By: Joe Hing Kwok Chu
Maca is a plant that grows in the Andean Mountains of Peru. The plants have been cultivated by the Inca Indians for centuries for food and for medicinal purposes.
Recently maca has been a popular health food item sold in the United States in capsules or as extract. It is claimed to possess aphrodisiac properties for men and other health benefits for menopausal women.
The known active ingredients of maca include alkaloids and saponins. It contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron and vitamins B1, B2, B3, and E.
There are reports that an overdose of maca has caused anxiety and chest pain. These symptoms might be caused by the saponins that increase the level of adrenocorticotropic hormone which in turn triggers the cyclic AMP of the adrenal glands and might be caused by the digitoxigenin2 which is also a heart stimulant. From a traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, maca might not be suitable for everyone, but as maca is not being used as a Chinese herb, traditional Chinese herbal doctors are not trained to determine if a patient could use it or not. The closest Chinese herb belonging to the same family is lepidium sativum L., while the Peruvian maca is lepidium meyenii W. or lepidium peruvianum C.
Also see sexual dysfunction.
2. Evomonoside: the cytotoxic cardiac glycoside from Lepidium apetalum.
Hyun JW, Shin JE, Lim KH, Sung MS, Park JW, Yu JH, Kim BK, Paik WH, Kang SS, Park JG
Laboratory of Cell Biology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.