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.
- chemical composition