Maqui

Aristotelia chilensis

Herbs gallery - Maqui

Common names

  • Chilean Wineberry
  • Maqui

Maqui (botanical name Aristotelia chilensis) is a member of the Elaeocarpaceae family and is indigenous to Chile's Valdivian temperate rain forests and adjoining areas of southern Argentina.

Aristotelia chilensis is a small, evergreen tree that grows up to a height of about anything between 4 meters and 5 meters and is dioecious in nature. This tree produces numerous slender and flexible branches. The leaves of maqui are simple, appear opposite to each other on the stem and are hanging. The shape of these leathery leaves varies from oval to being lance-like with jagged margins. While the veins of the leaf are quite prominent, the leaf stalk is vividly red. The trees shed their old leaves at the start of spring and these old cohorts are employed in the form of a carbon hydrate source for developing new leaves as well as flowers.

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Maqui trees bloom very late in spring, at the end of the season. The flowers are white and small. They are unisexual, meaning contain either the male or female reproductive organ. They yield small purple-hued fruits that are not only edible, but extremely nutritious. Maqui berries are very small, measuring only about 4 mm to 6 mm across and enclose about four to eight angled seeds. They taste very akin to blackberries and are also referred to as Chilean wineberry, perhaps because the berries are used to make a local wine.

Similar to several other types of berries, maqui fruits have also been a staple food for many native groups inhabiting the forests in its place of origin. In fact, a good number of natural foods that have been successfully marketed in the form of drugs in recent times have been used by local inhabitants as a staple food and the story is same in the case of maqui berries.

The Mapuche Indians are an excellent example of this. This native tribe has been consuming maqui berries as a staple food for time unknown. They not only grow the plants, but also harvest the berries from the wild in the Andes in Chile. In fact, this native tribe of South America is the sole group that still maintains its identity and not been prevailed over by other larger groups of native Indians. To some extent they can be compared to the Mayans or the Incas. In reality this has some link to their being more powerful and healthy compared to the other different Native American groups. It is yet to be ascertained whether their strength is due to maqui berries, which they have been consuming regularly for ages.

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Talking from the point of history, the Mapuche Indians have always considered maqui berries as a vital food that not only promoted their health, but also as the main source of their power and strength. The Mapuche Indians also believe that maqui berries possess several therapeutic properties and have been using them to treat various health conditions. They are of the view that these purple colored small berries provide them with warmth during the winters, and strength as well as endurance during their hunting season. As the berries contain the highest concentration of antioxidants among all known fruits, they are also considered to be the most effectual health supplement for the human body.

It has been noticed that the Mapuche Indians are not only healthier, but also have a longer life span compared to many others. Therefore, it can be assumed that consuming maqui berries regularly also increases one's life span. The first available documents referring to the Mapuche Indians' use of maqui berry date back to as early as 1844. These documents reveal that the Mapuche Indians not only used maqui berry as a staple food, but also medicinally to treat a number of health conditions, including fever, sore throat, stomach disorders and bowel looseness.

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At present, maqui berries and their extracts are used in various forms - as a juice and jam. Some people also use them in the form of an astringent.

Parts used

Berries.

Uses

Maqui berries offer a number of health benefits, including protecting us from becoming sick often. In fact, consuming these berries is helpful for preventing several common ailments such as flu, and common cold. At the same time, maqui berries are also effective in putting off more serious and long term ailments like arthritis and cancer. In addition, eating lots of maqui berries also helps to keep off hazardous bacterial activities inside the body - staying away from bacterial infections caused by consuming contaminated foods.

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A few of the health benefits of consuming maqui berries are discussed briefly below.

According to the findings of numerous studies undertaken to ascertain the health benefits offered by maqui berries, these small berries are a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, the antioxidant content of maqui berries is highest among all other similar berries. Apart from lessening oxidative stress, maqui berries contain certain type of anthocyanin, which is said to possess potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants present in maqui berries are effective in neutralizing the harmful free radicals and preventing them from causing damage to the cells and DNA. In fact, it has been identified that free radicals are responsible for various forms of cancers.

Consuming the berries and drinking their juice also helps to enhance the production of insulin in our body. In fact, the berries may prove to be extremely beneficial for people with diabetes, as they will aid in maintaining a healthy balance of blood sugar levels after each meal.

Anthocyanins contained by maqui berries possess anti-inflammatory properties and are useful in preventing various diseases. In other words, consuming maqui berries and drinking their juice helps to avoid falling ill too often. Apart from also helping us to avoid heart diseases and various forms of cancer, maqui berries also prevent development of long-term health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis.

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Preliminary findings of a number of scientific studies undertaken to find the health advantages of consuming maqui berries have shown that they may even possess anti-bacterial properties. This particular attribute of maqui berries may prove to be beneficial in preventing health problems caused by consuming foods that carry bacteria.

The purple color of maqui berries is attributed to anthocyanins, which are present in copious amounts. This specific type of pigment includes substances known as delphinidins and they are also present in large amounts in delphiniums as well as Concord grapes and are responsible for several health advantages offered by maqui berries. Delphinidins contain very high quality and potent antioxidants and also help to stop inflammation. Therefore, consumption of maqui berries on a regular basis helps one from developing several types of inflammatory conditions, which may also turn out to be degenerative. It is also believed that the potent antioxidants in maqui berry also help to prevent colon cancer development by eliminating the harmful cells.

