What Is the Origin of Maca?
Maca is an important root vegetable in the mustard family. It is one of a very few crops that can be grown in very inhospitable regions and at extremely high altitudes (up to 15,000ft / 4500 meters). The plant is native to the Peruvian Central Andes and even today the best quality and most effective Maca is still cultivated there. Although it can be grown successfully in other climates, the medicinal root of Maca is neither as large or as potent as when grown in the high Andes.
How Long Has Maca Been Cultivated?
Archaeological evidence suggests that domestication of Maca began about 2000 years ago in what is now Junin, central Peru. It is believed that people indigenous to the area began using Maca themselves after they saw the positive effect that it had on their livestock, in terms of energy and especially fertility.
What Are The Historical Written References To Maca?
The first written references to Maca come from Spanish explorers and conquerors of the 1500s.
- In 1549 Juan Tello de Sotoy Mayor reportedly received maca fruits as a tribute and used them to improve the fertility of cattle he imported from Spain.
- In 1553, Cieza De Leon explained that natives used certain roots (maca) for maintenance.
- In 1572 it was recorded that Maca has been used for barter since the Incan times
- In 1653 Father Cabo was the first to document the properties of maca. He referred to Maca’s use for fertility and for nourishment in the high mountains.
- During the 200 year colonial period (1550-1750) it is reported that roughly nine tons of Maca were demanded from the native population annually.
- Other literature from the Spanish conquest of America indicates that both indigenous and Spanish soldiers used high dosages of Maca to prepare themselves for battle. One chronicle relates that Maca was banned for use by some Spanish soldiers after battle because it heightened their libido too much.
- As a distinctive species, Maca was first comprehensively described by Gerhard Walpers in 1843. Scientifically Maca is referred to as lepedium meyenii, Walp. The “walp” refers to Walpers. Later Tehllung (1906) gave the most complete taxonomic description of Maca root.
How Has Maca Been Used?
Natives of Peru eat up to 20 grams of dried Maca for health improvements. Maca is a very nutritionally dense plant and extremely important to overall health in a region where little else grows. Maca is said to increase energy and stamina as well as to boost fertility and libido.
Maca In the Contemporary World
1964 was the first time that Maca was introduced Maca to a large scale international audience, but it wasn’t widely accepted at that time. In fact during the 1980s Maca cultivation reached record lows. But in the late 1990s Maca powder began to be used by health conscious doctors and people outside of Latin America. From 2000 to 2010 Peru’s export of Maca grew 5 times, making Maca powder one of the country’s top exports.