Background: Lepidium meyenii, known as Maca, grows exclusively in the Peruvian Andes over 4000 m altitude. It has been used traditionally to increase fertility. Previous scientific studies have demonstrated that Maca increases spermatogenesis and epididymal sperm count. The present study was aimed to investigate the effects of Maca on several fertility parameters of female mice at reproductive age.
Methods: Adult female Balb/C mice were divided at random into three main groups: i) Reproductive indexes group, ii) Implantation sites group and iii) Assessment of uterine weight in ovariectomized mice. Animals received an aqueous extract of lyophilized Yellow Maca (1 g/Kg BW) or vehicle orally as treatment. In the fertility indexes study, animals received the treatment before, during and after gestation. The fertility index, gestation index, post-natal viability index, weaning viability index and sex ratio were calculated. Sexual maturation was evaluated in the female pups by the vaginal opening (VO) day. In the implantation study, females were checked for implantation sites at gestation day 7 and the embryos were counted. In ovariectomized mice, the uterine weight was recorded at the end of treatment.
Results: Implantation sites were similar in mice treated with Maca and in controls. All reproductive indexes were similar in both groups of treatment. The number of pups per dam at birth and at postnatal day 4 was significantly higher in the group treated with Maca. VO day occurred earlier as litter size was smaller. Maca did not affect VO day. In ovariectomized mice, the treatment with Maca increased significantly the uterine weights in comparison to their respective control group.
Conclusion: Administration of aqueous extract of Yellow Maca to adult female mice increases the litter size. Moreover, this treatment increases the uterine weight in ovariectomized animals. Our study confirms for the first time some of the traditional uses of Maca to enhance female fertility.