Maca root, or Lepidium meyenii, is used to treat anemia, osteoporosis, depression, stomach cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, leukemia, HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis, and to boost energy, stamina, athletic performance, memory and fertility, according to WebMD. It is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men and to arouse sexual desire, treat hormonal imbalances and menstrual problems, and alleviate the symptoms of menopause in women, states WebMD.
Maca is a starchy tuber that grows in the Andes, where it has been grown as a staple crop by the Andean Indians for at least 3,000 years. It grows in the harsh mountainous conditions where only the potato can survive, according to WebMD. It is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, dietary fiber, plant sterols, iron, magnesium, selenium and calcium. It resembles a radish and a turnip, tastes similar to a potato and smells like butterscotch.
In the Andes, maca is cooked and mashed; mixed with milk; baked; roasted; used in soups; dried, ground and made into a flour used in breads, cakes and cookies; and used to make a fermented drink called maca chicha, notes WebMD. According to Dr. Weil, studies have shown that maca is safe to use, but no studies have confirmed its usefulness.