Science about Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

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):163-8 (ISSN: 0022-0795)

Gonzales GF; Córdova A; Vega K; Chung A; Villena A; Góñez C
Instituto de Investigaciones de la Altura, and Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences (Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy), Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, PO 1843, Lima, Peru.

Lepidium meyenii (Maca) is a Peruvian hypocotyl that grows exclusively between 4000 and 4500 m in the central Andes. Maca is traditionally employed in the Andean region for its supposed aphrodisiac and/or fertility-enhancing properties. This study was a 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial in which active treatment with different doses of Maca Gelatinizada was compared with a placebo. The study aimed to test the hypothesis that Maca has no effect on serum reproductive hormone levels in apparently healthy men when administered in doses used for aphrodisiac and/or fertility-enhancing properties. Men aged between 21 and 56 Years received 1500 mg or 3000 mg Maca. Serum levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, 17-alpha hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone and 17-beta estradiol were measured before and at 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks of treatment with placebo or Maca (1.5 g or 3.0 g per day). Data showed that compared with placebo Maca had no effect on any of the hormones studied nor did the hormones show any changes over time. Multiple regression analysis showed that serum testosterone levels were not affected by treatment with Maca at any of the times studied (P, not significant). In conclusion, treatment with Maca does not affect serum reproductive hormone levels.

 

Lepidium meyenii (Maca) increases litter size in normal adult female mice.

Reprod Biol Endocrinol.  2005; 3(1):16 (ISSN: 1477-7827)

Ruiz-Luna AC; Salazar S; Aspajo NJ; Rubio J; Gasco M; Gonzales GF
Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. 09341@upch.edu.pe

BACKGROUND: Lepidium meyenii, known as Maca, grows exclusively in the Peruvian Andes over 4000 m altitude. It has been used traditionally to increase fertility. Previous scientific studies have demonstrated that Maca increases spermatogenesis and epididymal sperm count. The present study was aimed to investigate the effects of Maca on several fertility parameters of female mice at reproductive age. METHODS: Adult female Balb/C mice were divided at random into three main groups: i) Reproductive indexes group, ii) Implantation sites group and iii) Assessment of uterine weight in ovariectomized mice. Animals received an aqueous extract of lyophilized Yellow Maca (1 g/Kg BW) or vehicle orally as treatment. In the fertility indexes study, animals received the treatment before, during and after gestation. The fertility index, gestation index, post-natal viability index, weaning viability index and sex ratio were calculated. Sexual maturation was evaluated in the female pups by the vaginal opening (VO) day. In the implantation study, females were checked for implantation sites at gestation day 7 and the embryos were counted. In ovariectomized mice, the uterine weight was recorded at the end of treatment. RESULTS: Implantation sites were similar in mice treated with Maca and in controls. All reproductive indexes were similar in both groups of treatment. The number of pups per dam at birth and at postnatal day 4 was significantly higher in the group treated with Maca. VO day occurred earlier as litter size was smaller. Maca did not affect VO day. In ovariectomized mice, the treatment with Maca increased significantly the uterine weights in comparison to their respective control group. CONCLUSION: Administration of aqueous extract of Yellow Maca to adult female mice increases the litter size. Moreover, this treatment increases the uterine weight in ovariectomized animals. Our study confirms for the first time some of the traditional uses of Maca to enhance female fertility.

 

 

 

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):143-7 (ISSN: 0378-8741)

Chung F; Rubio J; Gonzales C; Gasco M; Gonzales GF
Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences and Instituto de Investigaciones de la Altura, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Postal Office 1843, Lima, Peru.

