Maca

Maca – can do it all!

macaMaca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers or now: peruvianum) aka Peruvian ginseng is a tuberous root[1] that can grow to 6 cm in diameter. Used as a food source of the indigenous peoples, Maca is found at higher altitudes of the Andes in Peru, in Bolivia and to a smaller extent in Brazil[2]. Initially native to the northern Peruvian Puna near Lake Junin area and in danger of extinction, Maca has experienced a dramatic surge due to its presumed energizing, aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties in humans and animals.

Maca’s variety of biological effect (quote)[3], make it an adaptogen:

  • Sexual desire and sexual behavior
  • Antioxidant activity
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Energetic
  • Immunity
  • Anti-stress
  • Mood and anti-anxiety
  • Against Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
  • Increase female fertility
  • Learning and memory

The power is in the root!

The Maca roots or hypocotyls, which grow underground are highly nutritious. Maca is rich in sugars, starches, protein and essential minerals in particular iron and iodine (fresh root). Once dried, Maca can be stored for many years, as its flavor remains strong. The colours of the Maca roots vary from cream, red, purple to blue, black or even green. According to a research study each colour of Maca roots has different biological effects, for example the lead-coloured, yellow and violet Maca hypocotyls were rich in glucosinolates, macaene and macamides, respectively.[4][5]

Nutritional Profile of dried Maca root (100g serving)[6]

Component Per 100g
Carbohydrates 60-75g
Protein 10-14g
Fiber 8.5g
Ash 4.9g
Fats (lipids) 2.2g
Sterols 50-100 mg
Calories 325

 

Vitamins Per 100g
B2 390mcg
B6 1140 mcg
C 286 mg
Niacin 5650 mcg
Calcium 250 mg
Potassium 2 g
Iron 15 mg

 

Ms Chacon, a well known researcher, suggested changing the name of Lepidium meyenii which described specimens from Bolivia and Argentina which had no resemblance in shape to Lepidium peruvianum – the Peruvian Maca. [7] Although most Maca sold in commerce is generally referred to as Lepidium meyenii, it is actually Lepidium peruvianum.

Maca is related to rapeseed, mustard, turnip, black mustard, cabbage etc.[8]

Family:                        Cruciferae Brassicaceae (= mustard family)
Genus:                         Lepidium
Species:                       Lepidium meyenii Walp(ers) was described by Gerhard Walpers in 1843
Common name:         Maca

Maca grows on poor and rocky soil of acidic clay or limestone in altitudes above 3,500 – 4,450 m[9] sea level, in an extreme climate with median temperatures ranging from -2 to 13°C,fierce winds and intense sunlight as well as commonly occurring frost. Growing in such extreme altitudes and weather conditions, Maca usually does not require weeding or pesticides and is not competing with other crops for farmland. It is sown from September to October and harvested from May to July the following year.

The major secondary metabolites present in L. meyenii can be grouped as follows:

a)   essential oils (53 essential oil components have been identified),
b)   glucosinolates (glucotropeolin and m-methoxybenzylglucosinolate are present at app. 1% in fresh L. meyenii root),
c)    alkaloids, and
d)   macamides.

Glucosinolates are under investigation for mitigating cancer, in particulate maca’s indole glucosinolate (glcobrassicins), which are tryptophan-derived. When hydrolysed these compounds give rise to a range of involatile indole compounds, which have been implicated in the anti-carcinogenic and mixed-funtion-oxidase stimulatory activities of brassica vegetables[10] – the plant group where maca belongs to.

It was observed that cultivation affected macaene, campesterol and indole glucosinolate concentrations. Effects on metabolite concentrations in the leaves were minor. Hypocotyls were richer in macaene, macamides and glucosinolates than were leaves, and were poorer in beta-sitosterol and total phenols.

(1)Report of an Ad Hoc Panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation, Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council. Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with promise for Worldwide Cultivation. Published by National Academy Press Washington. D.C. 1989

(2)Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Wikipedia

(3) León F. Villegas, Manuel Gasco, Julio Hidalgo, Jian Xue, Shi-lin Chen, Gustavo F. Gonzales. Biological Effects and Safety of Lepidium meyenii, Maca (variety red), a Plant from the Highlands of Peru, presentation

(4)Clément C, Diaz Grados DA, Avula B, Khan IA, Mayer AC, Ponce Aguirre DD, Manrique I, Kreuzer M., Research paper: Influence of colour type and previous cultivation on secondary metabolites in hypocotyls and leaves of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers)by 2010 Society of Chemical Industry.

(5)Gonzales GF. MACA: Del alimento perdido de los Incas al milagro de los Andes: Estudio de seguridad alimentaria y nutricional. Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional, Campinas. 2010;16-17(1):16–36.

(6)León F. Villegas, Manuel Gasco, Julio Hidalgo, Jian Xue, Shi-lin Chen, Gustavo F. Gonzales. Biological Effects and Safety of Lepidium meyenii, Maca (variety red), a Plant from the Highlands of Peru, presentation.

(7)Chacon, G. La maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon sp. nov.) y su habitat. Rev. Peru. Biol., 1990. 3: p. 171-272

(8)León F. Villegas, Manuel Gasco, Julio Hidalgo, Jian Xue, Shi-lin Chen, Gustavo F. Gonzales. Biological Effects and Safety of Lepidium meyenii, Maca (variety red), a Plant from the Highlands of Peru, presentation.

(9)Ilias Muhammad; Jianping Zhao; Ikhlas A. Khan. Maca (Lepidium meyenii), National Center for Natural Products Research, Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi, U.S.A.

(10) McDanell R1, McLean AE, Hanley AB, Heaney RK, Fenwick GR: Chemical and biological properties of indole glucosinolates (glucobrassicins) – review. Food Chem Toxicol. 1988 Jan; 26(1):59-70.

(11)Report of an Ad Hoc Panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation, Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council. Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with promise for Worldwide Cultivation. Published by National Academy Press Washington. D.C. 1989

(12)Clément C, Diaz Grados DA, Avula B, Khan IA, Mayer AC, Ponce Aguirre DD, Manrique I, Kreuzer M., Research paper: Influence of colour type and previous cultivation on secondary metabolites in hypocotyls and leaves of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers)by 2010 Society of Chemical Industry.