Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a herb with significant medicinal properties. These properties stem from the phytochemicals contained within the plant tissues. Some of the phytochemicals contained within maca belong to the alkaloid subgroup of chemicals. The main alkaloids identified in maca to date include imidazole alkaloids (lepidiline A and lepidiline B) and one benzylated derivative of 1,2-dihydro-N-hydroxypyridine (macaridine). Alkaloids can have central nervous system effects in humans and animals and the alkaloids present in maca may therefore explain some of the mood enhancing effects of the plant. Maca also contains sterols as a major group of phytochemicals The most abundant types are β-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol. Sterols have been researched for their cholesterol lowering ability in humans and animals, and because of their structure they may modulate reproductive function. The presence of sterols within maca may therefore explain the reproductive effects of maca root.
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