Lepidium meyenii Walp.

Last updated: 2016 Sept 27

Scientific Name

Lepidium meyenii Walp.


Lepidium affine Wedd., Lepidium gelidum Wedd., Lepidium meyenii var. affine Thell., Lepidium meyenii var. gelidum (Wedd.) Hosseus, Lepidium meyenii subsp. gelidum (Wedd.) Thell., Lepidium orbignyanum Wedd., Lepidium peruvianum G.Chacón, Lepidium weddellii O.E.Schulz. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Maca, Peruvian ginseng [2]
Spain Ayak, ayak willku, chichira maca, maca-maca, maino, maka [2]
Peru Maca [2].

Geographical Distributions

Lepidium meyenii grows high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru. The Incans and the Andean tribes’ traditionally used L. meyenii as an energy tonic and an aphrodisiac. Originating in the Andes Mountains, L. meyenii grows in very high altitudes and prefers partial sun. It can flourish in sandy or clay soils, however, the soil need to have adequate moisture. L. meyenii can tolerate frosts and high winds. [3]

Botanical Description

L. meyenii is a herbaceous plant of the family Brassicaceae. [3]

The leaves are lobed and form a tight rosette around the rhizome. The lay close to or directly on the ground and are rarely exceeding measures 17cm in height. The enlarged, tuberous rhizome is roughly measuring 5cm in diametre and forms from a fleshy taproot. The colour is not consistent as it can range from cream to black with yellow, purple or red in between. [3]

The flower of L. meyenii is a small, nondescript yellow with a centre rosette. [3]

The seeds of L. meyenii are small, ovoid in shape, and are borne from small, dry fruit. Measuring 2mm in length, they can range from brown to red in colour. [3]

The root vegetable of L. meyenii closely resembles a radish or turnip, to which it is closely related. [3]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

L. meyenii has been reported to contain amino acids, glucosinolates, glucotropaeolin, m-methoxyglucotropaeolin, uridine, malic acid, Peruvian ginsengridine, Peruvian ginsengmide, saponins. The chemical constituents vary depending upon the altitude at which the plant is grown as well as time of harvest and method of preserving [4][5].

Plant Part Used

Root. [6][7]

Traditional Use

L. meyenii has a long history of use with the indigenous populations of most South American regions. It is not only used as a staple in the diet but is also used to trade for other resources. High in proteins, carbohydrates and minerals the roots are roasted. Dried roots may be stored for long periods of time and then used for either foods or medicines. [6][7]

Medicinally, L. meyenii has a history of use for treating a variety of ailments. In Peru, these uses include nutritional benefits, anemia, energy, memory, menopause and various sexual disorders. [6][7]

Preclinical Data


Sexual health activity

L. meyenii’s reported use in sexual health is supported by both pre-clinical and clinical studies. In animal studies, oral administration of L. meyenii enhanced the sexual function of laboratory animals, including alleviating erectile dysfunction and enhancing sexual arousal [3]. L. meyenii’s effect on sexual health does not seem to be related to activity on sex hormones (including testosterone and estrogen) [4]. L. meyenii extracts (obtained with different solvents: methanol, ethanol, hexane and chloroform) have not been reported to regulate GRE (glucocorticoid response element) activation, which correlates with a lack of hormonal involvement when using L. meyenii [5]. Some researchers feel that L. meyenii's hormone-normalizing effects may be due to the root's unique nutritional profile, which provides nutrients utilized by the body's hormonal system [8].

Anti-hyperplasic effect

Of interest, laboratory studies have found that L. meyenii extracts (red maca) do affect prostate health, having an anti-hyperplasic effect on the prostate of adult mice that is even more pronounced than the pharmaceutical drug finasteride [9]. L. meyenii administered to laboratory animals with experimentally induced BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia) seems to exert an inhibitory effect at a level post DHT conversion. In the studies, serum testosterone levels were not related to prostate or seminal vesicles weight [10].

