Is Maca the 'new Gingseng'?
Is Maca the ‘new Ginseng’?
A new paper to be published by the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has attempted to evaluate the wide range of pharmacological benefits from the Andean root vegetable Maca (Lepidium meyenii).
Maca is already valued in the West as a ‘superfood’ and an
important natural treatment for common sexual health
problems such as sexual dysfunction, low libido and low
fertility rates, but its benefits are far more wide ranging, and
it deserves its classification by many herbalists as an
adaptogen, and its nickname of ‘Peruvian Ginseng’.
The main interest in Maca for men’s health centres on the fact
that it improves both libido and sexual performance without
changing serum reproductive hormone levels – which means it
can be safely used by men with normal testosterone levels,
unlike testosterone therapies, which have been linked to an
increased risk of prostate cancer in normal men.
According to the most recent preliminary research conducted
in 2006 – it may even help to reverse lead induced damage
caused to sperm motility in men. Importantly, it has none of the
side effects associated with Viagra™ and testosterone therapy.
Maca is also beneficial for women - and appears not only
to boost flagging libido, but also to increase fertility - by an
as yet unknown mechanism .
As an additional benefit to both men and women, Maca can
also help to combat fatigue and improve mood – probably due to
the fact that it contains Monoamineoxidase inhibitors , which
are already used in psychiatry for the treatment of depressive
disorders and in neurology in the treatment of Parkinson’s
Maca has also been shown to contain nine types of
glucosinolates, important antioxidants that are also present
in other cruciferous crops – but staggeringly the levels found
in fresh Maca are approximately 100 x those of other crops such
as cabbage and broccoli!
The use of Maca as a ‘superfood’ and pro-sexual supplement stretches back literally thousands of years. Famously, the root was given to Inca warriors before battle to impart strength, but was forbidden to warriors following the conquest of a new city because it was known to increase sexual desire and might promote misconduct towards captured women.
This clearly important crop was also given to the Inca
royalty and used to improve the fertility of both people and
livestock. The Spanish later considered it so valuable they
levied a tax in Maca instead of Gold from the Andean provinces.
If any food deserves the label ‘superfood’ then it is Maca. This nutritional powerhouse contains high levels of amino acids – including L’arginine, which is known to increase blood vessel dilation and must contribute to its beneficial effect for those with erectile dysfunction. Calcium makes up 10% of maca’s mineral count -which also includes magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphates, silica, and traces of iodine. Vitamins found in Maca include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and vitamin C.
Maca is also a source of two alkaloids (Lepidiline A and B), plant sterols (β-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol) and some important novel compounds which require further analysis – including macaene and macamide – which are believed to contribute to its benefits in areas of sexual performance.
Ongoing research will undoubtedly confirm many more of the
historical uses of this incredible vegetable crop – proof if
any were needed that food is medicine. Until then, the good news
is that Maca is completely safe, and to many people around the
world who have used it to help to resolve many personal but
highly important problems - it is already worth more than gold.