Lepidium meyenii (Brassicaceae) known as Maca grows exclusively between 4000 and 4500 m over the sea level in the Peruvian central Andes. The dried hypocotyls of Maca are traditionally used as food and for its supposed fertility-enhancing properties. A dose-response study was performed to determine the effect of 7 days oral administration of an aqueous lyophilized extract of Maca at 0.01-5 g/kg (corresponding to 0.022-11 g dry hypocotyls of Maca/kg) on body and different organ weights, stages of the seminiferous tubules, epididymal sperm count and motility, and serum testosterone and estradiol levels in rats. In doses up to 5 g extract/kg, no toxicity was observed. Almost all organ weights were similar in controls and in the Maca extract-treated groups. Seminal vesicles weight was significantly reduced at 0.01 and 0.10 g extract/kg. Maca increased in length of stages VII-VIII of the seminiferous tubules in a dose-response fashion, with highest response at 1.0 g/kg, while caput/corpus epididymal sperm count increased at the 1.0 g dose. Cauda epididymal sperm count, sperm motility, and serum estradiol level were not affected at any of the doses studied. Serum testosterone was lower at 0.10 g extract/kg. Low-seminal vesicle weights correlated with low-serum testosterone levels (R2=0.33; P<0.0001) and low-testosterone/estradiol ratio (R2=0.35; P<0.0001). Increase in epididymal sperm count was related to lengths of stages VII-VIII. Highest effect on stages VII-VIII of the seminiferous tubules was observed at 1.0 g Maca aqueous extract/kg. The present study demonstrated that Maca extract in doses up to 5 g/kg (equivalent to the intake of 770 g hypocotyls in a man of 70 kg) was safe and that higher effect on reproductive parameters was elicited with a dose of 1 g extract/kg corresponding to 2.2 g dry Maca hypocotyls/kg.

 

Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats.

Reprod Biol Endocrinol.  2005; 3(1):5 (ISSN: 1477-7827)

Gonzales GF; Miranda S; Nieto J; Fernández G; Yucra S; Rubio J; Yi P; Gasco M
Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. iiad@upch.edu.pe

BACKGROUND: Epidemiological studies have found that consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. This effect seems to be due to aromatic glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are known for have both antiproliferative and proapoptotic actions.Maca is a cruciferous cultivated in the highlands of Peru. The absolute content of glucosinolates in Maca hypocotyls is relatively higher than that reported in other cruciferous crops. Therefore, Maca may have proapoptotic and anti-proliferative effects in the prostate. METHODS: Male rats treated with or without aqueous extracts of three ecotypes of Maca (Yellow, Black and Red) were analyzed to determine the effect on ventral prostate weight, epithelial height and duct luminal area. Effects on serum testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) levels were also assessed. Besides, the effect of Red Maca on prostate was analyzed in rats treated with testosterone enanthate (TE). RESULTS: Red Maca but neither Yellow nor Black Maca reduced significantly ventral prostate size in rats. Serum T or E2 levels were not affected by any of the ecotypes of Maca assessed. Red Maca also prevented the prostate weight increase induced by TE treatment. Red Maca administered for 42 days reduced ventral prostatic epithelial height. TE increased ventral prostatic epithelial height and duct luminal area. These increases by TE were reduced after treatment with Red Maca for 42 days. Histology pictures in rats treated with Red Maca plus TE were similar to controls. Phytochemical screening showed that aqueous extract of Red Maca has alkaloids, steroids, tannins, saponins, and cardiotonic glycosides. The IR spectra of the three ecotypes of Maca in 3800-650 cm (-1) region had 7 peaks representing 7 functional chemical groups. Highest peak values were observed for Red Maca, intermediate values for Yellow Maca and low values for Black Maca. These functional groups correspond among others to benzyl glucosinolate. CONCLUSIONS: Red Maca, a cruciferous plant from the highland of Peru, reduced ventral prostate size in normal and TE treated rats.

 

Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on spermatogenesis in male rats acutely exposed to high altitude (4340 m).

J Endocrinol.  2004; 180(1):87-95 (ISSN: 0022-0795)

Gonzales GF; Gasco M; Córdova A; Chung A; Rubio J; Villegas L
Instituto de Investigaciones de la Altura, and Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Fisiológicas, Facultad de Ciencas y Filosofia, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, PO Box 1843, Lima, Peru.

