Herb to Know: Peruvian Maca

The hardy Peruvian maca herb can help boost overall health.

| December/January 2012

  • Maca thrives in rocky, unforgiving environments.
    Photo by Steven Foster
  • The root of the maca is the part we consume.
  • Maca grows high in the Peruvian mountains.

Lepidium meyenii
• Brassicaceae family
• Grows in the Peruvian highlands at 12,000 feet and higher

Peruvian Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an herb with the makings of a great story: It’s rare, sexy, exotic, ancient and a little mysterious. But, more important, it has unique health benefits with documented results.

Try These Editor-Recommended Peruvian Maca Products 

The herbaceous perennial crop is grown in the central highlands of Peru at elevations of 12,000 feet and higher. The Quechua Indians native to the area are the principle producers and consumers of the plant, and the oldest recorded date of maca use in Peru is around 1600 b.c. Peruvians traditionally have used maca root to promote mental acuity, physical vitality, endurance and stamina. The Peruvian herb also is well-known as a tonic that enhances sexual desire and performance and is especially reputed to increase fertility in men and women, as well as in domesticated animals.

What is maca? 

Maca is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes turnips and radishes. A highly nutritious food, it contains carbohydrates, proteins, calcium, fiber and lipids, as well as iodine and anticancer compounds similar to those found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage. It also contains antioxidants, such as catechins, which also are found in green tea, and sterols similar to those found in echinacea.

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