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Phytochemicals of Maca

The beneficial properties of maca were first linked to alkaloids identified in the 1960s by Dr. Chacon as she studied Lepidium meyenii for her PhD thesis (1). It was this discovery, in part, that led to the later classification of Lepidium peruvianum in 1990 (2). There are a reported 15 compounds found in maca, including [Image 1]: (3–7)


At present, no active constituent alone has been found to be the single functional marker for its claimed benefits (8).


Image 1: Predominant colors (red, yellow, and black) and select phytochemicals of maca (Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum)

Image credit: Minich DM, Ross K, Frame J, Fahoum M, Warner W, Meissner HO. Not All Maca Is Created Equal: A Review of Colors, Nutrition, Phytochemicals, and Clinical Uses. Nutrients. 2024 Feb 14;16(4):530.


Author: Kim Ross, DCN

Reviewer: Deanna Minich, PhD

Last Updated; February 23, 2024

1. Chacon G. Phytochemical study on Lepidium meyenii. . [Lima, Peru]: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.; 1961.

2. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Checklist dataset [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 28]. Lepidium peruvianum Chacon de Popovici in GBIF Secretariat. Available from:

3. Zhou Y, Li P, Brantner A, Wang H, Shu X, Yang J, et al. Chemical profiling analysis of Maca using UHPLC-ESI-Orbitrap MS coupled with UHPLC-ESI-QqQ MS and the neuroprotective study on its active ingredients. Sci Rep. 2017;7.

4. Tarabasz D, Szczeblewski P, Laskowski T, Płaziński W, Baranowska-Wójcik E, Szwajgier D, et al. The Distribution of Glucosinolates in Different Phenotypes of Lepidium peruvianum and Their Role as Acetyl- and Butyrylcholinesterase Inhibitors—In Silico and In Vitro Studies. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Apr 27;23(9):4858.

5. Geng P, Sun J, Chen P, Brand E, Frame J, Meissner H, et al. Characterization of Maca (Lepidium meyenii/Lepidium peruvianum) Using a Mass Spectral Fingerprinting, Metabolomic Analysis, and Genetic Sequencing Approach. Planta Med. 2020 Jul 20;86(10):674–85.

6. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Baraniak M, Piatkowska E, Pisulewski P, Mrozikiewicz M, et al. Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) - III: The Effects of Cultivation Altitude on Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in the Four Prime Maca Phenotypes. Int J Biomed Sci. 2017 Jun;13(2):58–73.

7. Fahey JW, Zalcmann AT, Talalay P. The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants. Phytochemistry. 2001 Jan;56(1):5–51.

8. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Mrozikiewicz M, Baraniak M, Mielcarek S, Kedzia B, et al. Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (I) Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in Three Maca Phenotypes. Int J Biomed Sci. 2015 Sep;11(3):131–45.

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