 

Lepidium meyenii (Maca) is a Peruvian hypocotyl that grows exclusively between 4000 and 4500 m in the central Andes. Maca is traditionally employed in the Andean region for its supposed fertility-enhancing properties.The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that Maca can prevent high altitude-induced testicular disturbances. Adult male rats were exposed for 21 days to an altitude of 4340 m and treated with vehicle or aqueous extract of Maca (666.6 mg/day). The lengths of the stages of the seminiferous epithelium and epididymal sperm counts were obtained at 0, 7, 14 and 21 days of exposure. The stages of the seminiferous tubules were assessed by transillumination. A dose-response study was also performed at sea level to determine the effect of Maca given to male rats at doses of 0, 6.6, 66.6 and 666.6 mg/day for 7 days on body weight, seminiferous tubule stages and epididymal sperm count. The length of stage VIII and the epididymal sperm count were increased in a dose-dependent manner in Maca-treated rats but treatment reduced the length of stage I. At the highest dose, sperm count increased 1.58 times, the length of stage VIII increased 2.4 times and the length of stage I was reduced 0.48 times compared with the value at dose 0. Exposure to high altitude resulted in a reduction in epididymal sperm count after 7 days and lower values were maintained up to 21 days. Altitude reduced spermiation (stage VIII) to half and the onset of spermatogenesis (stages IX-XI) to a quarter on days 7 and 14 but treatment with Maca (666.6 mg/day) prevented these changes. Data on transillumination and epididymal sperm count in the Maca-treated group exposed to high altitude were similar to those obtained at sea level. Maca increased the sperm count on day 21 of exposure to high altitude to values similar (1095.25 +/- 20.41x10(6) sperm, means +/- S.E.M.) to those obtained in the Maca-treated group at sea level (1132.30 +/- 172.95x10(6) sperm). Furthermore, in the Maca-treated group exposed for 21 days to high altitude, epididymal sperm count was higher than in the non-treated group at sea level (690.49 +/- 43.67x10(6) sperm). In conclusion, treatment of rats with Maca at high altitude prevented high altitude-induced spermatogenic disruption.

 

Lepidium meyenii (Maca) reduces spermatogenic damage induced by a single dose of malathion in mice.

Asian J Androl.  2005; 7(1):71-6 (ISSN: 1008-682X)

Bustos-Obregon E; Yucra S; Gonzales GF
Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia 1027 P.O. Box 70061, Santiago 7, Chile.

 

AIM: To observe the effect of the aqueous extract of hypocotyls of the plant Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on spermatogenic damage induced by the organophosphate insecticide malathion in mice. METHODS: Mice were treated with 80 mg/kg of malathion in the presence or absence of an aqueous extract of Maca, which was orally administered 7, 14 or 21 days after injection of the malathion. Stages of the seminiferous epithelium were assessed by transillumination on days 0, 7, 14 and 21. RESULTS: The administration of Maca increased significantly the length of stage VIII on days 7, 14 and 21 of treatment compared with the controls. An increase in the length of stage IX occurred on day 14 of treatment. Malathion affected spermatogenesis by reducing the lengths of stage IX on day 7, stages VII and IX-XI on day 14 and a recovery of stages IX-XII on day 21. The magnitude of alteration in the length of stage IX produced by malathion was significantly reduced by Maca on days 7 and 14. The length of stage VIII was increased when Maca was administered to mice treated with malathion. Assessment of the relative length of stages of the seminiferous epithelium showed that Maca treatment resulted in rapid recovery of the effect of malathion. CONCLUSION: Maca enhances spermatogenesis following spermatogenic damage caused by the organophosphorous pesticide.

 

Lepidium meyenii (Maca) does not exert direct androgenic activities.

