Lepidium meyenii / Maca

Scientific Name(s): Lepidium meyenii Walp. Family: Brassicaceae (mustards)

Common Name(s): Peruvian ginseng , Maino , Ayuk willku , Ayak chichira

Uses of Maca

Numerous studies on the aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties of maca are documented in scientific literature.

Maca Dosing

Maca is available commercially in several dosage forms including powder, liquid, tablets, and capsules. Most commercial Web sites recommend a daily dose of 1 dried maca extract 450 mg capsule 3 times daily taken orally with food.

Contraindications: Patients with thyroid conditions should avoid maca because glucosinolates taken in excess and combined with a low-iodine diet can cause goiter.


Avoid use during pregnancy and lactation due to lack of safety and efficacy data.

Maca Interactions; None well documented.

Maca Adverse Reactions; There is no evidence of adverse reactions with maca. Maca has been reported to have a low degree of acute oral toxicity in animals and low cellular toxicity in vitro.


No adverse reactions were reported in an animal study with rats fed maca extract in doses up to 5 g/kg. Its long-time use as a food product suggests low potential for toxicity.


The genus Lepidium belongs to the family Brassicaceae, which includes approximately 175 species. The aerial part of maca has 12 to 20 leaves, and the foliage forms a mat-like, creeping system of stems that grows close to the soil. The underground portion of the plant, known as the hypocotyl, is a storage organ and is the part that is used commercially. The hypocotyl can be a variety of colors, such as red, purple, cream, yellow, or black, and is 10 to 14 cm long and 3 to 5 cm wide; a cold climate seems to be critical for its formation or growth. 1 Maca is cultivated in a narrow, high-altitude zone of the Andes Mountains in Peru, particularly near Carhuamayo and Junin. 2 Maca has one of the highest frost tolerances of any cultivated plant, allowing it to grow at altitudes of 3,800 to 4,800 m above sea level in the puna and suni ecosystems, where only alpine grasses and bitter potatoes can survive. 3 , 4 Maca and several related wild species are also found in the Bolivian Andes. 5 Although traditionally cultivated as a vegetable crop, its medicinal use has recently become more prominent in Peru. Maca is related to the common garden cress, Lepidium sativum L.


Maca was domesticated at least 1,300 to 2,000 years ago 1 and used as an important food by native Andean people because of its high nutritional value as well as to enhance fertility and sexual performance. 6 Throughout the Inca empire, maca consumption was limited to the privileged classes and often given as a prize to warriors. 7 Indigenous people used maca to treat numerous conditions including anemia, tuberculosis, sterility, and fatigue. Because of its claimed anabolic and aphrodisiac effects, maca is often referred to as the “ginseng of the Andes” or “Peruvian ginseng.” 1 , 8 , 9 Although its efficacy is not proven, some athletes have used maca as an alternative to anabolic steroids. 10 Ethnobotanical studies document the use of maca fordepression, cancer, as well as menstrual and sexual disorders. 11 Other studies document its use for regulation of hormonal secretion, immunostimulation, and memory improvement. 8

The tuberous hypocotyl of the plant or root may be eaten raw or cooked, and dried and stored for years without serious deterioration. The root has a tangy taste and an aroma similar to that of butterscotch. The dried roots may be mixed with honey or fruits to prepare juices, gelatins, jams, and alcoholic beverages. In South America, the roots are used to make porridge (known as mazamorra), jam, and pudding. In Peru, the roots are made into a sweet, fragrant drink called maca chichi. Flour may be added to the roots to prepare bread and cookies. A maca coffee is made from toasted and grounded hypocotyl roots. Ground hypocotyl is sold as a nutraceutical under several commercial names and purported to enhance fertility and act as an aphrodisiac in men, women, and livestock. 1 , 8


The root of maca is the primary medicinal component, containing up to 80% water. 1 The following is a brief review of studies on the chemical components of the plant species.

Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates

Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates have anticancer activity and may be responsible for some of the activity in the plant species. The aromatic isothiocyanates may be associated with aphrodisiac activity. 1 , 3 , 9 

Phenolic and saccharide compounds

Antioxidant activity may be associated with the 22 phenolic compounds identified in maca. 12 One study identified 53 components from its essential oil. The dried root contains 59% saccharides. 1Other constituents

Maca roots contain several amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins, sterols, protein, fiber, and fatty acids. 1 , 9 The macaenes and macamides have been determined in several commercial products. Macamides may inhibit cannabinoids and act as competitive ligands. 1 , 13 , 14

