Raw maca is a powdered form of the maca root, which is native to the Andes Mountains area of South America. The root is processed without using heat, which makes it acceptable to eat for those following a raw food diet. It is also used as a nutritional supplement. Many people also eat maca root because it has a reputation of being an aphrodisiac.
The maca tuber has been consumed in the Andes for thousands of years, most notably by the Incas. People eat its leaves in salads or mash the tubers to eat them in a way similar to mashed potatoes. Many people claim that raw maca powder should be considered a food, but in Norway, it is considered a drug and cannot be gotten without a prescription.
Raw maca differs from other preparations in that it is processed without the use of heat. To make it, the maca tubers are collected, cleaned, and freeze-dried. The dried tubers are then pulverized into powder. By contrast, gelatinized maca requires the use of chemicals to sterilize the tubers and heat to pasteurize the product for shipment, so it does not meet the standards of "raw" food, which requires that no food be heated above 104°F (40°C) or 115°F (46°C).
The powdered form of raw maca can be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be mixed into a juice or other beverage. Some people sprinkle it on top of hot or cold cereal, yogurt, or fruit. Some people who are not followers of the raw food diet also cook with this ingredient. They are concerned more with getting the nutrients and aphrodisiac benefits of consuming maca itself rather than the raw food dietary restrictions.
According to New York University's Langone Medical center, only two small studies state that maca root may be useful as a kind of sexual stimulant by improving blood flow to the genitals. The studies did not show that maca had any effect on human hormone levels, though many maca purveyors claim the opposite. These two studies do not show conclusively that raw maca has any effect as an aphrodisiac, and more studies need to be done before its true effectiveness can be determined.
Raw maca has not been found to produce harmful side effects in individuals who eat it. Some people who have eaten raw maca sprinkled on fruit have reported digestive upset.