as a vital substance for athletes and deep thinkers. It is even said to promote virility and increase libido considerably. But is there anything to all the hype about this miracle tuber? 

Maca - Superfood from the Andes

Native to the Andes Mountains in Peru, maca has been cultivated for over 2,000 years as a food and medicinal plant. The beet-shaped tuber can be eaten either fresh after a brief heating, simmered, baked, or dried and processed into flour. This flour can be used to make an aromatic mash or even bread. Its taste is sweet and tangy. Maca is a nutritious carbohydrate similar to maize and other cereals.

It is also rich in protein, mainly in the form of polypeptides and essential amino acids. Notable is its arginine, serine, histidine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, valine, phenylalanine, tyrosine and threonine content.

Maca also contains essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid. Other nutrients in maca include vitamins B1, B2, B12, and C, tocopherol, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and secondary plant substances including glucosinolates. The tuber itself contains saponins, sitosterols, tannins, and glucosinolates. These are also found in crucifers and studies have pointed to their effects in preventing cancer.

Maca root - effect and use

In folk medicine, maca root is used as an aphrodisiac and to assist fertility. In animal research, administration of a high-concentrate maca extract brought increased libido and sexual performance, as well as an increase in sperm count and motility. Studies carried out in 2001 on 9 healthy male test subjects support these results. An effect on the human endocrine system has not yet been determined. It may be that the results are also due to high concentrations of essential proteins.

These essential proteins support cellular functions in the body as well as the production of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, and thus signal transmission in the nervous system.

This may also explain maca’s adaptogenic effects. Its vitalising properties bring sustained increases to both physical and mental performance, reduce fatigue, and boost concentration. This in turn brings improved resilience and strengthens the immune system. It is therefore not surprising that maca is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng”; however, it is not related to ginseng but rather belongs to the genus Lepidium (which also includes cresses).

Scientific research is currently underway on the beneficial effects of maca root. Recent studies have observed various bioactivities. There has also been evidence of maca improving reproductive health, along with the presence of antioxidant, neuroprotective, cancer-inhibiting, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties. Improvements in skin health and digestive system function have also been noted. Clinical studies in the genetics, chemical composition, processing, extraction methods, and physiochemical properties of maca root are currently being conducted to investigate its additional health benefits.

In Europe, maca is available in a variety of food supplement forms, with a distinction made between the colour varieties. For example, studies have shown the powders from black, red and yellow maca root to have different effects. Although maca has been used as a food and a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years in its South American home, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has remained cautious in its recommendations. What is certain is that there is still much potential for its applications.

Results so far include its possible use as a tonic as well as to increase fertility in humans and animals. Scientific research is now being carried out on maca’s use in folk medicine for various ailments such as rheumatic diseases, respiratory diseases, menopausal complaints, and even anaemia. Maca thus offers much potential for further health benefits.


  • 5 Elemente Kochbuch von Barbara Temelie und Beatrice Trebuth
  • Das große Buch der Heilpflanzen, Apotheker Pahlow
  • Das Lexikon der pflanzlichen Fette und Öle, Sabine Krist

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