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1. Bianchi, Antonio. Maca Lepidium meyenii Boletín. Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas, vol. 2, núm. 3, mayo, 2003, pp. 30-36. Universidad de Santiago de Chile Santiago, Chile
2. Gonzales, G. F. (2012). Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a plant from the Peruvian highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012.
Lepidium meyenii (maca) is a Peruvian plant of the Brassicaceae family cultivated for more than 2000 years, which grows exclusively in the central Andes between 4000 and 4500 m altitude. Maca is used as a food supplement and also for its medicinal properties described traditionally. Since the 90s of the XX century, an increasing interest in products from maca has been observed in many parts of the world. In the last decade, exportation of maca from Peru has increased from 1,415,000 USD in 2001 to USD 6,170,000 USD in 2010. Experimental scientific evidence showed that maca has nutritional, energizer, and fertility-enhancer properties, and it acts on sexual dysfunctions, osteoporosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, memory and learning, and protects skin against ultraviolet radiation. Clinical trials showed efficacy of maca on sexual dysfunctions as well as increasing sperm count and motility. Maca is a plant with great potential as an adaptogen and appears to be promising as a nutraceutical in the prevention of several diseases.
3. Stone, M., Ibarra, A., Roller, M., Zangara, A., & Stevenson, E. (2009). A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 126(3), 574-576.
Aims of the study
Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp) is consumed both as a sports supplement by strength and endurance athletes, and as a natural stimulant to enhance sexual drive. However, whether or not the postulated benefits of maca consumption are of scientific merit is not yet known. The aim of the study was therefore to investigate the effect of 14 days maca supplementation on endurance performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists.
Materials and methods
Eight participants each completed a 40 km cycling time trial before and after 14 days supplementation with both maca extract (ME) and placebo, in a randomised cross-over design. Subjects also completed a sexual desire inventory during each visit.
ME administration significantly improved 40 km cycling time performance compared to the baseline test (P = 0.01), but not compared to the placebo trial after supplementation (P > 0.05). ME administration significantly improved the self-rated sexual desire score compared to the baseline test (P = 0.01), and compared to the placebo trial after supplementation (P = 0.03).
14 days ME supplementation improved 40 km cycling time trial performance and sexual desire in trained male cyclists. These promising results encourage long-term clinical studies involving more volunteers, to further evaluate the efficacy of ME in athletes and normal individuals and also to explore its possible mechanisms of action.
4. Brooks, N. A., Wilcox, G., Walker, K. Z., Ashton, J. F., Cox, M. B., & Stojanovska, L. (2008). Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause, 15(6), 1157-1162.
Objective: To examine the estrogenic and androgenic activity of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) and its effect on the hormonal profile and symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Design: Fourteen postmenopausal women completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. They received 3.5 g/day of powered Maca for 6 weeks and matching placebo for 6 weeks, in either order, over a total of 12 weeks. At baseline and weeks 6 and 12 blood samples were collected for the measurement of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and sex hormone-binding globulin, and the women completed the Greene Climacteric Scale to assess the severity of menopausal symptoms. In addition, aqueous and methanolic Maca extracts were tested for androgenic and estrogenic activity using a yeast-based hormone-dependent reporter assay.
Results: No differences were seen in serum concentrations of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and sex hormone-binding globulin between baseline, Maca treatment, and placebo (P > 0.05). The Greene Climacteric Scale revealed a significant reduction in scores in the areas of psychological symptoms, including the subscales for anxiety and depression and sexual dysfunction after Maca consumption compared with both baseline and placebo (P < 0.05). These findings did not correlate with androgenic or α-estrogenic activity present in the Maca as no physiologically significant activity was observed in yeast-based assays employing up to 4 mg/mL Maca extract (equivalent to 200 mg/mL Maca).
Conclusions: Preliminary findings show that Lepidium meyenii (Maca) (3.5 g/d) reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.
5. Dini, A., Migliuolo, G., Rastrelli, L., Saturnino, P., & Schettino, O. (1994). Chemical composition of Lepidium meyenii. Food chemistry, 49(4), 347-349.
Lepidium meyenii Walpers, a tuber of Andine origin still cultivated in Peru for local preparation, was studied. The carbohydrate, lipid, protein, fibre and also the amino-acid, fatty acid, mineral and sterol fractions were determined. The results show that the tuber is nutritionally interesting. Alkaloid-like compounds were also found. It is concluded that this tuber can be a food source in countries, where economic and technological conditions are inadequate to combat malnutrition.
6. Večeřa, R., Orolin, J., Škottová, N., Kazdová, L., Oliyarnik, O., Ulrichová, J., & Šimánek, V. (2007). The influence of maca (Lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. Plant foods for human nutrition, 62(2), 59-63.
This work focused on the effect of maca on lipid, anti-oxidative, and glucose parameters in hereditary hypertriglyceridemic (HHTg) rat. Maca (1%) was administred to rats as a part of a high-sucrose diet (HSD) for 2 weeks. Rosiglitazone (0.02%) was used as a positive control. Maca significantly decreased the levels of VLDL (very low density lipoproteins), LDL (low density lipoproteins), and total cholesterol, and also the level of TAG (triacylglycerols) in the plasma, VLDL, and liver. Maca, as well as rosiglitazone, significantly improved glucose tolerance, as the decrease of AUC (area under the curve) of glucose showed, and lowered levels of glucose in blood. The activity of SOD (superoxide dismutase) in the liver, the GPX (glutathione peroxidase) in the blood, and the level of GSH (glutathione) in liver increased in all cases significantly. Results demonstrate that maca seems to be promising for a positive influence on chronic human diseases (characterized by atherogenous lipoprotein profile, aggravated antioxidative status, and impaired glucose tolerance), and their prevention.