J Ethnopharmacol.  2006; 104(3):415-7 (ISSN: 0378-8741)

Bogani P; Simonini F; Iriti M; Rossoni M; Faoro F; Poletti A; Visioli F
Department of Pharmacological Sciences, University of Milan, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Maca is the edible root of the Peruvian plant Lepidum meyenii, traditionally employed for its purported aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties. This study aimed at testing the hypothesis that Maca contains testosterone-like compounds, able to bind the human androgen receptor and promote transcription pathways regulated by steroid hormone signaling. Maca extracts (obtained with different solvents: methanol, ethanol, hexane and chloroform) are not able to regulate GRE (glucocorticoid response element) activation. Further experiments are needed to assess which compound, of the several Maca's components, is responsible of the observed in vivo effects.

 

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 (ISSN: 1176-2551)

Valerio LG; Gonzales GF
Division of Biotechnology and GRAS Notice Review, Office of Food Additive Safety, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA. Luis.Valerio@cfsan.fda.gov

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)-kappaB 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.

 

Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat.

J Ethnopharmacol.  2006; 105(1-2):274-9 (ISSN: 0378-8741)

Zhang Y; Yu L; Ao M; Jin W
School of Life Science & Technology, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, 430074 Wuhan, PR China.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) is a cruciferous plant from the Andes of Peru. The root of Maca is traditionally employed for its supposed properties in aphrodisiacs and improving fertility, it also has been widely used to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of ethanol extract of Maca on postmenopausal osteoporosis in ovariectomized rats. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into four groups: Sham-operated and ovariectomized groups were fed with equivolume of distilled water, and the remaining ovariectomized groups were orally administrated with ethanol extract of Maca at 0.096 and 0.24 g/kg for 28 weeks. The findings derived from the basis of bone mineral density, biomechanical, biochemical and histopathological parameters indicated that higher dose of ethanol extract of Maca was effective in the prevention of estrogen deficient bone loss.

 

The in vitro biological activity of Lepidium meyenii extracts.

Cell Biol Toxicol.  2006; 22(2):91-9 (ISSN: 0742-2091)

Valentová K; Buckiová D; Kren V; Peknicová J; Ulrichová J; Simánek V
Institute of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Palacký University, Olomouc.

The biological activity of methanolic and aqueous extracts from dehydrated hypocotyls of Lepidium meyenii (Brassicaceae, vernacular name "maca"), was studied on rat hepatocytes and human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. The extracts did not exhibit cytotoxicity in hepatocyte primary cultures up to 10 mg/ml as measured by the MTT viability test, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) leakage. Moreover, after 72 h, extracts inhibited LDH and AST leakage from the hepatocytes. When hepatocytes were intoxicated by t-butyl hydroperoxide, neither extract prevented oxidative damage. Both extracts showed weak antioxidant activity in the DPPH radical scavenging test with IC(50) values of 3.46 +/- 0.16 and 0.71 +/- 0.10 mg/ml, for aqueous and methanolic extracts, respectively. Thus, the observed effect on spontaneous enzyme leakage is probably mediated through mechanisms other than antioxidant activity. Both methanolic and aqueous extracts have shown estrogenic activity comparable with that of silymarin in MCF-7 cell line. Maca estrogenicity was exhibited in the range from 100 to 200 mug of extract per ml. The findings in the present study show that maca does not display in vitro hepatotoxicity. In contrast, a slight cytoprotective effect, probably not mediated by antioxidant capacity, was noted. Maca extracts exhibited estrogenic activity comparably to the effect of silymarin in MCF-7 cells.

 

New alkamides from maca (Lepidium meyenii).

J Agric Food Chem.  2005; 53(3):690-3 (ISSN: 0021-8561)

Zhao J; Muhammad I; Dunbar DC; Mustafa J; Khan IA
Department of Pharmacognosy and National Center for Natural Products Research, Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA.

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.

 

 



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