Bioactive Maca (Lepidium meyenii) alkamides are a result of traditional Andean postharvest drying practices

Eliana Esparza, Antonella Hadzich, Waltraud Kofer, Axel Mithöfer, Eric G. Cosio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Maca, Lepidium meyenii Walpers (Brassicaceae), is an annual herbaceous plant native to the high plateaus of the Peruvian central Andes. Its underground storage hypocotyls have been a traditional medicinal agent and dietary staple since pre-Columbian times. Reported properties include energizing and fertility-enhancing effects. Published reports have focused on the benzylalkamides (macamides) present in dry hypocotyls as one of the main bioactive components. Macamides are secondary amides formed by benzylamine and a fatty acid moiety, with varying hydrocarbon chain lengths and degree of unsaturation. Although it has been assumed that they are usually present in fresh undamaged tissues, analyses show them to be essentially absent from them. However, hypocotyls dried by traditional Andean postharvest practices or industrial oven drying contain up to 800 μg g1 dry wt (2.3 μmol g1 dry wt) of macamides. In this study, the generation of macamides and their putative precursors were studied during nine-week traditional drying trials at 4200 m altitude and in ovens under laboratory conditions. Freeze-thaw cycles in the open field during drying result in tissue maceration and release of free fatty acids from storage and membrane lipids up to levels of 1200 μg g1 dry wt (4.3 μmol g1 dry wt). Endogenous metabolism of the isothiocyanates generated from glucosinolate hydrolysis during drying results in maximal benzylamine values of 4300 μg g1 dry wt (40.2 μmol g1 dry wt). Pearson correlation coefficients of the accumulation profiles of benzylamine and free fatty acid to that of macamides showed good values of 0.898 and 0.934, respectively, suggesting that both provide sufficient substrate for amide synthesis during the drying process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-148
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Alkamides
  • Benzylamine
  • Benzylisothiocyanate
  • Brassicaceae
  • Fatty acid amide hydrolase
  • Glucosinolates
  • Lepidium meyenii
  • Maca
  • Macamides
  • Post-harvest processing


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