Other species of Lepidium have been analyzed. L. sativum contains many glucosinolates, and in vitro assays document tumorigenesis inhibition and bactericidal, antiviral, and fungicidal activity. 15 , 16 An alkaloid, lepidine, has been isolated from the seeds of L. sativum . 17 Evomonoside, a cardiac glycoside, has been isolated in substantial yield from the seeds of Lepidium apetalum , a Korean species. 18 Several flavones and flavonoid glycosides have also been isolated from the genus Lepidium . 19

Maca Uses and Pharmacology

Numerous animal and human studies on the aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties of maca are found in the scientific literature. The exact mechanism of action remains to be elucidated. One study established that maca does not directly modulate androgen receptors. 11Sexual behavior

Animal data

Oral administration of a purified lipid extract from L. meyenii enhanced the sexual function of mice and rats; this was evidenced by an increase in the number of complete copulatory events in a 3-hour period of sperm-positive female mice and a decrease in a latent period of erection in male rats with erectile dysfunction. 20

Hexane, chloroform, and methanol maca extracts administered to rats decreased intromission latency, intercopulatory interval and increased intromission frequency and copulatory efficacy ( P < 0.05). Overall, the maca hexane extract was most effective. 21

The effect of chronic and acute administration of pulverized maca root was studied on the sexual performance parameters in male rats. Both chronic and acute treatment of maca decreased first mount, first intromission, ejaculation, and postejaculation. 10 Another similar study found that chronic administration of maca did not increase locomotion or anxiety, and after 21 days of treatment had no effect on sexual behavior. 22Clinical data

Maca improved sexual desire in 57 healthy men (21 to 56 years of age) treated with 1.5 to 3 g/day of gelatinized maca root (500 or 1,000 mg 3 times a day) in a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial. A dose-response effect was not demonstrated with the 3 versus 1.5 g dose. The improvement of sexual desire was independent of any changes in mood, serum testosterone, or estradiol levels. 23Sex steroid hormones

Animal data

Blood levels of progesterone in female mice and blood levels of testosterone in male mice were increased during administration of maca. However, maca administration did not affect levels of blood 17-beta-estradiol or the rate of embryo implantation in female mice. 24

Maca administered to male rats exposed to a high altitude of 4,340 m prevented altitude-induced reductions in body weight and epididymal sperm count. The mechanism of action may be associated with maca acting on stage VIII and stages IX through XI of the seminiferous cycle. Stage VIII is associated with the release of spermatozoa to the lumen of the seminiferous tubules. Stages IX through XI are associated with the first mitosis of spermatogonia A. 25 A similar study by the same author found that oral administration of an aqueous maca extract to normal adult male rats for 14 days increased spermatogenesis, acting on stages IX through XI. 26

One study examined the effect on spermatogenesis in rats after short-term (7 days) and long-term (42 days) treatment with red, yellow, and black ecotypes of maca. Yellow and red maca increased stage VIII after 7 days, but black maca increased stages II through VI and VIII. The biological response of black maca on sperm counts and epididymal sperm motility was much more pronounced. The same results were found after 42 days of treatment. 2 Black maca improved sperm counts in the epididymis within 1 day; this regulatory mechanism may be associated with the testes rather than an actual increase in sperm. 27

Administration of aqueous yellow maca extract to female mice increased female fertility and litter size. Treatment with the extract also increased uterine weight in ovariectomized animals. The effects of maca on litter size and uterine weight may be caused by a progestin versus estrogenic effect, because maca contains other sterols besides the phytoestrogen sitosterol. 28Clinical data

Maca increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculum, motile sperm count, and sperm motility in 9 healthy men (24 to 44 years of age) treated over 4 months with gelatinized maca root 1,500 or 3,000 mg/day. Serum hormone levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, testosterone, and estradiol were not modified with maca treatment. Because serum testosterone levels were not affected, the mechanism of action may be associated with augmentation of bioavailable testosterone or testosterone receptor binding. Maca may also act via an androgen-independent mechanism because the weight of the seminal vesicle was not influenced by maca. 29 A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel study of 56 healthy men (21 to 56 years of age) administered gelatinized maca root 1,500 or 3,000 mg/day had similar results. 30Other pharmacological effects


Maca protects cells from oxidative stress and is capable of scavenging free radicals. 14 , 31 Maca decreased the levels of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL); low density lipoproteins; total cholesterol; and the level of triacylglycerols in the plasma, VLDL, and liver in rats. Maca and rosiglitazone improved glucose tolerance and lowered glucose levels in blood. 32

Learning and depression

In one mouse study, antidepressant activity was associated with red, yellow, and black ecotypes of maca. Phytoestrogens, such as quercetin and anthocyanins, may be responsible for the antidepressant activity of maca. 33 Another study in mice showed that black maca improved scopolamine-induced memory impairment; the mechanism of action may be associated with an effect on a monoamine neurotransmitter. 34


