Why your 'Energy' Genes Love Maca

Key mechanisms affecting Energy + Fatigue

Frequently feeling tired and low energy is not surprising, given the demands of modern living, a very common complaint.

Sleep, physical exertion, diet, stress and a number of other factors affect energy homeostasis in the body.

But genes also have a critical role to play in regulating energy balance. Some genes that have been linked with tiredness include DRD2 (a dopamine receptor) and ASXL3, a regulator of gene expression and thyroid hormone function1.

Metabolic Maca and its Nutrigenomic role

Lepidium meyenii, better known as Maca, grows in the highlands of Peru - and has been cultivated for centuries for its nutritional and potential medicinal values2.

People have turned to the plant for sexual dysfunction, fertility, and... low energy.

Multiple studies indicate that Maca is capable of regulating metabolism. Research has demonstrated that Maca extract can improve the symptoms of lipid and glucose metabolism disorder. It does so – at least in part - by regulating the expression of critical genes in the PPARα signaling network, a biological pathway with a key role in liver metabolism3.

Another study indicated that chemicals isolated from Maca extract had anti-fatigue activity4. Most recently, research has shown that Maca can limit the damaging effects of exercise-induced fatigue in muscle5,6.

The driver of Maca’s energy-boosting properties is thought to be its main active components, chemicals called Macamides. They are thought to exert their effects by binding to CB1 receptors (which are also bound by cannabinoids – the active components in cannabis) and – as previously mentioned – PPARα receptors to regulate metabolism and energy homeostasis.

The hardiest plant

  • Maca grows high up in the Andes in Peru at an altitude so high (beyond 4000m) that only few plants can survive. It’s this hardiness - and adaptability to survive extremes - that gives the plant exceptional qualities
  • Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is actually part of the Brassicaceae - mustard - family
  • Although cultivated for more than 2,000 years, maca was not give its modern name until the 17th century when Father Cobo, a Jesuit missionary, came across a plant that could manage to grow in the coldest, harshest parts of Chinchaycocha

Further reading

  1. Deary, V. et al. Genetic contributions to self-reported tiredness. Mol. Psychiatry 23, 609–620 (2018).
  2. Gonzales, G. F., Gonzales, C. & Gonzales-Castañeda, C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): A plant from the highlands of Peru - From tradition to science. Forschende Komplementarmedizin vol. 16 373–380 (2009).
  3. Wan, W. et al. Aqueous Extract of Black Maca Prevents Metabolism Disorder via Regulating the Glycolysis/Gluconeogenesis-TCA Cycle and PPARα Signaling Activation in Golden Hamsters Fed a High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet. Front. Pharmacol. 9, (2018).
  4. J, L. et al. Anti-fatigue activity of polysaccharide fractions from Lepidium meyenii Walp. (maca). Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 95, 1305–1311 (2017).
  5. Zhu, H. et al. Anti-fatigue effect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. (Maca) on preventing mitochondria-mediated muscle damage and oxidative stress in vivo and vitro. Food Funct. 12, 3132–3141 (2021).
  6. Zheng, Y. et al. Two macamide extracts relieve physical fatigue by attenuating muscle damage in mice. J. Sci. Food Agric. 99, 1405–1412 (2019).


Digging deeper is what we do.

So Karmacist sponsors Brilliant Brains - a podcast where our founder Tim dives deep into the minds of truly fascinating thinkers.