Maqui berries are also beneficial for people who are susceptible to developing coronary disease. In addition, they also help to prevent several other health conditions. Maqui berries contain very potent antioxidants which help in putting off the entire cholesterol oxidation process in our blood. In fact, most of the cardiovascular diseases like stroke, heart attack and hardening of the arteries are attributed to the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Therefore, drinking the juice of maqui berries on a regular basis helps to promote the heart's health as well as avoid those related ailments. People who are susceptible to cardiovascular diseases should consume more of maqui berries and their juice to remain healthy and keep those diseases away. In fact, maqui berries are also an excellent food for promoting one's overall health.

Often obesity or over weight is the reason behind a health problem. Therefore it is very important to always maintain a healthy weight and this can be achieved by consuming maqui berries and the fruit's juice on a regular basis. In fact, physicians often recommend people trying to lose extra pounds to consume such berries or drink maqui berry juice daily. One reason for this is that consumption of maqui berries helps the body to augment insulin production and, hence, they are particularly beneficial for people with or prone to diabetes. In fact, maqui may perhaps be the only plant that may actually help to augment the insulin levels in the body. Compared to other herbs that are known to boost insulin production, maqui is certainly the best. Drinking maqui berry juice with your meals or soon after meals is an excellent way to lower the blood sugar levels. You may also drink the juice in the morning to perk up your energy levels as well as prevent accumulation of fat cells in the body. In fact, maqui has been proven to be a very effective weight loss method. Therefore, it is advisable that people who are keen to lose some additional weight my give maqui berries a try. The results are sure to surprise you.

Ignoring the immune boosting attributes of maqui berries will mean that one is not appreciating the complete health advantages offered by this herb. All plants as well as fruits taken into consideration, it can be safely said that the antioxidant level in maqui berries is most concentrated. This makes maqui berries one of the best super foods available today. In fact, antioxidants charge our body effectively to fight against diseases as well as to protect us from various ailments - small as well as serious. In fact, antioxidants are very effective in reinforcing our immune system and they restore as well as revitalize cells damaged due to free radicals or toxic substances in our body.

As a first-rate super food, maqui berry also augments the level of metabolism of our whole body. Consumption of these berries facilitates the breaking down of ingested foods and also enhances the endurance. Maqui berries also help to increase the energy levels. Regular consumption of maqui berries may prove to be beneficial for people suffering from problems related to indigestion. In the initial years, athletes as well as sportspersons included plenty of maqui berries into their diet with a view to augment their powers and strength.

Free radicals are not only harmful for our skin, but also the circulatory system. They damage the skin tissues and also harm the blood circulation in our body. The negative effects of free radicals on the skin tissues cause them to age untimely and the skin becomes wrinkled and speckled. On the contrary, consuming maqui berries can help to stop the progress of aging problems, as they enclose elevated levels on antioxidants. The concentration of antioxidants is known to be the highest in maqui berries compared to any other fruit. Hence, these berries effectively annul the skin problems, thereby saving the skin from disaster. Maqui berries not only neutralize the detrimental free radicals and prevent them from attacking the healthy cells in our body, but also ensure proper blood circulation from the skin tissues. Most importantly, these berries help to get rid of the elements responsible for premature aging.

Maqui berries are packed with several natural healthy and potent elements, which help to overcome several problems by means of appropriate distribution throughout the body. As we consume different types of foods everyday and many of them may even be unhealthy or contaminated, our body accumulates large amounts of toxic substances from the ingested foods. However, antioxidants are not only useful in preventing the toxins from damaging our tissues and organs, but they also ensure their health. In fact, maqui berries are very effective in dealing with the problems caused by free radicals and other toxins in our body. In addition, the compounds present in maqui berries also help to cleanse our body. For instance the antioxidants are effective in getting the body rid of all harmful acids, chemicals, harmful cells, thereby keeping the body free from these detrimental substances.

When certain cells in our body start malfunctioning and begin producing large number of anomalous cells, it often leads to cancer. In fact, cancerous cells may develop in any part of the body when the healthy cells are unable to resist free radicals or bad cells and become carcinogenic. Colon cancer and leukemia are the two examples of the body's cells being unable to cope with bad cells. These are also a result of a poor immune system that is unable to combat the bad cells. However, maqui berries possess the aptitude to eliminate such bad cells and thereby keep the body and its organs healthy and competent to deal with any threats to them. The antioxidants in these purple-colored berries thwart the free radicals from interacting with healthy cells. In addition, they form certain compounds in the body that also work to neutralize the free radicals and thereby prevent the healthy cells from being affected. Hence, antioxidants are one of the most effective means to deal with risks of developing cancers. They are most competent to combat the free radicals and other accumulated toxins in the body.

Habitat and cultivation

As a practice people grow maqui in their home gardens on a small scale for their personal use. Majority of the fruits that are sold in the market, however, come from the plants growing in the wild.

Maqui is propagated by its seeds, which do not require cold stratification to germinate. It is advisable that you sow the seeds in a greenhouse in spring if your neighbourhood is prone to frosts. Plant the young plants in separate containers or pots in autumn when they have grown sufficiently large for handling. Continue growing the plants in pots in the greenhouse for their first winter.

You can plant the young maqui into their permanent positions outdoors in spring following the last expected date of frost in your region. However, it is essential to provide the young plants with frost protection during their first winter growing outdoors.

Maqui can also be propagated from wood cuttings made from established trees. Make cutting of any length between 15 cm and 30 cm and plant them into separate pots directly. Usually, these cuttings develop roots after a while and can be planted outdoors during the next spring.

Collection and harvesting

Local families, especially the Mapuche inhabiting the region close to the Andes, collect maqui berries during the period between December and March. The harvesting process includes gathering the side branches of maqui trees, shaking the branches to detach the ripened berries and, subsequently, separating the berries from the leaves by means of a mechanical process.

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