Maca improved bone mass and restored the trabecular network in lumbar vertebrae in ovariectomized rats. Calcium, magnesium, and silica are useful in bone calcium loss in menopausal women and each are found in maca. 35

Prostatic hyperplasia

Red maca reduced ventral prostate size in normal and testosterone enanthate-treated rats. The mechanism of action may be associated with the activity of glucosinolates on androgen receptors 36 ; other studies have challenged this mechanism associated with glucosinolates. 37

A recent study showed that finasteride reduced prostate and seminal vesicle weight, whereas red maca only reduced prostate weight. The results suggest that red maca may exert its effects at a level after 5-alpha reductase conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Red maca reverses androgen action in the prostate organ and does not affect serum testosterone levels. 38


Maca is available commercially in several dosage forms including powder, liquid, tablets, and capsules. Most commercial Web sites recommend a daily dose of 1 dried maca extract 450 mg capsule 3 times daily taken orally with food.


Avoid use during pregnancy and lactation due to lack of safety and efficacy data.


Maca protected spermatogenesis in mice exposed to lead acetate. 39 It also enhanced spermatogenesis in mice following damage induced by organophosphorous pesticide. 40

Adverse Reactions

There is no evidence of adverse reactions to maca. Maca has been reported to have a low degree of acute oral toxicity in animals and low cellular toxicity in vitro. 41


No adverse reactions were reported in an animal study with rats fed maca extract in doses up to 5 g/kg, equivalent to an intake of 770 g of hypocotyls in a 70 kg man. 42

The presence of substantial amounts of a cardiac glycoside in the related species, L. apetalum , 18 is cause for concern. Cardioactive substances have also been detected in L. sativum . 43 However, dried maca roots have been consumed for many years without reports of cardiotoxicity. Lepidium virginicum was inactive in a screen for genotoxicity. 44

Concluding Remarks: The USP Dietary Supplements Expert Committee (USP-DS EC) noted that maca is traditionally andextensively used in the Middle Andean region (Peru, Bolivia, and northwest Argentina) as a nutritive food, for male andfemale fertility disorders, and to increase mental and physical energy. Its use has been recorded since 1549.40 Although macahas a long history of safe use as food, the commercially available dietary supplement dosage forms are not in the form described in traditional practice, which include roasting or cooking in milk or water. The USP-DS EC pointed out that the study by Valentova that suggested that maca might have hypertensive effects is confounded by the patients’ metabolic syndrome status. The committee also noted that despite the reported hormonal action in rodents, no hormonal activity has been reported in humans. Considering that 50–100 g per day of maca typically is consumed as food in Middle Andean countries, the use of 1–3 g per day as a dietary supplement is comparatively low. The committee noted that other safety reviews of maca have failed to demonstrate any significant safety concerns. However, it was noted that the use of material not prepared following traditional methods of preparation (e.g., ethanolic extracts) may contain components that would not normally be ingested when maca is eaten raw or prepared following traditional methods. 

Considering all of the information and further considering that no serious adverse events were found during this review for single-ingredient maca products, the committee voted unanimously to assign the proposed maca articles (Maca, Powdered Maca, and Powdered Maca Extracts) to Class A, thus admitting them for USP monograph development according to the USP Guideline.CR1 USP General Notices require that a label for a herb or other botanical such as Maca, Powdered Maca, and Powdered Maca Extracts intended for use as a dietary supplement (and claiming to meet compendial specifications) should bear the statement: “If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, seek the advice of a health professional before using this product.”CR58


1. Valentová K , Ulrichová J . Smallanthus sonchifolius and Lepidium meyenii —prospective Andean crops for the prevention of chronic diseases . Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub . 2003;147(2):119-130.

2. Gonzales C , Rubio J , Gasco M , Nieto J , Yucra S , Gonzales GF . Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats . J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;103(3):448-454.

3. Dini I , Tenore GC , Dini A . Glucosinolates from maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) . Biochem Syst Ecol . 2002;30(11):1087-1090.

4. Quiros C , et al. Physiological studies and determination of chromosome number in maca. Lepidium meyenii (Brassicaceae) . Econ Bot . 1996;50(2):216.

5. Toledo J , et al. Genetic variability of Lepidium meyenii and other Andean lepidium species (Brassicaceae) assessed by molecular markers . Ann Bot . 1998;82(4):523.

6. Cui B , Zheng BL , He K , Zheng QY . Imidazole alkaloids from Lepidium meyenii . J Nat Prod . 2003;66(8);1101-1103.

7. Piacente S , Carbone V , Plaza A , Zampelli A , Pizza C . Investigation of the tuber constituents of maca ( Lepidium meyenii Walp.) . J Agric Food Chem . 2002;50(20):5621-5625.

