Native Peruvians traditionally have utilized maca since pre-Incan
times for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. It is an important
staple in the diets of these people, as it has the highest nutritional
value of any food crop grown there. It is rich in sugars, protein,
starches, and essential nutrients (especially iodine and iron).
Maca is referred to as Peruvian ginseng (although maca is not in
the same family as ginseng). Maca has been used for centuries
in the Andes to enhance fertility in humans and animals. Soon after
the Spanish conquest in South America, the Spanish found that their
livestock was reproducing poorly in the highlands. The local Indians
recommended feeding the animals maca; so remarkable were the
results that Spanish chronicles gave in-depth reports.
In Peruvian herbal medicine today, maca is reported to be used as
an immunostimulant; for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders,
menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility (and other repro-
ductive disorders); to enhance memory. In the United States and
abroad, maca uses include increasing energy, stamina, and endur-
ance in athletes; promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence;
and helping with menstrual irregularities, female hormonal imbalances,
menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome.