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J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Apr 8;98(1-2):143-7.

Dose-response effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) aqueous extract on testicular function and weight of different organs in adult rats.

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Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences and Instituto de Investigaciones de la Altura, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Postal Office 1843, Lima, Peru.


Lepidium meyenii (Brassicaceae) known as Maca grows exclusively between 4000 and 4500 m over the sea level in the Peruvian central Andes. The dried hypocotyls of Maca are traditionally used as food and for its supposed fertility-enhancing properties. A dose-response study was performed to determine the effect of 7 days oral administration of an aqueous lyophilized extract of Maca at 0.01-5 g/kg (corresponding to 0.022-11 g dry hypocotyls of Maca/kg) on body and different organ weights, stages of the seminiferous tubules, epididymal sperm count and motility, and serum testosterone and estradiol levels in rats. In doses up to 5 g extract/kg, no toxicity was observed. Almost all organ weights were similar in controls and in the Maca extract-treated groups. Seminal vesicles weight was significantly reduced at 0.01 and 0.10 g extract/kg. Maca increased in length of stages VII-VIII of the seminiferous tubules in a dose-response fashion, with highest response at 1.0 g/kg, while caput/corpus epididymal sperm count increased at the 1.0 g dose. Cauda epididymal sperm count, sperm motility, and serum estradiol level were not affected at any of the doses studied. Serum testosterone was lower at 0.10 g extract/kg. Low-seminal vesicle weights correlated with low-serum testosterone levels (R2=0.33; P<0.0001) and low-testosterone/estradiol ratio (R2=0.35; P<0.0001). Increase in epididymal sperm count was related to lengths of stages VII-VIII. Highest effect on stages VII-VIII of the seminiferous tubules was observed at 1.0 g Maca aqueous extract/kg. The present study demonstrated that Maca extract in doses up to 5 g/kg (equivalent to the intake of 770 g hypocotyls in a man of 70 kg) was safe and that higher effect on reproductive parameters was elicited with a dose of 1 g extract/kg corresponding to 2.2 g dry Maca hypocotyls/kg.

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