8. Ganzera M , Zhao J , Muhammad I , Khan IA . Chemical profiling and standardization of Lepidium meyenii (maca) by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography . Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) . 2002;50(7):988-991.

9. Zhao J , Muhammad I , Dunbar DC , Mustafa J , Khan IA . New alkamides from maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) . J Agric Food Chem . 2005;53(3);690-693.

10. Cicero AF , Bandieri E , Arletti R . Lepidium meyenii Walp. improves sexual behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor activity . J Ethnopharmacol . 2001;75(2-3):225-229.

11. Bogani P , Simonini F , Iriti M , et al. Lepidium meyenii (maca) does not exert direct androgenic activities . J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;104(3):415-417.

12. Tellez MR , Khan IA , Kobaisy M , Schrader KK , Dayan FE , Osbrink W . Composition of the essential oil of Lepidium meyenii (Walp) . Phytochemistry . 2002;61(2):149-155.

13. Muhammad I , Zhao J , Dunbar DC , Khan IA . Constituents of Lepidium meyenii ‘maca’ . Phytochemistry . 2002;59(1):105-110.

14. Valentová K , Buckiová D , Kren V , Peknicová J , Ulrichová J , Simánek V . The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts . Cell Biol Toxicol . 2006;22(2):91-99.

15. Daxenbichler M , et al. Oxazolidinethiones and volatile isothiocyanates in enzyme-treated seed meals for 65 species of Cruciferae . J Agric Food Chem . 1964;12(2):127.

16. Hecht SS . Chemoprevention of cancer by isothiocyanates, modifiers of carcinogen metabolism . J Nutr . 1999;129(3):768S-774S.

17. Bahroun A , et al. Contribution to the study of Lepidium sativum (Cruciferae). Structure of a new compound isolated from the seed: lepidine. J Soc Chim Tunis . 1985;2:15.

18. Hyun JW , Shin JE , Lim KH , et al. Evomonoside: the cytotoxic cardiac glycoside from Lepidium apetalum . Planta Med . 1995;61(3):294-295.

19. Fursa M , Litvinenko VI . Chemical study of flavonol-3, 7-diglycoside of Lepidium perfoliatum L [in Ukranian] . Farm Zh . 1970;25(4):83-84.

20. Zheng BL , He K , Kim CH , et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats . Urology . 2000;55(4):598-602.

21. Cicero AF , Piacente S , Plaza A , Sala E , Arletti R , Pizza C . Hexanic Maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic Maca extracts . Andrologia . 2002;34(3):177-179.

22. Lentz A , Gravitt K , Carson CC , Marson L . Acute and chronic dosing of Lepidium meyenii (maca) on male rat sexual behavior . J Sex Med . 2007;4(2):332-339.

23. Gonzales GF , Córdova A , Vega K , et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men . Andrologia . 2002;34(6):367-372.

24. Oshima M , Gu Y , Tsukada S . Effects of Lepidium meyenii Walp and Jatropha macrantha on blood levels of estradiol-17 beta, progesterone, testosterone and the rate of embryo implantation in mice . J Vet Med Sci . 2003;65(10):1145-1146.

25. Gonzales GF , Gasco M , Cordova A , Chung A , Rubio J , Villegas L . Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) on spermatogenesis in male rats acutely exposed to high altitude (4340 m) . J Endocrinol . 2004;180(1):87-95.

26. Gonzales GF , Ruiz A , Gonzales C , Villegas L , Cordova A . Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca) roots on spermatogenesis of male rats . Asian J Androl . 2001;3(3):231-233.

27. Gonzales GF , Nieto J , Rubio J , Gasco M . Effect of Black maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) on one spermatogenic cycle in rats . Andrologia . 2006;38(5):166-172.

28. Ruiz-Luna AC , Salazar S , Aspajo NJ , Rubio J , Gasco M , Gonzales GF . Lepidium meyenii (maca) increases litter size in normal adult female mice . Reprod Biol Endocrinol . 2005;3:16.

29. Gonzales GF , Cordova A , Gonzales C , Chung A , Vega K , Villena A . Lepidium meyenii (maca) improved semen parameters in adult men . Asian J Androl . 2001;3(4):301-303.

30. Gonzales GF , Córdova A , Vega K , Chung A , Villena A , Góñez C . Effect of Lepidium meyenii (maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men . J Endocrinol . 2003;176(1):163-168.

31. Sandoval M , Okuhama NN , Angeles FM , et al. Antioxidant activity of the cruciferous vegetable maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) . Food Chem . 2002;79(2):207-213.

