Herb: Maca

Latin name: Lepidium meyenii

Synonyms: Lepidium mayenii

Family: Cruciferae

Medicinal use of Maca:

Maca is a little known herbal remedy and high energy food. It is growing in popularity due to its energizing effects, fertility enhancement and aphrodisiac qualities. Other traditional uses include increasing energy, stamina and endurance in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, and helping with menstrual irregularities and female hormonal imbalances including menopause and chronic fatigue syndrome.The roots are antifatigue, aphrodisiac, nutritive, immunostimulant, steroidal and tonic. Maca, as with all crucifers, contains glucosinolates and isothiocyanates which have been shown to exhibit anticarcinogenicity by blocking formation of endogenous or exogenous carcinogens and so preventing initiation of carcinogenesis. Naturally occurring and synthetic isothiocyanates are among the most effective chemopreventive agents known. A wide variety of isothiocyanates prevent cancer of various tissues including the rat lung, mammary gland, oesophagus, liver, small intestine, colon, and bladder. Non-published data suggests Maca has this same effect. Surprisingly, there is no apparent traditional use of Maca in the treatment of cancer. In traditional Peruvian herbal medicine, Maca is used as an immunostimulant and in the treatment of anaemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders as well as to enhance memory. A chemical analysis conducted in 1981 showed the presence of biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates, especially p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which have reputed aphrodisiac properties. Initial analysis of Maca indicate that the effects on fertility are a result of the glucosinolates. Alkaloids are also present, but have not yet been quantified.(263). There are reports that this plant can cure many problems of infertility.

Description of the plant:


5 cm
(2 inches)

Habitat of the herb:

Barren steppes, tundra and alpine plains, usually in limestone and clay soils, 3800 - 4800 metres.

Edible parts of Maca:

Root - cooked. Sweet and pleasantly flavoured. They can be slowly baked. After being dried they are cooked in water to make a sweet aromatic porridge that is called "mazamorra" in S. America. The nutritional value of dried Maca root is high, resembling cereal grains such as maize, rice and wheat. It has 59% carbohydrates, 10.2% protein, 8.5% fibre and 2.2% lipids.(263) It has a large amount of essential amino acids and higher levels of iron and calcium than potatoes.(263) Maca contains important amounts of fatty acids including linolenic, palmitic and oleic acids. It is rich in sterols and has a high mineral content as well. The root resembles a small pear in both size and shape and is up to 8cm in diameter. The dried root contains about 13 - 16% protein and is rich in essential amino acids. The fresh root is unusually high in iodine and iron. The root does also contain small amounts of alkaloids, tannin and saponins. The dried roots store well, 7 year old roots still had 9 - 10% protein. Dried roots are brown, soft and sweet with a musky flavour, they retain their flavour for at least 2 years. Young leaves - raw or cooked. A hot cress-like flavour.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring.

Cultivation of Maca:

Barren steppes, tundra and alpine plains, usually in limestone and clay soils, 3800 - 4800 metres.

Known hazards of Lepidium meyenii:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.