Antioxidant activity

L. meyenii is also traditionally used for memory and as an antioxidant. To support this claim, a laboratory animal study found that using L. meyenii improved experimental memory impairment induced by ovariectomy, due in part, by its antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. [11]

Lipids and glucose regulation

Another laboratory study found that L. meyenii use had effects on lipids and glucose regulation in mice. L. meyenii administration 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. L. meyenii significantly improved glucose tolerance by lowering blood sugar levels. L. meyenii increased the levels of SOD (superoxide dismutase) in the liver, GPX (glutathione peroxidase) in the blood, and the level of GSH (glutathione) in liver, supporting the antioxidant effects of this root. [12]


Review data on in vivo and in vitro studies with maca indicate that its use is safe. Aqueous and methanolic extracts of maca do not display in vitro hepatotoxicity. Further evidence shows that, freeze-dried aqueous extract of L. meyenii (1 g/kg body weight) in mice did not reveal any toxic effect on the normal development of preimplanted mouse embryo. [13]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Small human trials in men have reported that L. meyenii extracts can increase sex drive (libido) in both men and women and in men, improve semen quality. [14][15]

A 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel trial in healthy men (aged 21-56) found that administration of L. meyenii did not affect levels of serum reproductive hormones although their sexual desire did increase. The men were given 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg daily of L. meyenii extract and serum levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, 17-α hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone and 17-β estradiol were measured before and at 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks. The researchers found that L. meyenii had no effect on any of the hormones studied nor did the hormones show any changes over time. [14]

A small human trial used L. meyenii extract (1,500mg or 3,000 mg daily) for 4 months on 9 men (aged 24-44). Seminal analysis found that treatment with L. meyenii resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculate, motile sperm count, and sperm motility. Serum hormone levels were not altered with L. meyenii treatment. [15]

A further 12 week, double-blind clinical trial using L. meyenii extract (2,400 mg daily or placebo) was conducted on 50 men affected by mild erectile dysfunction (ED). Those taking L. meyenii experienced a more significant improvement in sexual well-being (both physical and social) than those taking placebo. The researchers concluded that L. meyenii may help those with ED and improve sexual health. [16]

The antidepressant class called selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is well known for their drug-induced sexual dysfunction in both men and women. A small study using L. meyenii (1,500 mg or 3,000 mg daily) on 20 depressed patients taking SSRIs was conducted. Those taking 3,000 mg of L. meyenii root daily reported improvement in sexual health, leading the researchers to conclude that L. meyenii root may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, and there may be a dose-related effect. L. meyenii may also have a beneficial effect on libido. [17]

A 12 week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial study in 14 postmenopausal women found that 3,500 mg daily of L. meyenii extract reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity. [18]


No documentation

Side effects

Based on human data, use with caution in those with a history of hypertension or heart disease. [19]

Based on human data, use with caution in individuals with liver disease or biliary diseases, as L. meyenii may increase AST levels. [19]

L. meyenii has been reported safe in recommended doses. High doses in humans (6,000 mg daily) have led to moderate increases in AST (aspartate aminotransferase) levels and increases in diastolic blood pressure. [19]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Lepidium meyenii Walp. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Sept 27]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2337886
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 745.
  3. Hernández Bermejo JE, Leon J, editors. Neglected crops 1492 from a different perspective. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 1994.
  4. Piacente S. Investigation of the tuber constituents of Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(20):5621–5625.
  5. Muhammad I. Constituents of Lepidium meyenii 'Maca'. Phytochemistry. 2002;59(1):105-110.
  6. Taylor L. The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinal. New York: Square One Publishers, 2005; p. 344.
  7. Duke JA. Medicinal plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2009; p. 413.
  8. Zheng BL, He K, Kim CH, et al. Effect of a lipidic extract from Lepidium meyenii on sexual behavior in mice and rats. Urology. 2000;55(4):598-602.
  9. Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Malheiros-Pereira A, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Antagonistic effect of Lepidium meyenii (Red Maca) on prostatic hyperplasia in adult mice. Andrologia. 2008;40(3):179-185.
  10. Gasco M, Villegas L, Yucra S, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Dose-response effect of Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on benign prostatic hyperplasia induced by testosterone enanthate. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(7-8):460-464.
  11. Rubio J, Qiong W, Liu X, et al. Aqueous extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on memory impairment induced by ovariectomy in mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:253958.
  12. Vecera R, Orolin J, Skottová N, et al. The influence of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2007Jun;62(2):59-63.
  13. Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a plant from the Peruvian highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:193496.
  14. Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C. 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):163-168.
  15. Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001;3(4):301-303.
  16. Zenico T, Cicero AF, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia. 2009;41(2):95-99.
  17. Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, et al. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008;14(3):182-191.
  18. Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. 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. 2008;15(6):1157-1162.
  19. Valentová K, Stejskal D, Bartek J, et al. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) in combination with silymarin as food supplements: in vivo safety assessment. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(3):1006-1013.