32. Vecera R , Orolin J , Skottová N , et al. The influence of maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat . Plant Foods Hum Nutr . 2007;62(2):59-63.

33. Rubio J , Caldas M , Davila S , Gasco M , Gonzales GF . Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice . BMC Complement Altern Med . 2006;6:23.

34. Rubio J , Dang H , Gong M , Liu X , Chen SL , Gonzales GF . Aqueous and hydroalcoholic extracts of black maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) improve scopolamine-induced memory impairment in mice . Food Chem Toxicol . 2007;45(10):1882-1890.

35. Zhang Y , Yu L , Ao M , Jin W . Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat . J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;105(1-2):274-279.

36. Gonzales GF , Miranda S , Nieto J , et al. Red maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) reduced prostate size in rats . Reprod Biol Endocrinol . 2005;3:5.

37. Gonzales GF , Vasquez V , Rodriguez D , et al. Effect of two different extracts of red maca in male rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia . Asian J Androl . 2007;9(2):245-251.

38. Gasco M , Villegas L , Yucra S , Rubio J , Gonzales GF . Dose-response effect of red maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) on benign prostatic hyperplasia induced by testosterone enanthate . Phytomedicine . 2007;14(7-8):460-464.

39. Rubio J , Riqueros MI , Gasco M , Yucra S , Miranda S , Gonzales GF . Lepidium meyenii (maca) reversed the lead acetate induced—damage on reproductive function in male rats . Food Chem Toxicol . 2006;44(7):1114-1122.

40. Bustos-Obregon E , Yucra S , Gonzales GF . Lepidium meyenii (maca) reduces spermatogenic damage induced by a single dose of malathion in mice . Asian J Androl . 2005;7(1):71-76.

41. Valerio LG Jr , Gonzales GF . Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat's claw ( Uncaria tomentosa ) and maca ( Lepidium meyenii ): a critical synopsis . Toxicol Rev . 2005;24(1):11-35.

42. Chung F , Rubio J , Gonzales C , Gasco M , Gonzales GF . Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats . J Ethnopharmacol . 2005;98(1-2):143-147.

43. Vohora SB , Khan MS . Pharmacological studies on Lepidium sativum , linn . Indian J Physiol Pharmacol . 1977;21(2):118-120.

44. Ramos Ruiz A , De la Torre RA , Alonso N , Villaescusa A , Betancourt J , Vizoso A . Screening of medicinal plants for induction of somatic segregation activity in Aspergillius nidulans . J Ethnopharmacol . 1996;52(3):123-127.

J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Feb 9;53(3):690-3.

New alkamides from maca (Lepidium meyenii).

Zhao J1, Muhammad I, Dunbar DC, Mustafa J, Khan IA.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) has been used as a food in Peru for thousands of years. More recently a wide array of commercial maca products have gained popularity as dietary supplements, with claims of anabolic and aphrodisiac effects, although the biologically active principles are not fully known. In an earlier chemical investigation, two new alkamides and a novel fatty acid, as well as the N-hydroxypyridine derivative, macaridine, were isolated from L. meyenii. Further examination has led to the isolation of five additional new alkamides, namely, N-benzyl-9-oxo-12Z-octadecenamide (1), N-benzyl-9-oxo-12Z,15Z-octadecadienamide (2), N-benzyl-13-oxo-9E,11E-octadecadienamide (3), N-benzyl-15Z-tetracosenamide (4), and N-(m-methoxybenzyl)hexadecanamide (5). Their structures were established by spectrometric and spectroscopic methods including ESI-HRMS, EI-MS, (1)H, (13)C, and 2D NMR, as well as (1)H-(15)N 2D HMBC experiments. In addition, the identity of N-benzyl-15Z-tetracosenamide (4) was confirmed by synthesis. These compounds have been found from only L. meyenii and could be used as markers for authentication and standardization.

Neuroprotective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) and macamides against amyloid-beta (25-35) induced toxicity in B-35 neuroblastoma cells (657.13)Ali Alquraini1, Dania Waggas1, Mark Bӧhlke1, Timothy Maher1 and Alejandro Pino-Figueroa1