7. Wang, Y., Wang, Y., McNeil, B., & Harvey, L. M. (2007). Maca: An Andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Food Research International, 40(7), 783-792.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii walp.), a biennial herbaceous plant of the family Brassicae, which is cultivated mainly in the central Andes of Peru, has been used as both a food and a traditional medicine in the region for over 2000 years. The subterranean parts of the plant have long been used as a staple foodstuff by indigenous peoples in the Andean region, but the plant is also valued for its medicinal role. As is usual with many traditional “folk” medicines, many claims have been made regarding the efficacy of maca in treating a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions. However, in the 20th century most scientific attention has been focused in the areas where the pharmacological actions of maca seem most strongly attested, these include, enhancement of sexual drive in humans, increasing overall vigour and energy levels, and increasing sexual fertility in humans and domestic livestock. Since the early days of the 20th century numerous scientific studies have been carried out into the basis of its pharmacological action in these areas. In this review, the composition and pharmacological function of maca are systematically discussed. Additionally, the current discussion surrounding its mode of action in the areas listed above is also presented.
8. Balick, M., & Lee, R. (2002). Maca: from traditional food crop to energy and libido stimulant. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 8(2), 96-98.
9. Valerio, L. G., & Gonzales, G. F. (2005). Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and maca (Lepidium meyenii). Toxicological reviews, 24(1), 11-35.
Recent exceptional growth in human exposure to natural products known to originate from traditional medicine has lead to a resurgence of scientific interest in their biological effects. As a strategy for improvement of the assessment of their pharmacological and toxicological profile, scientific evidence-based approaches are being employed to appropriately evaluate composition, quality, potential medicinal activity and safety of these natural products. Using this approach, we comprehensively reviewed existing scientific evidence for known composition, medicinal uses (past and present), and documented biological effects with emphasis on clinical pharmacology and toxicology of two commonly used medicinal plants from South America with substantial human exposure from historical and current global use: Uncaria tomentosa (common name: cat’s claw, and Spanish: uña de gato), and Lepidium meyenii (common name: maca). Despite the geographic sourcing from remote regions of the tropical Amazon and high altitude Andean mountains, cat’s claw and maca are widely available commercially in industrialised countries. Analytical characterisations of their active constituents have identified a variety of classes of compounds of toxicological, pharmacological and even nutritional interest including oxindole and indole alkaloids, flavonoids, glucosinolates, sterols, polyunsaturated fatty acids, carbolines and other compounds.
The oxindole alkaloids from the root bark of cat’s claw are thought to invoke its most widely sought-after medicinal effects as a herbal remedy against inflammation. We find the scientific evidence supporting this claim is not conclusive and although there exists a base of information addressing this medicinal use, it is limited in scope with some evidence accumulated from in vitro studies towards understanding possible mechanisms of action by specific oxindole alkaloids through inhibition of nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation. Although controlled clinical studies have demonstrated reduction in pain associated with cat’s claw intake in patients with various chronic inflammatory disorders, there is insufficient clinical data overall to draw a firm conclusion for its anti-inflammatory effects. An important observation was that experimental results were often dependent upon the nature of the preparation used. It appears that the presence of unknown substances has an important role in the overall effects of cat’s claw extracts is an important factor for consideration. The available animal toxicological studies did not indicate severe toxicity from oral intake of cat’s claw preparations but rather were suggestive of a low potential for acute and subacute oral toxicity, and a lack of evidence to demonstrate genotoxic potential and mutagenic activity.
Maca is a clear example of a herb with substantial medicinal use in traditional herbal medicine by indigenous cultures in South America since the first recorded knowledge of it in the seventeenth century. The hypocotyls of maca are the edible part of the plant used for nutritional and proposed fertility-enhancing properties. Maca has been described to possess many other medicinal properties in traditional herbal medicine but only a few of them have been well studied scientifically. Published clinical studies of maca seem to be related to its property as a nutrient, for male fertility and for energy. There are inadequate data regarding the precise mechanism of action of maca. Some studies suggest that secondary metabolites found in maca extracts are important constituents responsible for its physiological effects. Maca has been reported in the scientific literature to have a low degree of acute oral toxicity in animals and low cellular toxicity in vitro.
An important finding unveiled by this review is the importance of standardisation in quality and additional basic and clinical research to scientifically validate and understand composition, biological activity, safety and risk. Development of a comprehensive pharmacological and toxicological profile through critical evaluation of existing and future experimental data, especially carefully conducted clinical studies would facilitate the scientific evidence-based approach to understanding potential biological effects of these major traditionally based herbals in current global use.
10. Valentová, K., & Ulrichová, J. (2003). Smallanthus sonchifolius and Lepidium meyenii-prospective Andean crops for the prevention of chronic diseases. Biomed Papers, 147(2), 119-130.
Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) and Lepidium meyenii (maca) were the traditional crops of the original population of Peru where they are also still used in folk medicine. These plants are little known in Europe and Northern America although at least yacon can be cultivated in the climatic conditions of these regions. This article deals with the botany and the composition, the structure of main constituents, biological activity of these plants and the cultivation of yacon in the Czech Republic. The potential of yacon tubers to treat hyperglycemia, kidney problems and for skin rejuvenation and the antihyperglycemic and cytoprotective activity of its leaves seems to be related mostly to its oligofructan and phenolic content, respectively. Maca alkaloids, steroids, glucosinolates, isothicyanates and macamides are probably responsible for its aptitude to act as a fertility enhancer, aphrodisiac, adaptogen, immunostimulant, anabolic and to influence hormonal balance. Yacon and maca are already on the European market as prospective functional foods and dietary supplements, mainly for use in certain risk groups of the population, e.g. seniors, diabetics, postmenopausal women etc.