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.