Production and deposition of Amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptide is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. The Maca plant (Lepidium meyenii) has been used as a traditional medicine to treat several diseases. It contains macamides, compounds which are structurally similar to the endocannabinoids which have neuroprotective effects. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the neuroprotective effects of a Maca pentane extract (5-50 µg/mL) and some of the component macamides: N-benzylpalmitamide, N-benzyloleamide and N-(3-methoxybenzyl)palmitamide (1-30 µM) on the B-35 neuroblastoma cell line. B-35 cells were pre-treated with extract or macamides and subsequently exposed to a neurotoxic concentration (10 µM) of Aβ (25-35). A cell viability assay utilizing 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium (MTS) was performed to evaluate the neuroprotective effects. The results demonstrated that the Maca extract and N-(3-methoxybenzyl)palmitamide counteracted the toxicity produced by Aβ (25-35), demonstrating significant increases in cell viability (34% and 21% respectively). Furthermore, when the tested compounds were evaluated for antioxidant activity and their effects on caspase 3, neither the Maca extract nor N-(3-methoxybenzyl)palmitamide demonstrated an antioxidant effect or caspase 3 inhibition. These results suggest that the Maca extract and macamides may produce neuroprotective effects against Aβ by mechanisms other than caspase 3 inhibition or an antioxidant effect.

Maca’s Cultural Significance in Peru

In Peru, maca has been used traditionally to treat a range of conditions, many of which are related to sexual dysfunction and lack of energy. The herb, for example, has been used to increase fertility and stamina, promote cognitive function, enhance libido, and reduce menopausal symptoms, among other functions.1,2,7 In recent years, several human clinical trials have lent support to some of these traditional medicinal uses (see Table 1). A systematic review of four randomized controlled trials in 2010, for example, concluded that maca significantly affected erectile dysfunction in men and improved other types of sexual dysfunction in both men and women.8

Many of those living in the maca-producing regions of Peru depend almost entirely on income derived from the season’s harvest, which takes place from roughly May to October, the winter months of the South American country. In addition to relying on the herb for their livelihoods, Peruvians in the central highlands regularly consume maca, which is considered a staple food in the region.

“For the Andean people, maca is life. It is an absolutely essential food, as [almost] nothing else grows up at high altitude,” wrote Kilham. “The plant … is a source of great cultural pride.”

In an effort to protect maca’s heritage, the Peruvian Minister of Justice issued a regulation in 2003 officially banning the export of unprocessed raw maca.15 Two years after the export ban was established, the National Commission for Native Peruvian Products recognized maca root as one of the country’s first “flagship” products as part of a “national strategy to protect and promote Peruvian native crops … of a recognized authentic quality that should be preferred by external markets.”15

Most recently, Peru’s National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) developed a Designation of Origin specification and certification for the protection of Peruvian maca grown and processed according to traditional methods in the provinces of Junín and Pasco. The government of Peru followed up this national initiative by registering a Maca Junín-Pasco Appellation of Origin with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).16

“Maca is considered to be a natural genetic heritage product of Peru,” wrote Ament (November 7, 2014). “Attempts to grow it outside of Peru legally should be approved by the Peruvian government. China does not have this approval and therefore the Maca they grow is grown under biopiracy conditions.”

Adaptogeen Maca 

Maca is een knolgewas dat onder barre omstandigheden hoog (boven 4000 meter) in het Andesgebergte van Peru groeit. Van oudsher wordt maca(knol) ‘Peruaanse ginseng’ of ‘ginseng uit de Andes’ genoemd, omdat maca naast de hoge voedingswaarde krachtige adaptogene (energieverhogende, stressregulerende, harmoniserende, versterkende, verjongende) eigenschappen bezit.(92) Adaptogenen zijn bijzondere kruiden (waaronder maca, ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola, zoethout en schisandra) die het lichaam ondersteunen bij het omgaan met uiteenlopende fysiologische, biochemische en psychische stressoren en bijdragen aan een betere balans en conditie. Maca beïnvloedt het (psycho)neuro-endocriene systeem, met gunstige effecten op het stress-systeem (hypothalamushypofyse- bijnier-as), de geslachtsklieren (hypothalamus-hypofyse-gonade-as) en de schildklier (hypothalamus-hypofyse- schildklier-as).(89,93) Maca heeft een breed werkingsgebied en wordt onder meer gebruikt als tonicum bij stress, vermoeidheid en herstel na ziekte, ter verbetering van de fysieke en mentale conditie bij het ouder worden, bij sport, laag libido, slaapproblemen, bloedarmoede, hoge bloeddruk, premenstrueel syndroom, verminderde vruchtbaarheid en overgangsklachten.(36,91,92,94-98) 

