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Useful Tropical Plants

Lepidium meyenii

Walp.

Brassicaceae

+ Synonyms

Lepidium affine Wedd.

Lepidium gelidum Wedd.

Lepidium marginatum Griseb.

Lepidium orbignyanum Wedd.

Lepidium peruvianum G.Chacón

Lepidium weddellii O.E.Schulz

Common Name: Maca

Lepidium meyenii
Roots
Photograph by: International Potato Centre
Creative Commons License
Lepidium meyenii Lepidium meyenii Lepidium meyenii

General Information

Maca is a herbaceous perennial plant with decumbent stems 12 - 20cm long spreading over the ground and forming a mat of vegetation.
The plant is cultivated as a vegetable in the Andes of S. America[
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
]. This species is probably grown at higher elevations than any other cultivated food crop[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References


Range

S. America - Andes of Peru and Chile.

Habitat

Barren steppes, tundra and alpine plains, usually in limestone and clay soils, at elevations from 3,800 - 4,800 metres[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.05 m
PollinatorsInsects
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

Maca grows at high altitudes in the Andes in an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds and below freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures and poor rocky soil, the area rates among the world's worst farmland, yet over the centuries, Maca has learned to flourish under these conditions[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 18°c, but can tolerate 3 - 22°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Plants grow in areas where frosts are common throughout the growing season and they are said to tolerate temperatures down to at least -10°, perhaps to -20°c if given a good mulch[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 800mm, but tolerates 500 - 1,000mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Requires a sunny position[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a well-drained soil with a medium to heavy texture[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8.5[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]
The plant is said to deplete the soil in which it is grown. In S. America it is grown on a 10 year rotation, leaving the fields fallow for the next nine years to recover before their next crop[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. It is most likely that the problem lies with the nutrient-poor and fragile soils that the plant is usually grown in, rather than the greed of the plant[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
There are some named forms[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The roots are usually harvested 6 - 7 months after sowing the seed, though they can take 9 months to mature[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Yields of 20 tonnes per hectare are possible[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
Plants are self-fertile[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. They are also quite possibly allelopathic (inhibiting the growth of nearby plants)[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Edible Uses

Root - cooked. Sweet and pleasantly flavoured[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. They can be slowly baked[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. They can be roasted, dried and boiled or used for making juices, porridges, jams etc[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Traditionally, after being dried they are cooked in water to make a sweet aromatic porridge that is called 'mazamorra' in S. America[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. The nutritional value of dried Maca root is high, resembling cereal grains such as maize, rice and wheat. It has 59% carbohydrates, 10.2% protein, 8.5% fibre and 2.2% lipids.(263) It has a large amount of essential amino acids and higher levels of iron and calcium than potatoes.(263) Maca contains important amounts of fatty acids including linolenic, palmitic and oleic acids. It is rich in sterols and has a high mineral content as well[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. The root resembles a small pear in both size and shape and is up to 8cm in diameter[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The dried root contains about 13 - 16% protein and is rich in essential amino acids[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The fresh root is unusually high in iodine and iron[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The root does also contain small amounts of alkaloids, tannin and saponins[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The dried roots store well, 7 year old roots still had 9 - 10% protein[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Dried roots are brown, soft and sweet with a musky flavour, they retain their flavour for at least 2 years.

Young leaves[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
193
Title
Wild Food Plants of Australia.
Publication
 
Author
Low. T.
Publisher
Angus and Robertson.
Year
1989
ISBN
0-207-14383-8
Description
Well presented, clear information and good photographs. An interesting read for the casual reader as well as the enthusiast
] - raw or cooked[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
]. A hot cress-like flavour.

Medicinal

Maca is a little known herbal remedy and high energy food. It is growing in popularity due to its energizing effects, fertility enhancement and aphrodisiac qualities. Other traditional uses include increasing energy, stamina and endurance in athletes, promoting mental clarity, treating male impotence, and helping with menstrual irregularities and female hormonal imbalances including menopause and chronic fatigue syndrome[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
].The roots are antifatigue, aphrodisiac, nutritive, immunostimulant, steroidal and tonic[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
].

Maca, as with all crucifers, contains glucosinolates and isothiocyanates which have been shown to exhibit anticarcinogenicity by blocking formation of endogenous or exogenous carcinogens and so preventing initiation of carcinogenesis[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. Naturally occurring and synthetic isothiocyanates are among the most effective chemopreventive agents known[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. A wide variety of isothiocyanates prevent cancer of various tissues including the rat lung, mammary gland, oesophagus, liver, small intestine, colon, and bladder[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. Non-published data suggests Maca has this same effect. Surprisingly, there is no apparent traditional use of Maca in the treatment of cancer[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
].

In traditional Peruvian herbal medicine, Maca is used as an immunostimulant and in the treatment of anaemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders as well as to enhance memory[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
].

A chemical analysis conducted in 1981 showed the presence of biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates, especially p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which have reputed aphrodisiac properties[
263
Title
Maca.htm
Publication
 
Author
Raintree Nutrition Inc.
Publisher
 
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Web site giving lots of info on Lepidium meyenii.
]. Initial analysis of Maca indicate that the effects on fertility are a result of the glucosinolates. Alkaloids are also present, but have not yet been quantified.(263).

There are reports that this plant can cure many problems of infertility[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed -
Division

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