Biomed. Papers 147(2), 119-130 (2003) | 10.5507/bp.2003.017
Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) and Lepidium meyenii (maca) were the traditional crops of the original population of Peru where they are also still used in folk medicine. These plants are little known in Europe and Northern America although at least yacon can be cultivated in the climatic conditions of these regions. This article deals with the botany and the composition, the structure of main constituents, biological activity of these plants and the cultivation of yacon in the Czech Republic. The potential of yacon tubers to treat hyperglycemia, kidney problems and for skin rejuvenation and the antihyperglycemic and cytoprotective activity of its leaves seems to be related mostly to its oligofructan and phenolic content, respectively. Maca alkaloids, steroids, glucosinolates, isothicyanates and macamides are probably responsible for its aptitude to act as a fertility enhancer, aphrodisiac, adaptogen, immunostimulant, anabolic and to influence hormonal balance. Yacon and maca are already on the European market as prospective functional foods and dietary supplements, mainly for use in certain risk groups of the population, e.g. seniors, diabetics, postmenopausal women etc.
Received: September 10, 2003; Accepted: October 15, 2003