Wat veel mensen niet weten is dat er veel maca-variëteiten zijn met verschillende biologische effecten. In Peru worden maca-variëteiten vaak in combinatie geconsumeerd. Verschillende (sub)species maca Maca (genus Lepidium) behoort tot de Brassicaceae familie (Cruciferae, kruisbloemigen). Lepidium meyenii Walpers (L. meyenii) en Lepidium peruvianum Chacón (L. peruvianum) zijn twee verschillende soorten (species) maca die er verschillend uitzien en een andere fytochemische samenstelling hebben, maar vaak door elkaar worden gehaald.(91,99,100) Lepidium meyenii is de wilde variant, Lepidium peruvianum de geteelde variant. Lepidium peruvianum, de macasoort die van oudsher wordt gebruikt als voedsel en adaptogeen, omvat 13 verschillende variëteiten (subspecies), die ingedeeld zijn op basis van de kleur van de wortelknol (geel, rood, paars, zwart).(92,99,10) Tien tot vijftien jaar geleden is aangetoond dat de verschillende kleuren (geteelde) maca verschillende gehaltes aan bioactieve inhoudsstoffen bevatten en verschillende fysiologische (hoofd)effecten hebben.(91,92,100,102) Bovendien heeft de hoogte waarop maca wordt geteeld ook invloed op de fytochemische samenstelling.(101) 

Belangrijke bioactieve inhoudsstoffen in maca (naast vitaminen, mineralen, vetzuren, aminozuren en vezels) zijn fytosterolen, lignanen, (aromatische) glucosinolaten (waaronder glucotropaeoline), isothiocyanaten en unieke macaënen, macamiden en maca-alkaloïden, die alleen in maca voorkomen.(91,92,95,103) Maca bevat geen fyto-oestrogenen. De gezondheidseffecten van maca zijn het resultaat van complexe (synergetische) effecten van het totaal aan bioactieve bestanddelen.(89,97,103) Maca heeft vermoedelijk dosisafhankelijke effecten, waarbij een lagere dosis eerder harmoniserende en regulerende, en een hogere dosis stimulerende effecten heeft. Dierstudies hebben aangetoond dat met name zwarte maca de mannelijke, en gele maca de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid bevordert, rode maca goedaardige prostaatvergroting remt, rode en zwarte maca het libido verhogen en beschermen tegen osteoporose in de postmenopauze, met name zwarte maca goed is voor de cognitie en rode maca de stemming verbetert.(92,104-106) Het is dus belangrijk die typen maca te gebruiken die het beste passen bij een bepaalde indicatie en doelgroep (mannen, vrouwen). Dat geldt ook voor een macasupplement voor overgangsklachten of PMS-klachten. 

Maca bij overgangsklachten 

Maca-GO, (samengesteld uit zwarte maca [16%], gele maca [48%], paarsrode maca [9%] en andere macavariëteiten [27%]) is het enige macasupplement waarvan in preklinisch en klinisch onderzoek is aangetoond dat het helpt tegen overgangsklachten en zorgt voor een betere hormonale balans in peri- en postmenopauze.(89,90,93,95,97,103,107-109) Van een reeks onderzochte macasupplementen heeft alleen maca-GO een significante invloed op de hormoonspiegels (met name FSH, oestradiol en cortisol). Gebruik van dit macasupplement (in de standaarddosis van 2 gram per dag) zorgt meestal binnen 2 maanden (soms al na 2 dagen en vaak binnen 3 weken) tot significante afname van overgangsklachten. Dat maca-GO in de klinische studies helpt bij de meerderheid (rond 80%) van de vrouwen met overgangsklachten is te verklaren door regulatie van hypothalamus en hypofyse, de hersengebieden die het endocriene stelsel en stress-systeem aansturen. Na de overgang bevordert maca-GO een goede fysieke en mentale conditie (botten, hart en bloedvaten, huid, zenuwstelsel). Het gebruik van maca is zeer veilig en in humane studies met maca zijn geen negatieve bijwerkingen waargenomen.(90,95,97,103,110) Dit is geen verrassing aangezien mensen in Peru zonder problemen maca consumeren (die eerst gedroogd is en daarna gekookt) in hoeveelheden boven 20 gram per dag.(92) Maca kan beter niet worden gebruikt bij inname van medicijnen die de aanmaak van hormonen onderdrukken (zoals tamoxifen). 

