Maca In Peru

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The Herald
99.01.11 INTERNATIONAL redistributed with permission

The worldwide Viagra® craze has had an unexpected result in Peru, helping a high-altitude plant in danger of extinction find new life.

Maca, a small, Andean root belonging to the radish family, was in danger of disappearing in the early 1990s. With only 125 acres of the plant growing in its natural habitat, more than 13,000 feet above sea level in the central Andes, Maca was put on the endangered species list by the International Board of Genetic Resources.

Peruvians in the highland departments of Pasco and Junin, however, never forgot about maca's beneficial properties. Maca is best known for stimulating sexual appetite, while farmed for its high levels of proteins and vitamins. The maca root is dried and ground, then used to make everything from soups to alcoholic beverages. The leaves are brewed for tea.

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Pharmaceutical companies in Peru became interested in maca several years ago because of its vitamins, but the advent of Viagra® has changed the plant's future forever. From only a few acres in 1995, there are now about 1,500 acres of maca growing on a highland plateau between Cerro de Pasco and Junin, and the Agricultural Ministry expects an addittional 5,000 acres to be planted this year.

During his first press conference after being sworn in last week as Peruvian Agriculture Minister, Belisario de las Casas said that the Japanese government had approved the importation of maca in its natural form, adding that the Peruvian root would give Viagra!" a run for its money on the world market. "I take maca and can attest to its invigorating powers," de las Casas said.

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