Maca may be a relatively recent addition to the superfood scene, but this ancient root has a history that spans millennia. Used in Peru as a treatment for all kinds of health issues, maca has earned a reputation for its invigorating and revitalizing properties, not to mention its unique adaptogenic benefits.
But what are the exact origins of maca? And what can its past teach us about its many benefits in the present?
What is maca?
Native to the Andes Mountains, maca is the superfood of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.
As a cruciferous vegetable, this robust root is part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family, yet its distinctive earthy taste sets it apart from the crowd. And it’s not only its taste that marks it as different. Maca also boasts an incredible nutritional profile, as well as a whole range of amazing health benefits, including:
- Better concentration levels
- Improved stamina
- May improve menopause symptoms
- Potentially helps balance hormones
- Can improve fertility in men
Where is maca grown?
Maca isn’t your typical vegetable. Grown at extreme altitudes of up to 15,000ft, it’s one of the few crops that can grow so in such inhospitable conditions. This has historically made it a vital source of food and medicine for the isolated communities native to the Peruvian Central Andes.
Nowadays this superfood is grown at lower altitudes, but for the best quality product you should always look for maca grown high in the Andes.
The origins of maca
Although we can’t put an exact date on when maca was first domesticated, archaeological evidence suggests that Andean communities began to cultivate the crop around 2,000 years ago in Junin, central Peru. It’s likely that after witnessing the positive effect the plant had on livestock, farmers began to grow maca as a food and medicine source.
However, it was not until the 1500s that we find the first references to maca. Written by the first Spanish explorers, these records note the effect of maca on fertility and energy levels. In fact, the plant became so important that it was used as an important bartering tool in Incan times. In 1843 maca was formally identified by Gerhard Walpers, gaining the scientific name lepedium meyenii, Walp.
Maca was finally introduced to the West in the 1960s, but it took a whole 30 years for the root’s full potential to be appreciated, with exports of maca dropping to an all-time low in the 1980s. However, by the 1990s, health professionals were beginning to better understand this ancient superfood. Fast forward to 2017, and the popularity of maca as a nutrient-rich adaptogen is on an endless up.
How is maca used?
In the extreme conditions of the Andes, maca has become a vital resource, both as a nutritionally dense food and potent medicine. Traditionally, the root is boiled, mashed and pureed before eating. Alternatively, raw maca is sometimes fermented and used to make beer, or dried and stirred into porridge.
Nowadays, however, it’s far easier to prepare this superfood. Available as either a powder or in capsule form, maca can be added to smoothies or taken as a daily supplement.
At Superfood World we believe that there’s a lot to be said for the natural power of superfood supplements and maca is one of our favourites. However, it’s not the only adaptogen on the superfood block.