Macastudies bij vrouwen in de overgang 

In een systematische review van placebogecontroleerde klinische studies naar het effect van maca op overgangsklachten in de peri- en postmenopauze waren aanvankelijk 17 studies geselecteerd, maar bleven er maar 4 studies over die van voldoende kwaliteit waren.(95) En 3 van de 4 studies waren met maca-GO (Lepidium peruvianum) gedaan, de vierde met Lepidium meyenii.(31,93,95,97) Alle 4 klinische studies lieten significante effecten zien van maca op overgangsklachten, gemeten met de Kupperman Menopausal Index (KMI) en Greene Climacteric Score (GCS). De studies met maca-GO waren beter van opzet. De auteurs concludeerden dat er sterke aanwijzingen zijn dat maca (maca- GO) significant effectiever is dan placebo bij overgangsklachten, maar dat meer onderzoek wenselijk is.(95) In een klinische studie met maca-GO kregen 102 vrouwen (49-58 jaar) in de overgang, die ten minste 6 maanden niet meer menstrueerden, eerst 2 maanden maca (1 gram voor het ontbijt en 1 gram voor het avondeten) en gedurende 1 maand placebo of omgekeerd.(93) Het gebruik van maca-GO leidde tot significante afname van overgangsklachten, gemeten met KMI (van 22 naar 10 punten) en GCS (van 18 naar 11 punten). Maca zorgde voor significante verlaging van de frequentie en ernst van overgangsklachten, met name opvliegers en nachtzweten, gevolgd door nervositeit, stemmingswisselingen, slecht slapen, vermoeidheid, hoofdpijn, depressie en laag libido.(93) Tijdens de overgang neemt de hormoonproductie in de eierstokken af en stijgt (ter compensatie) de synthese van FSH (follikelstimulerend hormoon) en LH (luteïniserend hormoon) in de hypofyse, zodat de eierstokken sterker worden gestimuleerd, totdat er geen follikels meer uitrijpen en de hormoonproductie (vrijwel) tot stilstand komt. 

Maca bevat geen fyto-oestrogenen maar bevordert wel een goede hormonale balans. In deze studie leidde macasuppletie met name tot stijging van de oestrogeenspiegel en daling van de FSH-spiegel, suggestief voor een betere eierstokfunctie.(93) Een tweede pilotstudie met maca-GO duurde 4 maanden, waarin de deelneemsters (49-58 jaar) in 4 groepen waren verdeeld en in wisselende volgorde 2 maanden een placebo innamen en 2 maanden maca-GO (2 gram/dag).(93) Ook deze studie liet significante afname zien van overgangsklachten, gemeten met KMI en GCS, stijging van de oestrogeenspiegel en daling van de FSH-spiegel. Een wat jongere groep perimenopauzale vrouwen (41-50 jaar) nam deel aan een pilotstudie waarin ze 2 maanden maca-GO innamen (2 gram/dag) en 2 maanden placebo, of omgekeerd.(97) 2 maanden gebruik van maca-GO leidde bij ongeveer 80% van de vrouwen tot significante verlichting van overgangsklachten (significante daling totale score KMI) en lichte daling van de bloeddruk. De klachten die het sterkst verbeterden waren opvliegers, nachtzweten, slaapproblemen, nervositeit, depressie en hartkloppingen. De resultaten van bloedonderzoek suggereren dat maca-GO de spiegels van diverse hormonen (FSH, oestrogeen, progesteron, adrenocorticotroop hormoon [ACTH]) balanceert.(97) 

In een placebogecontroleerde pilotstudie van 4 maanden met 22 vrouwen in de overgang (49-58 jaar) leidde macasuppletie (tweemaal daags 1 gram) onder meer tot verhoging van de oestrogeenspiegel en verlaging van de cortisol- en FSH-spiegels en afname van het lichaamsgewicht. Ook verbeterden de scores van KMI en GCS significant, met de sterkste daling van opvliegers, (nacht)zweten, slaapproblemen en nervositeit.(108) Suppletie met maca-GO gedurende 4 maanden leidde bij 12 vrouwen tot verhoging van de botmineraaldichtheid. In een andere klinische studie leidde suppletie met maca-GO (tweemaal daags 1 gram) na 8 maanden onder meer tot significante stijging van de oestrogeen- en progesteronspiegels en significante verlichting van overgangsklachten, gemeten met GCS.(89) De standaarddosis maca (tweemaal daags 1 gram) kan het beste geleidelijk worden opgebouwd. Bij vrouwen die genoeg hebben aan 1 gram per dag (tweemaal daags 0,5 gram) kan een hogere dosis een te stimulerend effect hebben.(97) Bij andere vrouwen kan juist een iets hogere dosis nodig zijn voor het gewenste effect. Maca voor vrouwen in de vruchtbare leeftijd Een macasupplement met een iets andere samenstelling dan maca-GO (maca-harmony) is ontwikkeld voor vrouwen in de vruchtbare leeftijd en kan ingezet worden bij menstruatiepijn, een onregelmatige cyclus, acne, verminderde vruchtbaarheid en PMS-klachten zoals gebrek aan energie, prikkelbaarheid, depressie, een opgeblazen gevoel, buikpijn, vochtretentie, slapeloosheid en stemmingswisselingen.(89-91) Afgezien van beschreven positieve effecten door voorschrijvers en vrouwen die maca gebruiken, zijn er voor zover bekend nog geen (placebogecontroleerde) klinische studies gedaan naar de effectiviteit van maca bij deze vrouwenklachten.(91)


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