Lepidium meyenii (Maca) – multidirectional health effects – review

Abstract

Lepidium meyenii, commonly known as Maca, is a Peruvian plant that grows high in the Andes, in areas over 4,000 meters above sea level. Its composition contains almost all of the essential amino acids and twenty of the essential fatty acids needed by man, as well as many vitamins, minerals and several sterols and glucosinolates. The specific and unique unsaturated acids and amides found only in this plant are the macaenes and macamides. Most valuable ingredients are contained within the hypocotyls. Maca comes in three forms, based on its root colour, yellow, red and black. Although used individually, consumption recommendations are usually for a mix of all three. Since Inca times, it has been considered as super food.

Although now mostly used in the form of a supplement, ongoing research does not exclude future applications of Maca as medicine. It is attributed to have an effect on male fertility (adding energy and vitality), and in regulating hormone secretion. In animal studies, Maca has been shown to have antioxidant, neuroprotective effects and antiviral activity. Moreover, it has been demonstrated to alleviate the effects of depression. In addition, there are reports that Maca reduces the development of cancer and osteoporosis, improves memory, facilitates concentration and alleviates the symptoms of menopause. The obtained results, however, require further analysis to confirm its effect. Currently, there is little information on toxicity, so there is a need for specialized research in this area, and on-going research concerns the most effective variety and form of preparation of Maca for administration to achieve best effects. The potential of Maca as medicine exists. The increasing pan-continental popularity of Maca has created the need for a better understanding of its action mechanisms.

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